La Suisse en voie de sous-développement numérique ?

Le 14 septembre 2010 Doris Leuthard, alors présidente de la confédération, était citée dans les colonnes du Temps dans une rubrique sur l’innovation (Anouch Seydtaghia, La Suisse n’utiliserait pas assez les nouvelles technologies) regrettant les mauvais classements de la Suisse dans les différents rankings liés à l’économie numérique et le retard trop grand pris par la Suisse dans ce domaine. En cause : les usages et en aucun cas la technologie et les infrastructures dont la Suisse est largement dotée.

Le remède préconisé alors : la création sous son patronat d’un partenariat public-privé intitulé « eEconomy Board » qui n’accouchera malheureusement que de trois ou quatre communiqués en quatre ans sur son site http://www.e-economy.ch/ aujourd’hui éteint et redirigé sur une bien maigre définition de l’e-Economy hébergée par le Secrétariat d’Etat à l’économie SECO, dont la page française offre une définition en allemand.

Quatre ans plus tard, ce qui équivaut globalement à deux générations technologiques, la Suisse n’a toujours pas d’« Agenda Numérique » digne de ce nom alors que la plupart des pays se sont dotés de tels instruments afin de piloter de façon cohérente les politiques publiques indispensables au développement d’une société devenue participative, dématérialisée et orientée services.
En cause ici, probablement une dilution des responsabilités liées à ces questions qui sont réparties à travers plusieurs départements et offices fédéraux rendant difficile, voir impossible, une coordination cohérente des politiques publiques en la matière. Lorsqu’une question est le problème de tous elle risque fatalement de devenir le problème de personne. C’est précisément le mal qui frappe notre pays et qui nous a conduit à ne pas avoir d’agenda numérique suisse incarné, porté par une personne dont ce serait la mission et la responsabilité comme dans la plupart des états ayant un ministre ou un secrétaire d’état au numérique.

Ainsi, l’interpellation 14.4299 déposée par le conseiller national Fathi Derder au Conseil national pose enfin la question clairement. « Faut-il créer un secrétariat d’Etat de la société numérique – ou un autre outil de veille transversale de la révolution numérique ? ».
Cette question doit impérativement être débattue. L’inaction dans ce domaine est aujourd’hui un risque majeur pour notre pays. Il y a urgence, un débat national sur le numérique doit s’ouvrir. Ne pas le faire serait immanquablement un signal pouvant entrainer la Suisse sur une voie irresponsable de sous-développement numérique.

Relevons trois grandes différence entre la situation de 2010 et aujourd’hui. Premièrement, les transformations induites par le numérique dépassent aujourd’hui largement le cadre purement économique. L’enjeu est devenu sociétal, transversal à toutes les activités de notre société comme le relève très justement Fathi Derder dans son « Plaidoyer pour un Secrétariat d’Etat à la société numérique » paru le 6 janvier dans les colonnes de L’AGEFI où il évoque la nécessité de « repenser l’organisation de l’appareil étatique ». Ainsi, la question n’est plus seulement celle d’une « économie numérique », mais bien de la « société numérique » dans laquelle nous voulons vivre.

Deuxièmement, au lieu de partir à peu près en même temps que la plupart des autres pays, nous partons avec un retard non négligeable de deux générations technologiques. Ceci peut toutefois représenter un avantage dans la mesure où nous allons pouvoir nous inspirer des expériences des autres. Les exemples du Digital Agenda for Europe, de la France, de l’Angleterre, du Canada, etc. sont autant de sources qu’il ne s’agit bien entendu pas de copier aveuglément mais d’observer pour y puiser des éléments utiles à notre propre réflexion.

Enfin, la troisième grande différence avec 2010 est qu’un tel projet ne peut plus se passer dans les seuls couloirs politiques ou dans des « huis clos public-privé ». La dimension participative et ouverte de la collectivité doit nécessairement faire partie de l’équation grâce notamment aux plateformes délibératives et aux réseaux sociaux. C’est ainsi que nous sommes maintenant plus dans des logiques qualifiées de « 4P » dans lesquelles le « People », c’est-à-dire le citoyen au sens large, fait partie intégrante des partenariats autrefois réservés aux seuls acteurs publics et privés. Le cas de la France est particulièrement intéressant à ce titre. Le 4 octobre dernier, le Conseil National du Numérique français, commission consultative indépendante, a lancé sur demande du Premier ministre un vaste programme de concertation nationale sur le numérique intitulé Ambition numérique (http://contribuez.cnnumerique.fr/ ) dans lequel tout le monde est appelé a contribuer sur des thèmes et des sujets de la société numérique. Ces phases de contributions sont ponctuées par des journées contributives dans le cadre desquelles tout le monde peut participer à des ateliers se rapportant aux sujets de la concertation.

