We are the owner of – and responsible for – our digital footprint

Published on the 11th of April on LinkedIn

French President Emmanuel Macron recently presented his propositions to make France a world leader in artificial intelligence, based on the work of renowned mathematician Cédric Villani, whose high quality report covers many of the issues raised by AI, including the challenge of data privacy and sharing.

For my part, I would stress two key issues:

  1. AI requires the computing power to manage vast amounts of data and there is a need to have the appropriate academic and IT infrastructure for this;
  2. We need to regain control of our industrial and personal data.
  3. Artificial intelligence, in its learning phase, requires considerable computational power.

Without this, without European supercomputers, without specific microprocessors, all legitimate discourse on our digital sovereignty is in vain.Today Atos is the only global player to manufacture supercomputers in Europe, but the continent needs to strengthen its control of microprocessors. Alone or in partnership, it is a train that we absolutely cannot miss.

Europe remains a fragmented market, and the industrial sector still needs to be built.

 

The United States, China and Japan are the major players in artificial intelligence. The first two, above all, have two key strengths: they are unified data markets, and they control their computing power. Europe on the other hand remains a fragmented market, and the industrial sector still needs to be built.

In France, for example, we have the skills and the training but the means to mobilize can only be a European response.

 

The European market is the most appropriate scale on which to create a unified market, a safe space that is strictly regulated.

 

The European market is the most appropriate scale on which to create a unified market, a safe space that is strictly regulated. The European regulation on the protection of personal data (GDPR) is going in the right direction, but we must go further and demand that European data be stored, processed and treated in Europe, according to the terms which Europe sets.

The information space needs to be structured

 

In other words: the information space needs to be structured, just as the territorial space, the maritime space and the airspace have been organised in the past. The GAFA companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple) have tried to make digital a no man’s land where they determine the law. That’s over. It is time to relocate this information space by deciding that European data is to be managed on European soil.

This will become especially critical for industrial data, particularly in the development of artificial intelligence tools for Industry 4.0, like those we offer at Atos, with Siemens and the Mindsphere/Codex platform. It is a crucial issue of competitiveness.

 

A partnership framework with GAFA companies

 

To do this, we’re not going to reinvent everything, but rather re-establish a territoriality of data by entering into a partnership framework with the GAFA companies, according to our rules. Through collaborations, European players can be a trusted filter for access to our market, the “last mile” of the digital chain. Whatever the terms, it is up to GAFA companies to adapt to our rules, not the other way around. They must be brought into land again.

Do not overestimate these companies. Their success deserves admiration, but their strength is largely due to the size of their markets. Many digital innovations were born in Europe or at least from European brains, and in particular, French ones. And now it is this continent that, in terms of data protection, sets the tone.

 

The Cambridge Analytica affair marks a turning point

 

As such, I would like to come to the Cambridge Analytica controversy which is currently hitting Facebook. This is a serious case. It’s a turning point. It serves to remind us all, perhaps especially our children and young people, of some truths. When we give a part of our life to social networks, this trace may be indelible. Nothing and no one today can give an absolute guarantee as regards access to your data on these networks.

This is why we must opt for a localization of European data on European soil, where European law is applicable. I also understand that Google is preparing to evolve its practices to extend the recommendations of the European regulation to a global level; unlike Facebook that seems to want to stay at the bare minimum. Consumers will appreciate this.

We are the owner of – and responsible for – our digital footprint

 

As any company would agree, data is immensely valuable. In the end, this data belongs to each of us. Whatever happens, there is a big educational piece that needs to be done so that everyone is aware that their digital footprint belongs to them and they are responsible for it.