France’s Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Mounir Mahjoubi got here to CES in Las Vegas to help a whole bunch of French startups. A number of weeks in the past, I had the chance to sit down down and interview him about pretend information, the French digital council, Axelle Lemaire’s regulation and the way he plans to remodel the state right into a tech platform.
Mahjoubi joined Emmanuel Macron’s crew because the individual accountable for all issues digital whereas Macron was campaigning to develop into France’s President. He joined the French authorities instantly after the 2017 election and has been accountable for Digital Affairs. Along with being the go-to policymaker for the tech business basically, he’s additionally engaged on digital initiatives inside the authorities and the French state.
There’s additionally a separate video interview about French startups basically. At the moment’s interview was translated from French and barely edited for brevity and readability.
TechCrunch: Your place as Secretary of State is now below the Prime Minister. What does it change each day in comparison with former Digital Secretaries of State [who were working with Economy Ministers]?
Mounir Mahjoubi: Earlier than, I’d have been Secretary of State accountable for the Digital Economic system, now I’m Secretary of State accountable for Digital Affairs. There’s a clear hyperlink between financial transformation, state transformation, inclusion and safety subjects. All these issues are related.
After we discuss constructing a ‘startup nation’, it’s a nation that behaves like a startup and that fosters startups at house. What I’m attempting to do is to construct champions for the financial system and the state. It implies that I need to create the very best on-line companies attainable for the Authorities. I’m accountable of an enormous state-owned startup that spends €10 billion [$12.4 billion] on digital initiatives in order that we will have extra versatile and accessible companies that leverage synthetic intelligence.
TC: The first mission is the digital transformation of the state?
MM: That’s the primary half, and it goes hand in hand with the transformation of the financial system. And what’s attention-grabbing is that these two issues are complementary. After we develop our startups, we have to create an ecosystem that fosters champions. We’re going to create unicorns — not simply three unicorns, however 20 or 100. However we additionally want an ecosystem of corporations that get their alternatives.
First, we develop an ecosystem the place everybody has a chance — we foster variety and we floor entrepreneurs from in all places as a result of good concepts come from in all places. Second, we have to establish tomorrow’s success tales and assist them speed up.
We need to do the identical for the state. On the similar time, we are going to deal with French individuals who don’t know how one can use digital companies — it’s ineffective to do all this if we depart behind 20 p.c of French residents who don’t know how one can use the web.
And at last, we make it possible for the system is safe. If we will’t attain a excessive stage of cybersecurity, nobody will belief startups, nobody will belief digital public companies. And all of those are important situations for the transformation of France.
TC: What are the targets for the digital transformation of France for the following 4 years?
MM: Relating to the financial system, we could have startups which are international leaders, particularly in particular industries, reminiscent of synthetic intelligence, well being, digital safety, transport and the surroundings. I’ll do my greatest to establish and assist them develop.
Then, we have to assist corporations from the so-called ‘conventional’ financial system. We have to assist them of their [digital] transformation. At the moment, 50 p.c of all workers work for small and medium enterprises. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to fulfill with 100 of these SMEs that come right here to CES and talk about how we might help them of their transformation of their worldwide provide.
As for the state, the target that we’ve given ourselves is 100 p.c of dematerialized paperwork by 2022. Which means we’ve loads of work to create the state as a platform, create micro companies that work with that sort of platform, rework administration work that isn’t digital but, create a unified course of with France’s digital companies and facilitate entry to the administrations. These are the important targets. And the situations for fulfillment are a excessive stage of safety and accessibility.
Ultimately, we’ll even have a broader subject concerning employment transformation. How can we accompany the transformation at a big and small scale in the long term — some jobs will seem, others will disappear. That’s the reason we’ve guess on coaching and competencies. We’ve invested €15 billion within the coaching of French folks.
TC: There’s a recurring query because the starting of [Macron’s] five-year time period. How far are we with the implementing decrees of Axelle Lemaire’s regulation?
MM: Which of them, we handed a lot of them already…
TC: Sure, however there are nonetheless some remaining ones…
MM: Some are remaining and they’re essentially the most difficult ones…
TC: Will they be scrapped?
MM: Nothing will probably be scrapped. If we scrap them, folks will see it. Now, we’ve a Nationwide Meeting that may be very competent in the case of digital subjects — it hasn’t all the time been the case.
There are ten remaining implementing decrees that contain advanced selections. There are additionally some decrees that require judicial consideration as a result of they rely on European regulation and France’s structure. For these ones, it’s attainable that we find yourself failing.
TC: When will the final implementing decree be revealed?
MM: Those which are difficult are these the place there’s a downside of European compatibility or constitutional compatibility. For these ones, we would need to cross a brand new regulation or go although European organizations to succeed in a world resolution.
TC: Can we discuss concerning the French digital council [Conseil National du Numérique]? Marie Ekeland’s resignation draw loads of consideration to it. What occurred precisely and who gave the order to vary the crew?
MM: There isn’t any order. There was a miscomprehension or a misalignment between the undertaking carried out by Marie Ekeland and France’s wants with a digital council. The council’s position is to accompany the digital transformation of France, to accompany the Authorities.