Un tel modèle participatif devrait pouvoir s’inscrire très naturellement dans un modèle de démocratie directe tel que la Suisse l’incarne afin de co-créer un Agenda Numérique ambitieux et responsable pour notre pays.

(Paru dans Le Temps du lundi 19 janvier 2014, p. 10 – http://t.co/PUBjvzwJKa)

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Special Presentation by Korea NIA agency president, Dr. Seang-Tae Kim on Smart Society

As Concerned Citizens, Concerned Workers, Concerned Parents, Concerned Species in an increasingly complex, multistakeholder, digital society facing “wicked problems” for its sustainable future, there is urgency in rethinking what information society we want to live in. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Dr, Seang-Tae Kim, president of the Korean National Information Society Agency, sharing his view on the coming of smart society.

Everyone is welcome to the talk on Tuesday October 25, 2011 at Uni-Mail, 6:15 pm, Room M S 150.

This is all the more significant than Korea is ranked #1 in the 2010 UN E–Government Development Index and E-Participation Index. Korea is among the most connected and technology driven societies in the world with a culture of exploring digital territories in its DNA. I am extremely enthusiastic about this, having lived myself for two years in Korea. During my stay, I was able to experience first hand this extraordinary phenomenon of a country having undertaken a massive effort in developing its society around digital technologies. As a foreigner and immigrant, not only did I feel comfortable and “at home”, but I was able feel “included” (even when dealing with basic issues with the administration). After returning, I admit having had a shameful feeling looking at our own administration and how we welcome foreigners. Part of my soul stayed in Seoul and I therefore feel partly Korean. 감사합니다

For details, please refer to the official announcements in the news section of HEC Genève or on the CUI news page.

Internet Access : Finally A Fundamental Human Right according to UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue

Borrowing from the phrase of Armstrong: That’s one small step for the UN, one giant leap for the Internet!

Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression released his report (22 pages well worth reading) submitted to the 17th session of the Human Rights Council on the “key trends and challenges to the right of all individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet“.

His conclusions and recommendations are clear and call for no further argument. In a nutshell : Internet Access is a fundamental human right. Now maybe we can move on with the real discussions and issues on how to creatively address some of these global problems currently hampered by ridiculous territorially bound legislations that have been hijacked by lobbies and industry led pressure groups.

So long HADOPI, ACTA, Protect IP Act, etc. Long live the Internet ! and let’s get to work, we’ve got a responsible digital society to build… Time for Responsibility 2.0 : towards A new World Order ?

Swiss (ICT) foresight 2025 : BRACE for hard landing !

I’m really confused today (to say the least) re-reading the 2025 outlook for Swiss federal policy foresight document released recently.
Paying careful attention at the parts dealing with ICT, namely : pp 16-17 and challenge #10, pp 58-59, I couldn’t help feeling totally depressed.
Every point is presented stressing threats rather than opportunities or challenges to address and tackle.
Here are a few examples (based on the French version) :

  • technological developments and innovation surges are expected in a variety of domains. (“poussées d’innovation”) as if it were a childhood disease or fever to be controlled.
  • “Cette évolution fulgurante ne semble pas vouloir s’arrêter…” sounds like disappointment!
  • “La tendance à l’interconnexion des systèmes ouvre la perspective de gains d’efficacité réels sur les plans économique et écologique, mais elle risque d’accroître les situations de dépendance et de vulnérabilité ; les systèmes et les réseaux TIC sont en effet de plus en plus sophistiqués, et donc de plus en plus fragiles, et la société est de plus en plus tributaire de ces systèmes.” : should we understand that we should disengage and rollback ?
  • “Il a une dimension écologique, les ordinateurs modernes consommant une grande quantité d’électricite” : okay could we eventually balance that with the added value for society and the progress in green IT ?
  • “L’accélération du progrès technologique recèle toutefois des dangers…” : more of the same threats…
  • “Enfin, les questions du respect des droits d’auteur et de la protection des données se posent de plus en plus souvent.” : is that “news” ? Should we shut down the Swiss Internet ? Please see some of the talks of Prof. Larry Lessig who gave another brilliant talk yesterday at CERN.
  • etc.

