You have the floor, Minister Lemaire

For Ms Axelle Lemaire, Junior Min­is­ter for The Dig­i­tal Econ­o­my, report­ing to the Min­is­ter of the Econ­o­my, Indus­try and Dig­i­tal Ques­tions, “When we talk about the dig­i­tal world and its actors, we often refer to young dig­i­tal-inten­sive start-ups who pro­duce hard­ware, soft­ware and asso­ciate ser­vices. Beyond being a pure­ly tech­ni­cal domain, the dig­i­tal econ­o­my often intro­duces new busi­ness mod­els and total­ly changes the way we design, pro­duce and dis­trib­utes goods and services”. 

We are mov­ing into a new form of econ­o­my in which inno­va­tion cycles are short­er, rely on user and/or devel­op­er com­mu­ni­ties and occa­sion­al­ly ‘dis-inter­me­di­ate’ or shunt com­plete­ly cer­tain sec­tors of the clas­sic econ­o­my. The answer here is that the dig­i­tal econ­o­my is much more than a “sec­tor” and that is why I pre­fer to talk about a ‘dig­i­tized econ­o­my’. The var­i­ous eco­nom­ic seg­ments are no longer sep­a­rate enti­ties and they evolve along with the over­all trans­for­ma­tion of tra­di­tion­al eco­nom­ics. Smart tex­tiles, con­nect­ed objects, MOOCs, Web and smart phone appli­ca­tions in med­i­cine, law, finance … there are only a very few sec­tors now that have not expe­ri­enced inno­v­a­tive changes because of the dig­i­tal world.

To what degree does the advent of a digital economy represent a major turning point for the French economy and is higher education particularly of interest here?

A dig­i­tized econ­o­my is an impor­tant turn­ing point inas­much as we must now live and think with new refer­rals and attri­bu­tions: con­nect­ed trade and busi­ness out­lets, dema­te­ri­al­ized pub­lic ser­vices, new jobs … Our objec­tive is to accom­pa­ny start-ups as they grow and devel­op, on their way to becom­ing large® busi­ness con­cerns. The prime aim is to include Soci­ety as a whole in the trend, with­out mak­ing any dif­fer­ences of age, social back­grounds or ter­ri­to­r­i­al dif­fer­ences: the future will be made of everyone’s par­tic­i­pa­tion and con­tri­bu­tions! Obvi­ous­ly, inno­va­tion goes hand in hand with edu­ca­tion and research. Our main chal­lenge for the com­ing years is to be in a posi­tion to train more and more peo­ple and to do this even bet­ter, to improve the com­pet­i­tive posi­tion of France in the glob­al econ­o­my con­text: dig­i­ti­za­tion has become an incred­i­ble lever to reach out to new audi­ences, via MOOCs but also pro­vides a way to exper­i­ment new forms of appren­tice­ship, notably in project mode. Our High­er Edu­ca­tion must also be pre­pared to train for new pro­fes­sions, to inte­grate new ped­a­gog­i­cal approach­es, to cre­ate bridges between the Uni­ver­si­ties and research areas – like the efforts you are deploy­ing at the Sor­bonne Uni­ver­si­ties Clus­ter (COMUE), to bring sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy clos­er together. 

Does France benefit from any advantages here and what is our position in Europe?

Yes, France has advan­tages, over and above the clichés: our uni­ver­si­ties are among the best in the world and attract some of very bril­liant for­eign stu­dents; investors and for­eign enter­pris­es con­tin­ue to locate their busi­ness here – France ranks 4th for the amount of direct for­eign invest­ments; our infra­struc­tures are reli­able and effi­cient as can be observed with our very high data rate fixed net­works (2nd in the world). the French count among the most con­nect­ed nations- 83% use and prac­tice Inter­net, 400 000 are matric­u­lat­ed for MOOC cours­es. Along with Ger­many, France is a dri­ving force for Euro­pean dig­i­tal strate­gies. We are mov­ing towards a con­nect­ed Euro­pean ‘sin­gle mar­ket’ which will be a pow­er­ful tool for the expan­sion of our enter­pris­es and, of course, use­ful for the con­sol­i­da­tion of the Euro­pean Union as the world’s first econ­o­my power.

The var­i­ous eco­nom­ic seg­ments are no longer sep­a­rate enti­ties and they evolve along with the over­all trans­for­ma­tion of tra­di­tion­al economics. 

 What actions in favour of digitization do you see as most strategic and innovative in coming years? And how should we reassure people who are scared of digitization?

This is indeed the objec­tive of the French Government’s dig­i­tal plans, pub­lished in June. Thera are 4 pri­or­i­ty thrusts: free­dom to inno­vate, equal­i­ty of rights, fra­ter­ni­ty – dig­i­tal access for all and an exem­plary tran­si­tion of the State ser­vices. These axes will com­prise the spine of the dig­i­tal econ­o­my draft bill I shall be pre­sent­ing to Par­lia­ment before the end of the year. In order to inno­vate freely we must make best use of ‘French Tech’, the pro­mo­tion of open inno­va­tion, of open access (free access to research papers and pub­li­ca­tions), free user licens­es. It is a way to guar­an­tee and rein­force cit­i­zens’ rights as to the safe­ty of their per­son­al data and/or on line pay­ments; it also rein­forces the con­fi­dence and trans­paren­cy through hav­ing a tru­ly neu­tral net con­text. And the State author­i­ties must be exem­plary. Inno­vat­ing also means devel­op­ing dema­te­ri­al­ized pub­lic ser­vices, com­bin­ing ease of access, and effi­cien­cy: the « dig­i­tal hos­pi­tal, on line reg­is­tra­tion of com­plaints, social ser­vice sim­u­la­tions, … there are lots of projects in the off­ing. We should also be look­ing at the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do things more eas­i­ly with a dig­i­tal tool, such as being eas­i­er ways to col­lect data and this is the ambi­tion of our pro­gramme “One stop ques­tion por­tal” or sim­pli­fied access to admin­is­tra­tive ser­vices as can already be seen at “France Con­nect”. In a word, we have a splen­did chance here to be “more open” in a dig­i­tized world.

Did you know this?

  • 110 bil­lion € : The dig­i­tal frac­tion of the French GDP, more than in finan­cial ser­vice and agriculture 
  • 1.5 Meu­ros : Val­ue of jobs depen­dent on the dig­i­tal econ­o­my in France
    • +40 % : Poten­tial mar­ket turnover gains for a com­pa­ny that proves suc­cess­ful in its dig­i­tal transformation.

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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