On October 20, 2008 the French government announced sweeping measures to make France a leading digital economy by 2012. The plan outlines a strategy that the government will follow in the coming years to make France a leading digital economy. While many of the measures are obviously aimed at helping French companies, foreign companies will be able to benefit from the plan simply by creating a French subsidiary or by entering into strategic agreements with French companies or universities. The new plan will create opportunities for telecommunications operators, equipment manufacturers, content providers, web-based delivery platforms, game and software publishers, and universities.
The principal proposals are outlined below.
- achieve universal broadband access in France by 2010 through designation of new “universal broadband” providers who would be responsible for providing broadband access even in remote parts of France for 35€ per month or less. Municipal networks would be able to apply for the status of “universal broadband provider” in geographic areas covered by their network;
- encourage fiber roll-out by fostering public/private partnerships;
- promote broadband mobile deployment in new UHF “digital dividend” frequencies;
- encourage competition and market entry in wholesale mobile markets, and improve number portability for mobile networks;
- encourage “open access” rules for future wireless operators using 2.1 GHz or 2.6 GHz bands; and
- develop wireless services using television “white space” spectrum.
Digital Broadcasting proposals:
- ensure adequate resources are devoted to preparing French citizens for analog switchoff on November 30, 2011;
- encourage high definition broadcasting and adoption of the MPEG 4 compression standard;
- deploy DVB-H mobile television for 70 percent of the population, the remaining population having access to mobile television via satellite (DVB-SH in 2Ghz band); and
- attribute part of the spectrum released after the switch-off of analog television to digital audio broadcasting.
Proposals related to Citizens’ Access to Digital Services:
- launch education initiatives to help French citizens, in particular senior citizens and handicapped individuals, understand and use computers and the Internet; and
- improve accessibility to digital networks and services for French citizens living in overseas departments and territories.
Digital Content proposals:
- facilitate the deployment of content recognition technologies, in particular by creating a “test bench” for various technologies and by establishing a working group among rightholders, video sharing platforms, and content recognition technology providers, for the creation of new business models based on content identification tools;
- create a national registry of protected digital content, in which content (and/or fingerprints thereof) would be filed to facilitate protection on digital platforms;
- encourage the shortening of release windows for VOD, and the delivery of digital music without “blocking” DRMs;
- encourage the signature of a code of conduct for web 2.0 platforms relating to the deployment of tools for the protection of content;
- clarify the legality of telecom operators bundling the availability of exclusive broadcasting content with the purchase of broadband access services; and
- encourage the development of interoperable standards for the protection of audiovisual content (DRMs).
Proposals related to Access to Digital Content of the French Government:
- create a single national portal for access to digital content;
- create easy-to-use links with digital content in other French-speaking countries;
- facilitate the re-use of state-owned content, and the ability to use so-called “orphan” works; and
- define the conditions under which French cultural institutions can authorize the use of public-domain works that they own.
Proposals related to the Clarification of Rules Applicable to Hosting Providers:
- encourage hosting providers to deploy reasonable measures to fight against illegal content while still guaranteeing the principle that hosting providers have no obligation to monitor content that they host;
- implement an institutional forum in which hosting providers can maintain a dialog with right-holders;
- create a centralized platform to report abuses on Social Networking Services (SNSs), in order to better fight against abuses such as spam; and
- ask the French data protection authority (CNIL) to draft a recommendation regarding the protection of personal data on platforms, including the deletion of user data and the “right to be forgotten.”
Proposals related to the French Private Copy Levy Commission:
- implement several measures to improve the governance and transparency of the commission that administers the private copy levy. Press and Publishing Sector proposals:
- organize a discussion among stakeholders on a common and interoperable format for metadata for works;
- organize discussions on market regulation principles, in particular regarding pricing;
- investigate, at a European level, the extension to e-books of the reduced VAT rate currently applicable to printed books;
- improve access to, and storage of, works by public libraries, similar to the German platform for centralizing the purchase of content.
Video Game Sector proposals:
- include the video game sector within the overall responsibility of the European audiovisual observatory so that the observatory can better understand this sector and include it in its studies;
- clarify the legal status of video games under French law, in particular as regards copyright law;
- promote awareness among students about opportunities within the French video game sector so as to decrease the current “brain-drain” to Silicon Valley, Canada, and the United Kingdom;
- create regional subsidies for the video game industry, similar to what exists for the audiovisual industry;
- encourage the financing of projects focused on “serious gaming” applications among French innovative economic zones;
- educate the private sector on the utility and interest of “serious gaming” technology; and
- encourage government contracts for new learning tools such as serious gaming and web 2.0 tools.
Software Industry proposals:
- develop a network of contact-persons in the ten key French cities involved in software publishing to ensure good sharing of information among French software publishers;
- encourage the disclosure of prices of applications and operating systems on an unbundled basis; and
- permit the unbundled sale of a computer without the operating system.