Is it really a sustainable option not to embrace technological innovation and progress ? Can we afford to have such skeptical digital public policies for our future ? Shouldn’t foresight stress opportunities for action rather than threats leading to status quo ?

Remembering news from last September (see Le Temps, 14/12/2010, “La Suisse n’utiliserait pas assez les nouvelles technologies”)
“A wakeup call” facing the “collaps” of Switzerland in the 2010 Digital Economy Ranking (The Economist) dropping to 19 (from 12 in 2009) vigorously said Isabelle Welton (IBM Country General Manager for Switzerland)

This was further amplified by Doris Leuthard (in charge of Economy at the time) showing worries for Switzerland being ranked 45th worldwide in terms of eGovernment and falling behind Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark in terns of eHealth. She also stressed, and this is important, that it wasn’t about the technology, switherland being very well equipped, but about the Uses of that technology in society
This has led to the launch of the eEconomyBoard, a public-private partnership involving IBM, Microsoft, EPFL, La Poste, SECO among others. But the latest activity dates back to November 2010 according to their web site. It would have been nice to see this entity be slightly more proactive towards defining the challenges and prospective opportunities to shape public policies for the future in this area.

Considering this and coming back to the document discussed here, I would have expected a much more ambitious (i.e., less negative) plan to stimulate the debate towards setting the agenda and priorities for digital society / economy public policies for 2011-2015.

There are some very good examples out there, starting with the EU Digital Agenda (May 2010), one of the “seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, set out to define the key enabling role that the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) will have to play if Europe wants to succeed in its ambitions for 2020″.
Juxtaposing both documents inevitably leads to identifying the shortsighted view of the Swiss document in shaping the future policies allowing Switzerland to not only stay competitive but more importantly thrive in a global digital and service oriented world. Let’s not forget the Web was born in Switzerland at CERN and to quote Larry Lessig who gave a wonderful talk over there yesterday : “giving a talk at CERN is as cool as speaking at Pixar”…

In summary, I’m afraid we’re not anywhere close to seeing emerge a Digital Society state secretary or minister in Switzerland, even though it would be among the highest priorities for competitiveness and development. The document released is among the most depressing piece of ICT prospective thinking I’ve ever seen. Switzerland is therefore facing two major challenges: first to get our country officials to understand what is at stake, and then to design the ambitious strategic plan this country must implement in order to at least stay competitive if not leader with respect to this important societal challenge for our future.

So, in three words if nothing changes: BRACE BRACE BRACE ! Oh, and by the way, please don’t forget to pull the electricity plug before we crash (ecology), the saved power may help other countries implement their more ambitious plans.

And to finish on a positive note I call upon everyone to engage in this vital conversation towards a true debate on the opportunities of ICT for Switzerland and the corresponding public policies.

Will we remember the Internet before 2011 as B.W. (before WikiLeaks) ?

The whole WikiLeaks story raised a few comments I want to briefly share.

First, I was amazed to see that the global organic protest for the WikiLeaks cause has led to tens (if not hundreds) of thousands voluntary downloads of the botnet malware to participate in the global DDoS attack against WikiLeaks opponents. To the best of my knowledge (please comment and correct if I’m wrong), this is the first time in security history that people around the globe deliberately infect themselves with malware to fight for a cause. This isn’t any innocent fact like a blog or a Facebook group gathering millions of supporters, we’re actually looking at a form of modern digital weapon having the potential to disrupt operations of billions of legitimate users with consequences that may go far beyond the somewhat “simple” unavailability of one service. In our services led economy, this is a major issue. Paradoxically many claim this to be some form of ethical hacking allowing the voices of the small and the under-represented to be “heard” in the name of transparency and freedom of information. In any case, never in the past has digital protesting had such a tool to cast their voices. How this whole story unfolds and what position governments will take will be highly interesting to follow. We may actually be at a historical turning point of the Internet. Will we one day remember the Internet before 2011 as B.W. (before WikiLeaks) ? Hopefully not. Feel free to jump in and comment…

