[Emmanuel M] : Hello Pascal, for those of my readers who would not have the chance to know you could you paint us your quick portrait ?
[Pascal Gayat] : I’ve been a digital professional since 1996, I started by marketing advertising space on AltaVista, Lycos, Netscape. I was targeting European IP addresses when there was still very little content in French, and only 1.6m of Internet users. I then managed subsidiaries of international groups such as 24/7 Media, Fast Search & Transfer, Ouverture, Yahoo!, Tradedoubler and departments in multiple European countries, founded a digital media agency, all for 20 years. Then at the end of 2016 I changed my course by organizing events that celebrate and encourage good practices in the Digital, in advertising, in marketing, in E-Commerce and more recently in infrastructures and more Tech subjects. These events are called Les Cas d’OR www.lescasdor.com and I welcomed nearly 3000 guests in 2019.
[Emmanuel M] : In your past experiences what ended up arousing the desire to move the lines on digital sovereignty ?
[Pascal Gayat] : This logic is very recent in its activist form, but well anchored in what I have been able to develop as professional and personal practices in the past. Especially in my companies we often developed under Linux, we used French tracking tools in priority, even if they were paid vs a Google Analytics. And then, a bit like someone who looks up from the handlebars for the first time in 25 years with this sclerosing crisis, I made an inventory, shared with some colleagues of the same age and having the same type of journey , and we realized that in 25 years we hadn’t built anything serious, and that while we were taking care of our adventures, others made multiple hasty decisions, without any real background reflection, leading to a supremacy of actors. We are several Digital Pioneers who have never gleaned from high digital functions in large groups or state trades, but I tell myself from time to time that we should have.
[Emmanuel M] This April 9 call, what was the trigger ? What allowed this crystallization?
[Pascal Gayat] : The story of the AP HP who talks with Palantir, debated between digital entrepreneurs on a post by Jean-Noël de Galzain (Wallix). Alain Garnier (Jamespot), Matthieu Hug (Tilkal), Raphael Richard (Neodia) and I discussed it on a Sunday and we thought that it was certainly time to show that the entire digital profession, therefore those who master the subject was to rise up against these inconsistent shortcuts which lead across the Atlantic and accompany European leaders towards new practices or decisional reflexes on the Digital.
[Emmanuel M] : Has the collective been created for the call, or is it the collective that has seized an event to make this call ?
[Pascal Gayat] : We created the Collective at the time of the Call, and from Sunday to Thursday, April 9, we began to recruit the signatories, announced by our forum on the Journal du Net, emblematic media of Digital.
[Emmanuel M] : Around which leaders this collective was built?
[Pascal Gayat] : Alain Garnier (Jamespot), Matthieu Hug (Tilkal), Raphael Richard (Neodia), then Antoine Duboscq (Wimi) who quickly joined us and led the platform initiative in Les Echos, on radio and TV.
Other leaderships are being born within the collective which has had its private network from the start and which organizes its governance and its flagship themes during the summer.
[Emmanuel M] : What are the strengths of this collective for you ? And what is the achievement, or the keys, from your point of view?
[Pascal Gayat] : Our ambition is to support public or private leaders who are in a position to pilot digital projects and investments to forget the intellectual algorithmic bias that leads them to look at non-European solutions by default. And for those who have no history, start their reflection and their benchmarking towards French and European solutions above all.
We will truly highlight the actors, cultivate a presence in mind, and have both a process of celebrating good practices by highlighting professionals and companies and another more activist when we see that things do not not going in the right direction. I give some examples:
– The APH-HP talks with Palantir: we denounce
– HDH signs and confirms with Microsoft: we denounce
– The Government nods at Google and Apple for StopCovid: we celebrate
– DINUM distributes a set of recommendations for video tools for state services with a ban on using Zoom: we are celebrating
5 years ago, I would not have been as vindictive because I certainly would not have had the same confidence in the existence of French solutions for all issues and with the same fluidity as international tools. Today, this is no longer the case, you have to be curious and everyone has to do their benchmarking openly.
We are publishing our first mapping of solution publishers and platform made up of 300 SMEs and mid-cap companies that meet all of the essential digital needs and will distribute it widely to cultivate this presence in mind.