Proposals related to Advanced Mobile Services Based on Near Field Communications (NFC) Technology:
- support the French consortium studying new NFC services, and to provide for the launching of test services in several cities in 2009;
- study the possible need to modify the regulatory framework applicable to new services (such as the usage of mobile phones to make payments);
- modify the NFC stations in the public transportation system so that they are compatible with international standards;
- define standards for the protection of sensitive information (e.g., payment information) in connection with mobile-based services; and
- develop a standard “city card” that can be used in mobile phones throughout France to obtain access to public services (cafeterias, swimming pools, libraries, etc.).
Digital Simulation Technology proposals:
- fund research projects related to simulation and computing of massive data;
- develop a higher education program focused on digital simulation;
- participate in the PRACE European initiative; and
- study with the European Commission collaborative research projects linking private and public sector actors.
Proposals related to the Promotion of Digital Security for Citizens:
- develop a digital identity card based on secured electronic signature technology;
- study the feasibility of providing for certain petitions to be filed by citizens via Internet; and
- ensure the roll-out by 2009 of electronic signatures and return receipts for electronic transactions.
Data Privacy proposals:
- the special working group created under the national council for consumer protection should finalize its report, in cooperation with the French data protection authority (CNIL), by the first half of 2009;
- ask the CNIL to launch an education campaign among French citizens regarding the protection of their personal data on the Internet, and among French companies regarding the advantages of appointing a data privacy officer;
- push for the development of European or international recommendations or standards relating to the duration of retention of personal data by search engines;
- promote an international treaty regarding data protection such as, in the first instance, the Convention 108 of the Council of Europe;
- institutionalize the European working group of data protection authorities and strengthen its operating resources;
- define and support structures for international cooperation between data protection authorities;
- integrate data protection issues in international standardization processes, in particular in connection with security and digital identification; and
- integrate data protection issues in international agreements on exchange of data.
Proposals related to the Fight Against Cybercrime:
- adopt a European plan to fight against counterfeit goods sold on the Internet, and to implement that plan in France from January 2009;
- create a special Internet fraud unit within the French police;
- develop tools to be able to study statistically the amount of cybercrime;
- double the number of specialized cybercrime experts within the French police and customs authorities by 2012;
- include in a future law the following provisions: (i) creation of a new crime of identity theft; (ii) an obligation on ISPs to block access to child pornography sites that have been identified as such; and (iii) alternative “public interest” sentencing guidelines for hackers that did not act for personal gain;
- create by the end of 2008 a website targeted at educating users in connection with cybercrime;
- create by the end of 2009 a European platform for centralizing notices of illegal content on the Internet, similar to the French PHARE structure that has been put in place;
- coordinate the educational programs regarding cybercrime that have been launched by various government agencies; and
- improve the fight against spam and in particular SMS messages asking the user to call back a premium number. Actions may include the blocking the payments associated with such premium numbers.
Proposals related to the Promotion of Digital Resources in Schools:
- encourage the use of “digital classes” in primary schools, the installation of 400 “cybercenters” in public schools, and the availability for primary schools of inexpensive reconditioned PCs; and
- develop a platform for access to information regarding digital resources open to students and teachers alike.
Proposals related to the Development of “Digital Universities”:
- develop digital services for the administration of universities, including virtual offices and online enrollment;
- encourage the deployment of wireless services on campus;
- implement online voting for student elections;
- ensure that each student has an electronic “multi-service” card by 2010;
- open a permanent lifetime e-mail account for university students to help them develop and maintain their network of contacts throughout their career;
- ensure that all teaching material is in digital form, accessible to all students, including the production of podcasts for university lectures;
- promote innovative digital teaching methods, including the use of blogs or wikis;
- help teachers and researchers use digital tools for teaching;
- create a digital science library accessible to all professors, researchers, and students;
- create by 2012 programs of distance learning accessible via Internet; and
- create distance learning programs available for adult, part-time students.
Proposals related to the Adaptation of Learning Programs to Digital Economy:
- create university learning programs related to software and Internet jobs;
- encourage the creation of university courses related to digital jobs such as software project manager or Internet marketing manager;
- create university continuing education related to digital technologies available to professionals of the digital sector;
- create a digital jobs referral service; and
- ensure the Internet jobs platform’s interoperability with European jobs platforms currently being implemented (E-skills and E-careers services Portal) and enter into partnerships with other jobs platforms in order to facilitate the exchange of information related to needs for digital expertise.
Proposals designed to enhance the Development of Companies’ Competitiveness and Economic Growth Through Digital Technologies:
- appoint “digital ambassadors” in charge of auditing companies’ ICT uses;
- mobilize 1000 “digital advisors” to teach ICT best practices to Small and Mediumsized Enterprises (SMEs) and Very Small-sized Enterprises (VSEs);
- create a special financing program dedicated to companies with less than two years of existence and less than 20 employees in order to help them acquire Internet, telecommunications and computer equipment;
- develop competitive and quality high-speed Internet offers dedicated to SMEs in collaboration with ISPs;
- support the development of a “webschool” social network available throughout France based on individual ICT training initiatives;
- encourage chambers of commerce and industry and trade associations to create best practices related to digital assistance to companies;
- encourage the creation of a referral service for computer consultant jobs;
- create an annual barometer related to ICT, Internet equipment and uses in SMEs and VSBs; and
- implement an awareness and education campaign dedicated to SMEs and VSBs regarding ICT uses and the risks and advantages related to the Internet.