From the very first day after its formation, all of the talks we had weren’t appropriate with this mission.
TC: Did they signify an excessive amount of opposition?
MM: In a short time, the council had its personal undertaking they usually weren’t right here to accompany the Authorities within the digital transformation.
Mea culpa, we acknowledged that we weren’t aligned with the objective of the president [Marie Ekeland]. She selected to resign. The members stated that they might resign as properly as a result of the undertaking would cease. However a few of them will probably be named once more within the subsequent digital council, and certainly one of them turned my chief of employees [Aymeril Hoang].
That’s why that resignations weren’t towards me or the federal government. The resignations had been the results of the tip of Marie Ekeland’s undertaking. And now we have to prepare for one more undertaking.
TC: When can we anticipate a brand new French digital council?
MM: February. The truth is, France wants a digital council as shortly as attainable. Web neutrality is jeopardized, the subject of synthetic intelligence is on the best way — there are many subjects that require that the council begins working.
TC: Let’s change gear and discuss startups once more. There are at present two sturdy indicators for the French tech ecosystem — the Visa French Tech and Station F. These are nice symbols, however how will we go additional and discuss precise French startups?
MM: All of it comes right down to what ‘French Tech’ means. From my perspective, I’d be extra optimistic than you. After we hear about French Tech, France and startups, we additionally hear ‘superb engineers’ and ‘good startups’. However we don’t hear about ‘highly effective startups’ and ‘hyper development’.
That’s what I need to deal with within the coming years. While you hear the phrases French Tech, it is best to take into consideration these deep tech corporations which are going to save lots of lives throughout the globe.
TC: Let’s discuss Bpifrance. Emmanuel Macron promised one other €10 billion fund final yr. What’s the standing of this fund and the way will it form up?
MM: This €10 billion fund for disruptive innovation will let Bpifrance make investments a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of euros in modern initiatives yearly
TC: €200 million [per year]?
MM: It should rely on the rate of interest, so it may be €200 million or extra. We have to end placing all the things collectively to make it accessible to the general public.
That is essential as a result of we need to rethink how we use public cash to put money into corporations that non-public funds gained’t put money into. It is extremely essential to separate public cash from personal funds. That cash ought to by no means be invested in corporations that additionally entice personal cash. It needs to be targeted on hyper threat and hyper innovation. That’s the way you create sustainable funding.
TC: One final query. Emmanuel Macron introduced a undertaking towards pretend information to the media. The form of that undertaking continues to be unclear. What’s your concrete tackle that undertaking?
TC: For that difficulty, there isn’t any have to rush. Extra usually, we’ve a difficulty that isn’t solely French — it’s a international subject that impacts the U.S., Europe, France, Germany… It’s all about eradicating content material from on-line platforms and sharing the duty.
There’s a particular difficulty with pretend information throughout elections, however there is a matter round terrorist content material, a difficulty round on-line harassment, cyber criminality… And we have to consider carefully as a result of all these subjects are reaching a brand new dimension.
It feels bizarre to see Fb or Twitter appearing shortly to take away a nipple inside a minute whereas it takes them every week to take away a homophobic message as a result of they assume it’s a matter of freedom of speech
What’s a authorized difficulty? What’s a freedom of speech difficulty? What’s the duty of the platform or the editors? What’s audiovisual content material? This subject of on-line content material removing is probably topic to a number of units of regulation. One of many focus of the following months is to make clear regulation round that difficulty.
The regulation “confidence for the digital financial system” of 2014 already offers with the obligations of the internet hosting firm and the modifying firm. We have already got a strong instrument, as a result of another nations don’t have that.
At the moment, we found the boundaries, together with in the case of pretend information, harassment and insults. Some associations are very demanding, associations towards homophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism… There are victims that don’t perceive why harassing content material stays on-line after a number of reviews.
We’ve areas of success, on terrorism for instance — President Macron reminded this. We ask them to go even additional and delete content material inside an hour of being reported. And this appears to seek out consensus and nobody is towards this.
But when we go down only one stage and discuss on-line harassment, together with unlawful content material. There are individuals who say that it isn’t the position of the platform to resolve how one can say if it’s infringing the regulation or not.
On the subject of youngster pornography, there was a worldwide consensus for 15 years. On the subject of youngsters, the content material should be deleted and we don’t want a decide. The platform is accountable and should delete instantly.
For the remaining, we have to discover out if we have to take away it or not. You’ve got respectable individuals who say that it isn’t the position of the platform to resolve what should be stored on-line or not. And in the event that they do it they’ll do it in line with their very own the values — generally it’s not our values.
And it feels bizarre to see Fb or Twitter appearing shortly to take away a nipple inside a minute whereas it takes them every week to take away a homophobic message as a result of they assume it’s a matter of freedom of speech. In France, it’s very bizarre — we’d have banned the homophobic message and left that sort of nudity alone.
We don’t have to rush into it. The President has set some objectives and now we have to attain them.