In this article, I’m going to describe what I think is the record of the presidential action in this key sector of activity that is digital. I will not pretend that the picture I will paint is anything but subjective, as I am a strong supporter of our digital sovereignty, and it will be drawn up according to this yardstick.
Of course, we start from the assumption that the digital industry is the industry of the future. That the way this subject is treated or will be treated depends on the economic results, employment, but also on our weight in the world of tomorrow.
It should be noted that for a quarter of a century, the progress of NTIC (New Information and Communication Technologies) has strongly impacted the life of companies and individuals. The state itself has set up and used large systems to better manage the demands of citizens. But at the beginning of the 21st century, a new mission has appeared for the governments: to encourage the progress of digital technology in everyday life and to try to “regulate the economy, in terms of business models, jobs and adapted professional training.
Over the past 15 years, digital transformation has affected all sectors of our lives, from the private sphere to the corporate world and the state. It is clear that this transformation has seen American solutions become firmly established. The state has not been left behind. One of the first administrations to have started its digital transformation was the Public Finance Department and in particular the tax department. We can recognize the success of this change. By the way, it does not seem to me that this institution has been too much invaded by American solutions, even if the recent partnerships with Google, seem to me quite worrying (Clubic)…
For the state, however, the digital does not stop at this first success. The state has therefore created bodies to study these issues, including the National Digital Council (CNNum).
This council has published 7 key recommendations for a citizen and inclusive digital transition (avise.org). One of the effective results is the fiber plan which, in spite of the covid-19, should fulfill these objectives, and at the same time allow the access to the whole population to high speed internet. From this point of view, France is rather well placed compared to all its American partners.
But what about digital sovereignty?
If, as we have seen, there is an awareness of the importance of digital technology in the development of our industry and our jobs of tomorrow, we can only note the significant gap between the awareness of the importance of digital technology and the necessary sovereignty on this subject.
Since the beginning of the digital transformation of our organizations: education, administration, companies the #magaf (I find the acronym more judicious of #gafam) have taken a hegemonic scale. I think this can be explained from several angles.
First of all, the entry of players like Microsoft and Apple in educational structures from a very young age has allowed to “educate” many children, and then students, to the use of their tools, first of all the terminal, but also the OS and the office software suite, initially installed on the terminals. This has produced a generation of captive users, some of whom have become decision-makers. And as we know, it is very difficult to change habits afterwards, the energy required to accompany the change can be phenomenal. This has made all attempts at alternative solutions marginal, especially those based on open source, regardless of the quality of the solutions proposed.
The second point, with the arrival of the cloud and “digital” tools such as Google, was to propose products that were apparently free (except that your data no longer belonged to you and were monetized at your expense). This pseudo-freedom has completely distorted the market and almost eradicated competition. It is surprising that our regulators did not seize the opportunity to force the players to charge for their service. Indeed, selling at a loss is prohibited in commercial law…
The third point, the strength of their business model, and their marketing power, has allowed them to generate a phenomenal cash flow, making them in many ways more powerful than states. It is surprising that contrary to the past, the American anti-trust laws have never really been applied to these players…
And the last floor of the building is an intense and expensive lobbying of our high officials and ministers. It will be quite shocking to see in particular the Secretary of State for Digital, wearing a T-shirt with the Google logo on it during a soccer match sponsored for an association. I can’t imagine the commotion that a Minister of Agriculture would have caused with a T-shirt promoting Californian wines… And this is only the anecdotal part, indeed during all his mandate, he kept on saying and repeating untruths, especially that there were no French actors up to the task on these subjects…
The murder of the French digital industry, the evidence!
I know that my section title may shock many of you! However, I support my accusations with facts, which I hope will make you aware of the extent of the demolition actions undertaken.
First of all, the emblematic case of the Data Hub Santé (Health Data Platform), where the project team, advised by an esn subservient to the #MAGAF (#gafam), chose Microsoft’s Azure hosting solution. It’s like dreaming, putting the health data of all French people on a platform governed by American law! And the worst is the intervention of Cedric O, saying that there were no French solutions at the level, which is a pure lie (Effisyn-sds. Les Echos, Twitter). This episode is not the result of chance, but of an intense and permanent lobbying of the #MAGAF, which can question the relevance and independence of the choices made. It would be good to put the nose in these influence games to make sure that it remains within the limits of legality…
This episode had at least one merit, that of allowing key actors of the French digital industry to gather in a collective and to carry out media and communication actions on social networks that are starting to bear some fruits… This is the collective PlayFranceDigital.
If this example was symbolic, there are many others, for example the choice by the BPI to host the data related to the State Guaranteed Loan on AWS, from Amazon (Effisyn-sds)… Financial data on the health of our companies available to the US power, which is waging an economic war on us. This is at best inconsistency… I would not address the case of #Palantir for the APHP, we are still in the same line of conduct, the government and senior officials have no political or strategic sense, they behave like simple managers of companies, simple executors without vision !
In the other examples that I find critical, give me the name of only one of the big Business Schools that proposes the use of French solutions instead? I, who had the opportunity to attend for an “executive” education the great house that is Essec, they propose to use Google Suite as a messaging and collaborative solution. Of course the rates for this type of services offered by the American giant, defy all competition, and the beauty of this positioning is that the executives and future leaders of French companies, especially those who have passed through these schools, are accustomed to the use of the #MAGAF and will therefore see their future decisions made by the yardstick of this cognitive bias. Yet there are many French solutions that offer collaborative solutions.
The bitter conclusion I draw from these few emblematic examples is the total vassalization of our ruling elites to American technologies… Even if we have a few jolts of lucidity like the DNNUM note that tells administrations that Microsoft’s O365 Cloud offer is not compatible with government directives, an opportunity that 8 French digital actors have not rightly let pass (Communiqué de Presse).
In front of the actions carried out by the government and the versatile attitude of the president, can we believe that there is a real awareness of the stakes related to the digital sovereignty? Unfortunately, the answer today is clearly no!
We must take advantage of the presidential election to make digital sovereignty a cross-cutting campaign theme. Indeed it touches democratic aspects (censorship of social networks, incitement to hatred, etc…), cultural, scientific and technological aspects but also economic and employment aspects. Do we really want to see France continue to be impoverished? If the answer is no, then drastic and varied measures must be taken.
I remind you of PlayFranceDigital’s request to direct at least 50% of public spending towards French players. Others propose the implementation of quotas as for culture, which is also another way to act intelligently.
It is also necessary that all the French digital actors learn to hunt in packs and establish, as we can see in other countries and other fields, a solid ecosystem where the big actors preferentially rely on sme/small businesses, which consolidates the industrial fabric and employment in our country.
We can also expect the state, when it is a majority shareholder (public industrial groups), to impose the use of sovereign digital tools.
I think it would also not be unreasonable to create a legislative toolbox that could contain :
– Laws to regulate lobbying equivalent to the transparency law that exists in health, to ensure that there is no abuse, and that lobbying does not turn into corruption.
– Legislation with an extraterritorial framework to defend our interests, which would allow for heavy financial penalties for foreign companies that do not play the game
– A specific regulation for the digital sector, to refresh for example the notion of loss-leader (prohibit any free service…)
One of the last points on which we could act is the national education, by putting in the program an acculturation on the digital, its economic, social and cultural stakes, highlighting its advantages but also its dangers. It would also be good if all the tools offered to pupils and/or students would see the generalization of sovereign tools. Indeed, this is the best way to get them used to using our tools, but also to detoxify them from using #magaf.
Even if the fight will be long, it must be led and we are far from having lost the war, but we must remobilize, stop devaluing ourselves and being afraid. We have assets, let’s build our future !