At the beginning of this year, let’s take the time to look back at the highlights of 2021 concerning the defense of our digital sovereignty, and let’s try to determine from these facts, the battles to be waged for 2022.
We will review here a few events that are emblematic of the ambiguity of our administrative and political authorities in defining a clear strategic line on our digital sovereignty.
The Health Data Hub
I wanted to start this retrospective with the key project of concentrating all French health data on a cloud platform. Already in 2020, this project had provoked strong reactions by the choice of Microsoft Azure as storage platform, leading to a questioning of this choice… The invalidation of the privacy shield in the summer of 2020 underlined the incomprehensible, not to say irresponsible, nature of this initial choice (eSanté-Tech)…
Faced with the numerous irregularities in the management of the project, notably the lack of a call for tenders, the government had committed to do everything possible to correct the situation and migrate to a solution more compatible with the protection of our data. However, it seems that this perspective is getting further away (Le Monde – 18 novembre 2021)
This difficulty to go back on a risky and badly thought decision (I would say badly advised by the ESN in charge of accompanying the state on this project), is probably due to reversibility problems, as suggested by the deputy Philippe Latombe in his long interview that he granted to Effisyn SDS (Effisyn SDS Extrait 4 – 2m29). By reversibility, we mean the difficulty of remaining trapped in a solution because of the technical difficulty of migrating to another solution. The fact remains that we are talking about the data of all French people (at least those who have not opposed the use of their data), and that it is inadmissible that these data remain under the threat of extraterritoriality of American law!
The “trusted” cloud
This theme is in fact a counter blow to the Health Data Hub affair. And if the government was initially moving towards a sovereign cloud, it has suddenly turned to a vague concept of “trusted cloud” (Cigref) which allows the return through the door of services of the American digital giants, with this Capgemini-Orange proposal of a solution that does not yet exist, called “Blue” which would be a solution built on American technologies but hosted and operated by Capgemini and Orange… If this proposal allows to minimize the legal risk on our data, it does not completely remove it. Moreover, it does not at all eliminate the risk of technological dependence (and therefore of embargo), and as we are dealing with proprietary solutions, it is impossible to exclude the presence of backdoor in the software solutions implemented.…
Does the US ask itself, if #Microsoft, #Google or #AWS are sovereign and trusted? The answer is of course no! However, this is the case in France, whereas if we take the time to think about it, there are relevant and sovereign players, including three major players with international capabilities, such as #Scaleway, #OVH and #Outscale.
We must therefore have recourse to our French players who for most needs (over 80%) are fully capable of meeting the expectations of their customers.
Moreover, I propose you the criteria which really allow to define if your choice of cloud will be of confidence and sovereign (see the upper video). For any specific needs that may not be covered by our French players, why not consider a more intelligent approach, that of the multicloud?
This approach would also make it possible to combine security and data sovereignty (ZDNet), while leaving the possibility of using the possible technological advances of the big digital players in analysis (Big Data) and AI. However, this does not protect us from our technological dependence and from the theoretical risk of a technological embargo by the United States. This approach is more and more in vogue and was mentioned in my interview with Yann Lechelle from Scaleway.
This approach also has a second merit, which is to avoid being locked into a single supplier, which strategically is never good for a company.
The casualness of our secretary of state for digital
Other events are symptomatic of the government’s approach to our digital sovereignty: fervent defender in words, but in deeds, it’s a different story…
Let’s quote the Secretary of State who is apparently a herald of the #magaf as shown in this emblematic image where he wears a Google tee shirt! Could we imagine a Minister of Agriculture wearing a T-shirt promoting a Californian wine?
This image has caused a strong reaction in the French digital community, which is quite understandable.
I am not the only one to note and deplore the entry of #MAGAF into the highest levels of the state and the administration. However, it is difficult to control (the regulation on links of interest alone will not be sufficient…) as Philippe Latombe mentions (Member of Parliament for Vendée and rapporteur for the mission « Bâtir et protéger une souveraineté numérique nationale et européenne » In English “Building and protecting national and European digital sovereignty”) in a long, rich and fascinating interview.
