Why the Terra Nova foundation’s report on digital France matters

Last Wednesday I was one of the speakers at an event organized by the french Terra Nova Foundation. The event itself was the publication of its much anticipated report on the state of “digital France”, which really means that the report covers a broad range of topics from I.T industry to digital rights, intellectual property, citizenship, education and culture in the digital age.  The Terra Nova foundation is a french think-tank that has a progressive leaning and is one of the main source of inspiration of the current french government.

I had had a series of interviews, alongside twenty other people in order to write this report. The participants of the event were the actual authors of the report and a few interested parties (including myself). While the report, as I wrote earlier, covers an impressive number of topics you may think it would end up being vague or at best a manifesto of sorts. But this report did not fall in any of these traps: for every point discussed inside one will find one or several tasks or policy recommendation.

But the most surprising, however, is a few key ideas that outline a forward-looking report and a great document that can lead to fruitful political discussions for France. The way these ideas resonate with current topics of digital policy topics make it an important and serious piece of work, but what it suggests and affirms as values and principles could serve as the cornerstone for the digital future of Europe. Here are a few of these points that were outlined on Wednesday:

  • Digital technologies can help grow the economy in a sustainable way
  • Digital technologies are now an invaluable part of our lives and businesses
  • Digital technologies are changing our cultures, and the way we live them
  • Digital technologies, through the sheer amount of data it generates are a fundamental tool to keep records of our cultures.
  • Digital technologies are reshaping -or rebuilding- the way we relate to one another, thus reinveting the social tissue and fabric of our nations.

But in order for this to become a full reality, several points should be considered:

  • Free Software should be at the center of these digital technologies
  • Free Software is not just a matter of reducing costs, it’s its intensively social, participative nature that permeates both topics of public interest and the way we create “cultural goods” and keep record of our cultural data
  • OpenData generated and published by the public sector should come in open, standardized format and belong to the public domain or be licensed under a Creative-Commons-like license.
  • Copyright and Intellectual property should be rethought.
  • Countries should reclaim their digital independence and sovereignty. This means that they should be able to master their I.T infrastructure, make bold policy choices in order to provide their citizens and businesses the tools they need to work, grow, learn, think and communicate without foreign interference. The case of a few countries such as Brazil was discussed.
  • The public sector should become more friendly both towards entrepreneurs and NGOs who develop and expand the digital space, from Free Software development projects to digital communities producing and formating knowledge and culture (i.e Wikipedia). The case of the Document Foundation choosing Germany instead of France for legal convenience was discussed as well.
  • The governance of the internet, both on a national and global scale, should be changed. In France one agency should provide guidance to ISPs and grant users’ privacy while making sure that the neutrality of the network, interoperability and any form of censorship remains  and stays prohibited.
  • The Internet should remain open and neutral. No form of censorship or intellectual property regime can be justified in regard of the open and neutral nature of the Internet.

It is to be hoped that this report will be read and understood, both in France and abroad…

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: