I would like to start by thanking you for the invitation, and tell you how honoured I am to be with you today. I will voluntarily speak with a strong French accent to highlight the importance of the summit on the Francophonie held last week. But, more seriously, following the death of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. I would like to pay tribute to him today, for he is among those men who contributed to profoundly change our world. He is among those visionaries who were able to transform our societies, by bringing about the wind of modernity while at the same time supporting them to face new challenges.
In this new world, France has decided to take its full part and show a path that it believes is the right one.
One year ago, Emmanuel Macron, President of France as a participant of this Summit recalled France’s commitment to equip itself with a real digital agenda by joining forces with our European partners. This commitment was based on 4 main pillars that I would like to recall with you today:
1/ Reform policies to finance innovation
2/ Rules for fair competition in the global digital space.
3/ The necessity for States to invest in sectors where the private sector will not, due to lack of profitability.
4/the development of a genuine cybersecurity and cyber-defence strategy
Since last year and the last Tallinn Digital Summit, France and its European partners have continued to move forward and achieve concrete results.
From a French perspective, the challenge of the Tallinn Digital summit deals with French but mostly European digital sovereignty.
Our nations were built, as far as institutions and regulations go, in a world and in a time that no longer exists.
The accelerating technical transformations and digitalisation are now colliding with all our historical paradigms.
Digital technology has gone past the revolutionary stage, is no longer a mere business sector it has become the new social contract.
It impacts each and every one of our societies and highlights the necessity to rethink our ideals:
The way we work, the way we produce and supply, the way we consume, the way our health systems work, the way we educate and grow thanks to our schools and culture, the way we train, travel, live and consume, the way we deal with supplying and storing energy, the way we imagine new cities and new territories, the way we disrupt our understanding of central and peripheral areas, the way we deal with vertical and horizontal mobility.
Digital technology also disrupts our relationship with the public sector and administrations, institutions, information, and even with the essence of democratic processes.
Digital technology knows no borders, and makes us rediscover the essence of the European project itself, of a vital and necessary cooperation between European states, of a relevant level of action.
In this worldwide accelerating movement, the only condition for the survival of our model, of our values is cooperation among brother states of the European Union.
Europe should lead the battle of European digital sovereignty. It is both a sword and a shield in this multilateral world, divided into areas of interest and key players cooperating.
And in this ever accelerating world, exposure to cyber risk is exploding, which explains why we need to move quickly and urgently in this battle of the beginning of this century: controlling public data, and European digital sovereignty.
This might seem paradoxical in a world made of speed, innovation and knowledge –State, by cooperating together, are the ones who have to rediscover and give trans-border regulation its true meaning back.
In the Foreword of the Social contract, Rousseau started off with these words, who are still chillingly current:
“I mean to inquire if, in the civil order, there can be any sure and legitimate rule of administration, men being taken as they are and laws as they might be. In this inquiry I shall endeavor always to unite what right sanctions with what is prescribed by interest, in order that justice and utility may in no case be divided.”
The State, and European states, should invigorate their respective training sectors to create the evaluated 3 million jobs by 2021.
The State and European States should give themselves the means to guarantee true technological sovereignty. Operators, tools and digital platforms able to compete with US and Chinese giants.
The State and European States should set up measures and regulations to encourage innovation, research and cooperation that put an end to the candid approach to the true challenges and battles that are before us.
The State and European States should implement operational resilience.
The State and European States should integrate into all their public policies the importance of dealing with cyber security risk.
And finally, the State and European States should strive to ensure the foundations of our democratic models, and therefore our electoral processes, are not destabilized by any power with a better control of digital data and influence.
It is, of course, a technical battle, but it is first and foremost a political battle to preserve our sovereignty, defensively and offensively.
And normative regulation will not be enough.
Investing in education, especially the younger generation’s education, is central in order to guarantee this sovereignty: making sure that they receive adequate education on the media and online data, but also making sure that culture, history, literature and philosophy can be used as emancipation weapons by future generations.
The period we are going through currently is a date with history for our generations.
It would take too long to develop all the variations of this issue of European digital sovereignty, but I would like to list some of them here
1/ Our collective capacity to finance disruptive innovation.
2/ A policy to control European digital data in the face of the American cloud act
3/ The appointment of an ombudsman to play the role of mediator in the difficulties encountered in the context of the privacy shield
4/ A policy of transparency of algorithms necessary to restore trust in platforms
5/ Our capacity to create a legal and economic ecosystem to finance Artificial intelligence and to regulate it based on ethical core principals.
France is fully committed in this field by developing a policy which is based on open public data and on the exchange of public and private data within a clearly defined European framework of regulations in order to promote the development of champions or by leading a broad reflection on IA regulation and ethics.
As a conclusion, the digital European sovereignty represents a tremendous challenge with an even bigger ultimate goal.
More than ever, we must go on together, quickly, on the legal and technological regulations. But also, we must build our own tools, based on the value in which we believe