France’s Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Mounir Mahjoubi got here to CES in Las Vegas to help a whole lot of French startups. A number of weeks in the past, I had the chance to sit down down and interview him about faux 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 staff because the particular person in command of all issues digital whereas Macron was campaigning to turn out to be France’s President. He joined the French authorities instantly after the 2017 election and has been in command of Digital Affairs. Along with being the go-to policymaker for the tech trade typically, he’s additionally engaged on digital initiatives inside the authorities and the French state.
There’s additionally a separate video interview about French startups typically. Immediately’s interview was translated from French and barely edited for brevity and readability.
TechCrunch: Your place as Secretary of State is now beneath 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 might have been Secretary of State in command of the Digital Financial system, now I’m Secretary of State in command of Digital Affairs. There’s a clear hyperlink between financial transformation, state transformation, inclusion and safety subjects. All these issues are related.
Once we discuss constructing a ‘startup nation’, it’s a nation that behaves like a startup and that fosters startups at residence. What I’m attempting to do is to construct champions for the economic system and the state. It implies that I wish to create the perfect 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 tasks 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 economic system. And what’s attention-grabbing is that these two issues are complementary. Once 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 possibility — we foster range 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 wish to do the identical for the state. On the identical time, we’ll deal with French individuals who don’t know use digital companies — it’s ineffective to do all this if we depart behind 20 p.c of French residents who don’t know use the web.
And at last, we ensure that the system is safe. If we will’t attain a excessive degree 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 goals for the digital transformation of France for the following 4 years?
MM: Relating to the economic system, we could have startups which might be international leaders, particularly in particular industries, reminiscent of synthetic intelligence, well being, digital safety, transport and the atmosphere. I’ll do my greatest to establish and assist them develop.
Then, we have to assist corporations from the so-called ‘conventional’ economic system. We have to assist them of their [digital] transformation. Immediately, 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 will help them of their transformation of their worldwide provide.
As for the state, the target that we have now given ourselves is 100 p.c of dematerialized paperwork by 2022. Which means that we have now numerous 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 goals. And the situations for achievement are a excessive degree of safety and accessibility.
Finally, we’ll even have a broader matter relating to 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 have now wager on coaching and competencies. We’ve got 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 probably the most sophisticated ones…
TC: Will they be scrapped?
MM: Nothing shall be scrapped. If we scrap them, folks will see it. Now, we have now a Nationwide Meeting that could be very competent in terms of digital subjects — it hasn’t at all times been the case.
There are ten remaining implementing decrees that contain complicated choices. There are additionally some decrees that require judicial consideration as a result of they depend upon 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 printed?
MM: Those which might be sophisticated are these the place there’s a drawback of European compatibility or constitutional compatibility. For these ones, we would need to cross a brand new regulation or go although European organizations to achieve a world resolution.
TC: Can we discuss in regards to the French digital council [Conseil National du Numérique]? Marie Ekeland’s resignation draw numerous consideration to it. What occurred precisely and who gave the order to alter the staff?
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 suitable with this mission.
TC: Did they symbolize 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 mentioned that they’d resign as properly as a result of the undertaking would cease. However a few of them shall be named once more within the subsequent digital council, and certainly one of them grew to become 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. In actual fact, 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 presently two robust indicators for the French tech ecosystem — the Visa French Tech and Station F. These are nice symbols, however how can we go additional and discuss precise French startups?
MM: All of it comes all the way down to what ‘French Tech’ means. From my viewpoint, I might be extra optimistic than you. Once we hear about French Tech, France and startups, we additionally hear ‘excellent engineers’ and ‘good startups’. However we don’t hear about ‘highly effective startups’ and ‘hyper progress’.
That’s what I wish to deal with within the coming years. Whenever you hear the phrases French Tech, you need to take into consideration these deep tech corporations which might be going to save lots of lives throughout the globe.
TC: Let’s discuss Bpifrance. Emmanuel Macron promised one other €10 billion fund final 12 months. 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 lot of thousands and thousands of euros in progressive tasks yearly
TC: €200 million [per year]?
MM: It is going to depend upon the rate of interest, so it may be €200 million or extra. We have to end placing every thing collectively to make it out there to the general public.
That is essential as a result of we wish to rethink how we use public cash to put money into corporations that non-public funds gained’t put money into. It is rather essential to separate public cash from personal funds. That cash ought to by no means be invested in corporations that additionally appeal to personal cash. It ought to be centered on hyper threat and hyper innovation. That’s the way you create sustainable funding.
TC: One final query. Emmanuel Macron introduced a undertaking towards faux information to the media. The form of that undertaking remains to be unclear. What’s your concrete tackle that undertaking?
TC: For that concern, there isn’t any must rush. Extra usually, we have now a difficulty that isn’t solely French — it’s a international matter 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 concern with faux information throughout elections, however there is a matter round terrorist content material, a difficulty round on-line harassment, cyber criminality… And we have to think twice as a result of all these subjects are reaching a brand new dimension.
It feels bizarre to see Fb or Twitter performing shortly to take away a nipple inside a minute whereas it takes them per week to take away a homophobic message as a result of they suppose it’s a matter of freedom of speech
What’s a authorized concern? What’s a freedom of speech concern? What’s the duty of the platform or the editors? What’s audiovisual content material? This matter of on-line content material elimination 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 concern.
The regulation “confidence for the digital economic system” of 2014 already offers with the duties of the internet hosting firm and the modifying firm. We have already got a robust software, as a result of another nations don’t have that.
Immediately, we found the boundaries, together with in terms of faux 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 stories.
We’ve got 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 search out consensus and nobody is towards this.
But when we go down only one degree 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 determine say if it’s infringing the regulation or not.
Relating to little one pornography, there was a worldwide consensus for 15 years. Relating to youngsters, the content material have to 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 could have respectable individuals who say that it isn’t the position of the platform to determine what have to be stored on-line or not. And in the event that they do it they’ll do it based on their very own the values — typically it’s not our values.
And it feels bizarre to see Fb or Twitter performing shortly to take away a nipple inside a minute whereas it takes them per week to take away a homophobic message as a result of they suppose 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 must rush into it. The President has set some targets and now we have to attain them.