Our first objective is that the services of the State, the administration and the territorial collectivities prioritize the French actors in their digital purchases. GovTech, that’s 16 billion Euros per year in France, 50% should be invested in French digital solutions.
[Emmanuel M] : Do you think that the light that this pandemic has put on our industrial dependence, will continue and allow major advances in the construction of a lasting sovereign digital ecosystem ?
[Pascal Gayat] : It is today that we must make this type of Call and accompany it because the effect of Reset induces a complete stop is a real opportunity to restart in a different way. This need for sovereignty has been identified at all levels, sovereignty is no longer a “swear word” or a political concept at the extremes. And what we know today is that it is necessary for all governments and companies, as much as possible, to cultivate their strategic autonomy to control their future. If movements like ours accompany this movement with benevolence and capacity for reframing, we should reach the objectives for 2030, in a European context of course.
[Emmanuel M] : We know that we should be able to give more visibility to our French and even European digital entrepreneurs. For you what are the main battles to fight and the tools to carry them out?
[Pascal Gayat] : French digital entrepreneurs must discover that the European digital market exists, and take a leadership position there. The initiatives carried out by the public authorities must reassure this fact. I really like the concept of an attic, which I learned in geography history a very long time ago! For us, it is about creating a European digital market and discovering the countries that constitute its hard core, which we could call “European digital granary”. In my opinion, these are 7 to 8 countries, a good number of them are much more advanced than us and do not have the same feeling of frustration and fracture as we can feel. We must therefore join them, benchmark with them on expertise and solutions, and the good news is that Germany and France are the 2 largest European domestic markets following Brexit, which gives a real chance. for this couple to lead the peloton. I also welcome the GAIA-X initiative which goes in this direction around the European Cloud.
[Emmanuel M] : Do you think we will get public decision-makers but also key players in our large companies to give the French ecosystem a real chance ?
[Pascal Gayat] : It is a question of culture and generation. Digital is only 25 years old in its commercial and service format, it is 1 demographic generation and a little less than 3 professional generations. We are only beginning to have leaders who have a little more control over the value chain and are now far from Jacques Chirac and his field mouse. When you master the value chain, you are enlightened. I would say that 2020 is Year 1 of this digital consciousness as 2019 was Year 1 of climate consciousness.
[Emmanuel M] : What do you think are the strengths of our French digital entrepreneurs ?
[Pascal Gayat] : They are agile, they build with highly trained engineers, have a critical view on technologies, and in particular the algos with their biases, they do not put their commercial ambitions in the foreground and stimulate confidence in the long term, they are more creative too. I know a lot of digital entrepreneurs who have kept their customers for more than 10 years without them being trapped in a technology, simply because they supported them in their rise in skill and power.
[Emmanuel M] : What is Pascal your next challenge ?
[Pascal Gayat] In the very short term, we are publishing the first cartography of the 300 digital players Made In France, then the creation of an index identifying these companies, put at the service of public digital buyers, and as of this summer I begin the preparation of my 11 end-of-year events, one of which will be devoted to cybersecurity, and another to the Digital Public Service, what a coincidence !
[Emmanuel M] : Pascal, we are coming to the end of this interview, what conclusion would you like to share with us ?
[Pascal Gayat] : We always tend to think that the dice are thrown. In fact, in my 25-year career, I’ve seen phenomenal and fundamental reversals for the digital ecosystem related to the fight between Big Tech. It started with Netscape, which had 100% market share in browsers, which was caught by Microsoft with Internet Explorer, which was caught by Google with Chrome. Even magma in the search engines with the disastrous decisions of Yahoo! which led to its loss…. These Big Techs have within them what will destroy them and they have paradoxical relations with their State which financed them. As they all come from the same neighborhood almost, their consanguineous recruitments mean that the engineers and developers who built the algorithms of some, will serve the algorithms of others, by systematically reproducing the same biases because their approach is hyper standardized.
One of two things, either we do like them and we settle there, or we stay very distant and we should not be dependent on them. Therefore I recommend, with my co-founders of the Call, our digital emancipation.