In our previous article relating to the “France 2030” plan, we mentioned one of the challenges of digital technology consisting of the training, attraction and retention of talent capable of supporting future innovations and developments, against the backdrop of global competition. In addition to this theme, other issues exist in the digital sector, in particular the issue of sovereignty and ethics.
digital sovereignty is a subject that is still not very democratized but is very present in the world of FrenchTech. It is at the heart of the actions of the ISN (Institute of Digital Sovereignty) and France Digital for example, but also collectives like playfrance which already brought together 650 French digital entrepreneurs, pioneers and decision-makers at the end of 2020.
The stakes are indeed high in the face of the major digital players who dominate the international market. Behind the term digital sovereignty, several subjects invite themselves: the global race for digital leadership, the Internet having opened up a playground where States are struggling to lay down the law, access and control of data by American or Chinese monopolies which can go so far as to threaten national sovereignties with issues of espionage and cybersecurity.
National sovereignty therefore aims at national or European preference when it comes to integrating digital solutions, by making local players and their solutions known to public decision-makers in particular and private players as well, where the giants of the web occupy monopolies.
Maya Christmas, Managing Director of France Digitale, defends this issue but also recalls that it is not a question of being naive on these issues. European alternatives exist, but a certain technological delay has been taken and remains difficult to catch up, the time that European champions can compete with the established monopolies. When it comes to public markets, it is risky, for example, to opt for new solutions brought by start-ups that still have fragile foundations. Moreover, the long pace of these markets does not correspond to the pace of development of start-ups. A transition must therefore take place and over this time, it is essential to disseminate French and European technological and industrial advances so that they gradually take their place and manage to compete seriously with Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook or Apple. In the absence of European champions, it is now illusory to advocate a total impasse on the technologies of these players, which are undeniably efficient. Our champions are slowly emerging; with OVH, for example, recently listed on the stock market despite a few incidents at its datacenters. Trust is built over time. Alliances with the dominant solutions on the market are therefore necessary for the smooth running of the economy. The parade of Europe is for the moment of regulate your digital space and to require these giants to comply with these rules to prevent cybersecurity risks or threats to state sovereignty. However, it remains to ensure that these regulations are enforced and to strengthen the coercive measures in order to discourage attempts at abuse. This is a subject that is as geopolitical, diplomatic as it is technological.
Let’s move on to the ethical issue
This problem crystallizes essentially on the technologies relating to the‘artificial intelligence and algorithms. AI arouses distrust and vigilance on different dimensions: data security, energy consumption but also the biases contained and peddled by the algorithms on which artificial intelligence is based. Even if the debate is struggling to democratize today, algorithms are ubiquitous in most digital solutions and social networks. All our digital content goes through a selection ensured by these filters designed by engineers, leading to keeping everyone in their intellectual comfort zone, their zone of opinion. The risk is obviously to manipulate the masses and to isolate currents of thought and to make it difficult to discuss ideas. How to progress intellectually and be in control of one’s intellectual journey if invisible hands carefully select what is given to us to see? Intellectual curiosity then requires a significant effort.
Here again, expert groups and fairs such as IA for good, Tech for goodor France Digital once again, take on this role of raising awareness of these issues. Europe also hopes to be able to regulate AI developments and spearhead ethical artificial intelligence.
Reassuringly, some investors are also increasingly imbued with these issues and aim to integrate these parameters of ethics and responsibility in the selection of the projects they wish to support. According to Maya Noël, this sensitivity is based on a cultural groundswell in EuropeEuropeans being particularly attentive to climate, ethical and more generally sustainable development issues.
We bet then that in 2030, these trends will be even better anchored in the practices of entrepreneurs, investors but also public actors, large industrial groups. Perhaps this is the path to European leadership, in the digital sector and beyond?
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Digital: what are the challenges for France? -Forbes France
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