The second point I couldn’t help thinking about in connection with the WikiLeaks issue is the whole debate about “responsibility” and Ethics. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been around for a while now. It is being taught in almost every business school and in specialized master programs. Likewise, Compliance issues have led to a growing importance of regulatory frameworks following many financial scandals such as Enron, Worldcom, Martha Stewart, etc. More recently, the issue of a global financial crisis emerged and kind of vanished without actually being really addressed. Would we even be talking about this if people were more responsible and accountable for their actions ? Would WikiLeaks have even existed ?

So, the point is the following : both issues mentioned above relate to problems that have become global in their very nature and for which traditional remedies and approaches cannot apply any more (territorially bound legislation, global treaties, UN, centralization).

Internet Governance and Net Neutrality will require new approaches. Maybe not as technological and / or legal as one may think. Responsibility and accountability might be part of the equation. Acknowledging and taking into account the human factor appears to be the most promising direction to address many such problems. Eventually, it could even prove to be a major source of Empowerment for people in their roles and duties. This is the exact point that led me to consider managing exceptions in information security which may sounds totally counterintuitive at first sight (at least from a traditional point of view), but holds a lot of value when assuming people are : free moral actors, responsible; and technology is used to help and empower them rather than something to be circumvented in order to get the job done.

France to generate exclusion, discrimination and inequality with its “Music Card”

France has just released its order behind the “music card” as the public policy to accompany the so called “legal offering measures” for its three strikes approach to copyright infringement (HADOPI).

In a nutshell, I was deeply shocked by its implementation details. Not that I actually expected much out of it (Hey, it’s HADOPI related !), but sometimes you think / hope things can’t fail 100% of the time. Well, I hate to say but it’s actually much much worse than I expected (i.e., really ugly)

Basically I have three major point :

  1. Discrimination : The card is reserved for “youngsters” aged 12 to 25. Read : if you’re below 12 you should go ahead and figure out why you don’t belong to that category and consequently look for alternative options in the darknet or eventually consider filing a complaint for abusive age discrimination (something their parents should do given their young age). Likewise, up to 25 you should feel you belong to one of four stigmatized categories of youngsters as advertised in their ridiculous communication campaign videos : Rap / Electro / Rock and a Fashion junkie. Left me speechless!
  2. Inequality : The number of cards is maxed out at 1 M units per year! France has the largest population in Europe (65 M people) out of which (sorry I don’t have the breakdown for the age category 12-25 at hand, but…) I can reasonably assume there are much more than 1 M “youngsters” concerned, and by far. Moreover apparently this will be on a first come first served basis without actual age checking (self declaration based on honor).
  3. Exclusion : at a time when we’re talking about eInclusion and how to prevent exclusion, this initiative will only serve a handful of people excluding all the others. This is particularly corrosive considering it is instrumented by governments through public policies that cost actual hard worked tax payer dollars. But they are only buying themselves some good conscience, trying to legitimate their HADOPI law.

At the end of the day, there goes 50 M€ of public money down the drain through a public policy generating potential discrimination, exclusion and inequality. What a mess ! Adding up the public money spend through the years with DADVSI, HADOPI and this latest joke / waste of public policy, I just cannot refrain thinking it would have been much better spent educating our kids at school on these issue and others related to living in the Digital Age ! This has become as important as learning to read, write and count.

Lift10 Workshop : iDemocracy! Do you? Open Voting and Tribe oriented Public Debate

Lift10 is now in full swing, first day is almost over and 980 people are looking forward to probably the largest fondue ever 😉 look for pics on Flickr.

Tomorrow we’re starting a day about Politics (among other topics) and a morning workshops we’re running on iDemocracy reflecting on how social networks and media can enhance public debate. The Workshop title is “iDemocracy! Do you? Open Voting and Tribe oriented Public Debate“.

A short interview (in french) about the workshop was featured on RSR Le Grand 8 radio program on Wed. May 5. We’re looking foreward to welcoming you tomorrow morning for a challenging and thought provoking co-creative session at Lift10.