Proposals related to the Development of Telecommuting:
- implement the provisions of the inter-professional national agreement of July 19, 2005 on telecommuting;
- develop distance working and telecommuting in the public sector;
- increase awareness of telecommuting advantages;
- facilitate access to telecommuting services; and
- launch a national initiative dedicated to telecommuting and distance working. The implementation measures will be defined and conducted by a working group of stakeholders involved in the main issues (labor law, technologies, corporate organization, transport, and sustainable development) under the direction of the Prime Minister.
Proposals related to the Development of E-Commerce:
- promote the “auto-entrepreneur” status;
- adopt standards for communication and transparency in the sector through the publication by the State agency for consumer protection and competition and the fight against fraud (DGCCRF) of an annual report related to e-commerce complaints; and
- promote the adoption of a code of conduct between content owners and e-commerce platforms setting forth standard rules in order to fight against piracy.
Proposals related to the Development of E-Government:
The plan proposes to implement a national e-government strategic plan before the end of 2008 in order:
- to digitize exchanges between civil servants and citizens;
- to ensure electronic filing of digital documents;
- to facilitate citizens’ access to public services; and
- to promote public services’ accessibility by the implementation of the first version of the general accessibility standard by the end of 2008.
Proposals to improve Access to the Legal System:
- generalize the possibility to file a complaint online;
- create universal portals to access services of the court system;
- deploy digital public spaces where citizens can be in direct contact with officers of the court or judicial system; and
- digitize criminal procedures by creating digital networks between police services and courts.
Proposals related to the Deployment of ICT Uses in Health Sectors:
- implement a digital medical service in order to facilitate the work of health professionals and to better meet patients’ needs; and
- define interoperable international standards, business models, and a legal framework for the development of e-health services.
Proposals related to the Use of Digital Technology to Accelerate Society’s Environmental Transition:
- launch a research and experimentation program, conducted by the Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), aimed at optimizing energy consumption in the services and equipment sectors, including in the public sector;
- create a working group among representatives of the public and private sectors to adopt undertakings aimed at reducing energy consumption, developing environmentally friendly product design, and product recycling, in coordination with European standardization and labeling initiatives;
- launch coordinated campaigns in order to educate consumers regarding energy and environmental best practices;
- incorporate health and environmental protection within the objectives of the telecommunications and postal regulator ARCEP; and
- create a “Green IT” award and the “ITC for Cleantech’s service” award within the framework of the strategic orientation committee for eco-industries (COSEI).
Proposals related to the Modernization of Public Policies Related to Innovative Digital SMEs:
- promote entrepreneurship in innovative digital sectors by public relations and education initiatives related to the status of innovative start-ups;
- help start-ups of the digital sector during their first years of business;
- facilitate innovative start-ups’ access to government contracts and to large corporate purchasers (“grands comptes”);
- appoint a “digital economy ambassador” in charge of coordinating the monitoring and guidance in the ICT sector; and
- audit the work done by the “France Investissement” agency in favor of companies in the digital sector in order to facilitate such companies’ access to venture capital.
Proposals related to R&D in the ICT Sector:
- implement a new strategy coordinated at the national level involving industry, universities, and government agencies in order to share resources and expertise;
- improve salaries in the R&D sector;
- encourage public research in the ICT sector; and
- foster relationships between SMEs and academic research in order to develop a business-orientated approach for R&D.
Proposals related to the Modernization of Governance of the Digital Economy:
- create a National Digital Delegation in charge of the definition and implementation of a global and horizontal digital policy;
- create a National Digital Committee by January 1, 2009 which will combine the various committees created over the past ten years. This committee will be in charge of the definition of strategic orientations, the coordination of digital economy stakeholders by the adoption of codes of conduct, and the enforcement of commitments made by stakeholders. This committee will also be responsible for informing and educating consumers regarding the legal framework and the risks of the digital environment. A “digital mediator” will be created within such a committee;
- merge the Radiocommunications consultative commission and the consultative commission for electronic communications services and networks; and
- encourage a horizontal management structure for the government’s information systems.
Proposals related to Internet governance at International and European Levels:
- progressively make government contract procedures compatible with IPv6;
- reform the institutional organization of ICANN in order to foster coordination between European governments;
- encourage the management of domain names at the international level;
- encourage French players to introduce generic domain names;
- participate in the debate initiated at the EU level regarding the future of the European agency in charge of information and networks security (ENISA) and encourage the coordination of policies related to Internet security at the European level under the authority of a European agency; and
- gather European Member States around the creation of a European structure in charge of management of the “Internet of things” (the “Internet of things” includes, among other things, RFID devices).