Macron, the President who wants to digitize France

    Etienne Goffin
    Etienne Goffin

    Emmanuel Macron will be sworn President of France this weekend. Digital transformation is one of the cornerstone of his policy. The first page of his Manifesto states that “the digital revolution is changing our ways of producing, consuming and living together”(1). The fate of the high-potential technology industry will heavily depend on his ideologies, beliefs, and working style.

    At 39, Macron is the youngest president elected in France for decades. He is probably one of the most entrepreneurial, pro-European and without doubt the most tech-savvy (2). He firmly believes in the recreation of economic and social mobility through technology, research, innovation, work, entrepreneurship and liberal trade (3).

    Macron is particularly popular among entrepreneurs and high-skilled people (4). They except him to steer the country forward in the right direction and have high hopes for the emergence of an innovative technology and startup based economy in France. They expected him to aggressively pitch France as an attractive destination for scientists, fintechs and startups to relocate after Brexit and Trump election (5).

    Digital economy

    As member of the Council of the EU, Macron will have a determinant influence on the implementation of the European Digital Single Market (6). France has historically been a bit lukewarm about the issue because of fears regarding data protection (7, 8). So, Macron’s inclination towards digital technologies may convince him to boost the free movement of data in the EU.

    France’s tech sector is enjoying tremendous momentum. It has been one of the brightest spots of the French economy in the last few years (9). Yet, changes in tech and labor policies are critical for the emergence of new technologies and the development the digital sector.

    Political priorities

    To gain perspective on what the Macron victory means to France and the EU digital economy, we analyzed his previous achievements, his presidential manifesto and the promises he made during the campaign.

    When he was still Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, just before launching is political campaign (2014-2016), he decided to (10, 11):

    • push through business-friendly reforms in several economic sectors (the so-called ‘loi Macron’);
    • increase the mobile network coverage;
    • make commercial, social as transport information (e.g. trade registers, retirements benefits, timetables and stops) available as open data;
    • increase online pricing transparency of lawyers, notaries and bailiffs;
    • regulate digital broker platforms such as Booking and Expedia to improve transparency and competition;
    • ease retraction and return conditions for e-commerce;
    • promotion of electronic billing;
    • simplify and digitize bank switching processes;
    • create the fiber zone status which intend to enable the most advanced territories on very high-speed of Internet connection to switch entirely the optical network.

    In his electoral manifesto, Macron pledged to (1):

    • create a digital database collecting the data of all the administrations responsible for authorizing activities (e.g. the opening of a hotel, or the obtaining of a license for a private chauffeur, etc.). This will for example allow French start-ups to contact all hoteliers to offer them new services.
    • strengthen the digital single market in Europe. A venture capital fund will finance the development of European start-ups.
    • speed up the digitization of the public administration. All renewals of official documents (e.g. identity card, passport, registration card, etc.) must be able to be made online.
    • cover the entire territory with a very high-speed Internet connection by 2022. Telephone operators will have to double mobile coverage in rural areas to reduce blank spots.
    • establish a ‘right to fail’ for all. The core of the public administration’s mission will be advice and support instead of punishment, except in criminal matters. This will for example encourage young entrepreneurs to dare starting the project.
    • launch a large investment plan of 50 billion euros to take on the challenges of the ecological transition and the digital revolution. This will for instance help start-ups and tech companies to have a better access to finance.
    • fight against fiscal arrangements between states and tech giant such as Apple with Ireland, as they distort competition in Europe.

    During the campaign, at his rallies and at various forum, he further vowed to (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18):

    • promote the emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robots, Self-Driving Cars, the Internet, healthcare technologies;
    • support the emergence of European tech giants similar to Netflix;
    • create robust digital database for groups charged with approving new businesses and various emerging technologies to make this process transparent and much quicker;
    • develop e-health to improve medical coverage and combat medical offer shortage;
    • better protect households’ data privacy while renegotiating the famous American Privacy Shield;
    • fight Internet addiction by banning smartphones in schools and colleges;
    • offer trainings to business leaders and employees to make sure that digital shift take place as soon and smoothly as possible, especially within SMEs;
    • support open data and data transparency requirements to allow the emergence of new professional tools for and strengthen relations between professionals and customers;
    • create a special tax framework for high-tech innovations (such as AI), an investment fund;
    • grant special derogations to innovative projects in order to accelerate the development of new technologies;
    • make it easier for French startups to compete against various foreign tech companies;
    • reform work and social benefit laws to make it easier for the French to register as independent workers and entrepreneurs.

    The fact that Macron has been a vocal supporter of entrepreneurship and emerging technologies speak volumes about his digital ambition. However, in order to implement his program, Macron still need to secure a majority in the 577-member National Assembly during the Parliamentary elections next month or at least put together a workable coalition (19). It is only then that France’s future direction and Macron’s ability to shape policy will be known.



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