I will not go back to the words of this same secretary of state who uses the commercial argument of the #MAGAF wanting to make believe that in the cloud in particular our suppliers would not have the technical level. This is not true! Don’t hesitate to listen to my interview with Yann Lechelle, ceo of Scaleway, one of our sovereign players, who explains things, demonstrating that reality is more complex than we are led to believe.
These elements allow us to understand the magnitude of the task at hand, especially when our ruling elites seem to play against the French team!
2021 has seen a few decisions that were in the direction of a real awareness of the issues related to our digital sovereignty. For example, the Interministerial Director of Digital Affairs (DINUM) issued a circular asking administrations to stop migrating to Microsoft’s O365, which is considered contrary to France’s cloud policy. (Siècle Digital – 24 sep 21).
This allowed 8 French players in collaborative solutions to make a proposal, thus showing that French players were able to offer an effective and quality service (Press Release).
But we must note that apart from this glimmer of hope, there have been a number of announcements that show that many major public or private players are not interested in developing a strong French digital response.
In these dismaying announcements, we find:
- A Thales-Google collaboration (Le Monde – 06 oct. 21)
- The activism of the CIA investment fund, In-Q-Tel, which enters the capital of many of our start-ups, so many nuggets that will eventually escape us … (France 24 – 20 oct. 21)
- – Scaleway’s departure from Gaia-X only confirms that the hope of this initiative, initially seen as the possibility of creating the conditions for the emergence of digital sovereignty, has been undermined by the entryism of #MAGAF and #BATX. (Siècle Digital – 18 nov. 21)
- The reception by Station F of the American start-up Palantir, with a sulphurous reputation ! (La Revue du Digital – 9 dec. 21)
- The SNCF (French National Railways) goes under AWS (La Tribune – 18 déc. 21)
- At the beginning of this year, Stellantis has once again chosen AWS … (L’Usine Digitale – 05 jan. 22)
These are only a few emblematic examples of the dangers we must face, and of the magnitude of the task ahead of us.
For 2022, what ambitions?
2021 having seen the consolidation of actions led by the PlayFranceDigital collective, we could see that the discourse was finally beginning to take shape in the public space. Other initiatives, probably more marginal, such as the one led by yours truly through Effisyn SDS, accompany this movement. These actions must be maintained and reinforced, so as not to leave the field open to the pro-MAGAF lobbies alone.
2022 is also and above all the opportunity to impose the theme of digital sovereignty as one of the transversal subjects of the presidential campaign. Cross-cutting because it touches on industrial and economic issues, but above all on education, the defense of our cultural model as well as our democratic model.
It is therefore important that all digital actors mobilize and continue to make their voice heard! In my modest way, I will continue to highlight French digital actors during interviews, who often offer original and innovative solutions that can provide different solutions to your problems. For the collaborative, you have of course established players who have proven themselves and continue like #talkspirit, #jamespot, #wimi or #whaller and many others.
For email or instant messaging, you have for example #mailo for email, and #olvid as a secure instant messenger that respects your personal data. Note also #emana which brings artificial intelligence in the management of your emails.
Pour ce qui est des webinaires, vidéo conférence vous pouvez intéresser à #empreinte.com, #tixeo ou encore #privatediscuss…
For a private and professional use, there is a social media platform that cares about the protection of your data and doesn’t collect any personal data… This initiative is particularly dear to my heart, because it brings a radically different approach of what a social media/network can be, completely in accordance with our cultural model and with an ethical approach: it’s #smartrezo. It is this platform that I have chosen to host my videos.
For 2022 the challenge is immense. However, we must not give up. On the side of each of the French digital actors, we must continue to work together, despite the possibility of finding ourselves with direct or indirect competitors. It is in the best interest of the nation that a digital ecosystem rich in alternatives grows and allows a varied clientele to find its happiness according to its organization, its size and its constraints.
It is however even more crucial that we as citizens, no longer act simply as consumers, but become conso-actors. As for ecological issues, it is through our choices that we will force the different actors of the French economy to change their habits and to avoid abandoning the management of their data to foreign and often competing interests! Moreover, by consuming more “locally”, even for digital products, we are creating a virtuous circle that is not only eco-responsible, but also socially responsible, since we are allowing these companies to hire and thus promote employment in France. The economic spin-offs will also be virtuous!
And if, for 2022, you make good digital resolutions?