data centers iceland

Data Centers in Iceland




secret located advantage
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boost pressure geothermal
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In recent years, Iceland has become home to new data centers. Being located in the north Atlantic is a big advantage, putting the servers just four hours away by plane from both Europe and North America.

It’s one of the various incentives for companies to store their sensitive data here, from secret construction blueprints to animated films.

Tate Cantrell, Function: Chief Technology Officer: “Here in Iceland, we’re building up an industry that is doing it correctly from the first day. Iceland is secure in of itself by its location. It’s securely located on an island, right between the North American and European continent.”

Major clients such as CCP Games now store their data here. The computer games developer, itself based in Iceland, used to store its data in London.

Hilmar Veigar Petursson, Passion: Computer Game: “We kind of started to look around Iceland; and it’s like okay, Iceland may be the perfect place for a data center.”

The data centers have been partially funded by the government. Plus, Iceland now has the most stringent data-protection legislation in the Western world, thanks to a law passed five years ago: the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative.

Member of Parliament, Birgitta Jonsdottir, helped initiate the digital agenda. She’s continued to press for more legislation to protect online activists.

But further progress seems difficult.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, Mission: Worldwide data protection: “So we’re losing all the wind we had in the sails. And all the goodwill we had created around this legislation is fading because attention is going elsewhere. Even if we are not the first to do everything, at least it is helping others around the world that are lobbying for similar changes.”

Among the proposals that have yet to become law are a guarantee of data asylum for politically sensitive information and more stringent restrictions on government access to data.

The people behind the initiative want Iceland to be a model for data protection, but the government is stonewalling.

Ragnheiour Elin Arnadottir, Profession: Minister for Industry and Commerce: “We had this action in Parliament and accepted it five years ago. And we haven’t been taking extra steps since then. In this regard, I can say that we are fully comparable with other European countries.”

The government is primarily interested in boosting the economy and is continuing to invest in more data centers to do that.

Iceland is famous for its natural hot springs. The geothermal energy they provide costs a fraction of conventional alternatives.

And that’s an attractive argument for foreign companies looking to store data. Almost half the running costs for computer servers are due to their considerable energy consumption.

“We’ve been able to contract for low-cost power for twenty years. Low-cost is truly important. And that’s what I believe is drives companies here, and what makes us a relevant solution for them as their power costs go up.”

So it’s ultimately commercial factors that weigh more heavily here. The data protection issue appears secondary.

For Birgitta Jonsdottir and her colleagues at the Pirate Party, however, ensuring a data safe haven is the priority, providing refuge for information, for journalist, NGOs and bloggers who speak out.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, Reaction: Don’t give up: “I have difficulties with all of this because on the one hand I think it’s great that we have data centers. But they’ve got massive tax cuts to help to start it; whereas others are not getting the same benefits.

So if you would have IMMI, it would sort of create a different environment, and they would hold stuff for Human Rights Watch. And we’ll get more interesting people to us. It’s not only capitalists.”

Birgitta Jonsdottir and her Pirate Party are currently polling at thirty percent in surveys. They could well play a pivotal role in the next elections in 2017, and be able to pressure the government to make Iceland a model of data protection.

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1. Iceland’s geography is ideal for data centers. True or false? What are the advantages of Iceland’s location?

2. Does the government want Iceland to have a high-tech industry? What has it done?

3. What do the Member of Parliament, Birgitta Jonsdottir want, more data privacy, security and protection, less or the same amount?

4. The government has been quick to pass laws ensuring data protection, privacy and security. Yes or no? Why has the government been slow?

5. What is the largest overhead cost (expenditure) for data centers operations? Does Iceland have a competitive advantage because of this?
6. Who does the Member of Parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir want to protect, banks, big businesses and politicians?

7. Are more companies from Europe and North America moving and storing their data in Iceland?


A. There are data centers or hubs in your city or country. True or false?

B. Do you or any of your friends or acquaintances work in a data center or are involved with data center construction or operations

C. Our country (indeed the entire world) needs more and more data centers. Do you agree?

There must be 100% data security, privacy, protection. What do you think?

D. Should the government, CIA, FBI have access to certain accounts — with a legal warrant?

E. What will happen in the future?


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