Confidence in the digitalisation of the mediterranean society

Confidence is key to building the Mediterranean, like any community. It is the focus of the debate proposed by IPEMED in its report “Confidence in the Mediterranean digital society. Steps towards a med. area”. This report, which dates from 2011, involved input from a group of North-South experts associating researchers, experts and economic figures.

Confidence – or trust – accelerates relations and trade. Building trust between people, inhabitants and nations is clearly an important factor in developing the communities they come from. Different types of trust are present in the Mediterranean community, but it is nevertheless liable to fractures caused by recurrent lack of trust. How can the arrival of a digital society and economy, i.e. a society and economy in which relations and exchanges take place through virtual technology networks, modify the nature, strength and level of trust within it?

This report makes two main types of observation:
-    digitalization, by making relations and exchanges more opaque, can reduce mistrust, but it can also cause mistrust when it is associated with shoddy services or coercive policies;
-    Digitalization deeply modifies the inter-personal ecosystem: as well as creating a medium between people, it can be the vector of a common information-based area.

To this end, digital expansion is not just about taking on new technology. It calls for a genuine strategy and appropriate governance to use it for national, regional and Mediterranean development. Europe has understood this and has put the information society at the heart of a genuine community policy aimed at economic growth, the creation of a single market and the arrival of a “knowledge society”. This major issue, in terms of strategy and governance, is also clearly present at Mediterranean level, which is the reason behind the proposition of developing a general Euro-Mediterranean policy aimed at creating a common digital area and a Mediterranean information and knowledge society.

This policy could be based on four main elements:
-    digital platforms for South-South and North-South cooperation, or general interest cloud computing;
-    an industrial strategy encouraging the development of content (software and programmes) and services linked to ICT and supporting young engineers through start-ups and incubators ;
-    an investment fund devoted to ICT (MEDICT) founded on a public-private partnership;
-    strong support for research and training.

Computerization is comparable to the industrialization era, i.e. a historical process that takes place over a long period aiming to automatically process all kinds of information.

In our era of global economies, referred to as knowledge or immaterial economies, information systems are crucial to development and competitiveness. To develop cooperation, exchange and trade, in particular electronic trade, between all Mediterranean stakeholders, we need to guarantee secure transactions and instil trust into exchanges and electronic data storage. Building up this level of trust entails developing high speed communication networks, sharing electronic resources based on the model of sharing electric network capacities, and co-developing tele-services, training and research. Shared information systems (storage and information exchange, added-value services pooled via common management tools), are crucial to security and trust between regional actors.

The aim of the think tank project launched by IPEMED in 2010 is to identify how to enhance security and trust in the computerization of Mediterranean society. Priority study countries are France, Italy and Spain for the European Union and Egypt, Turkey and the Maghreb countries for the SEMCs.

This general Euro-Mediterranean policy, which aims to create a common digital area and a “Mediterranean information and knowledge society” could be organized around the following, depending on the experts taking part:

The development of a digital Mediterranean
This first item is essential because it conditions the entire approach. It involves:  

-    Setting up digital platforms for South-South and North-South cooperation or general interest cloud computing.
This platform, which would be labelled with a “.med” suffix, would encourage trade of Mediterranean products and activities such as tourism and, more generally, economic exchanges. The development of an optical cloud network would thus help to disseminate innovative solutions in the telemedicine sector – a sensitive social area par excellence. Thanks to ICT, this sector would benefit from health services and help keep down costs. This proposition of a “.med” digital platform complements national and regional ICT development plans implemented by countries in the North, the EU’s Lisbon agenda, and various plans of countries in the southern Mediterranean.

-    An ICT user and reference charter and a Mediterranean label
The chart would make it possible to set up common regulations and standardize practices. The label would improve identification of some strategic ICT tools like software programmes and firewalls. All of this should be accompanied by debate on what policies to set up to protect intellectual property, privacy and sovereignty. This thought process should also assess the advantages of reinforcing protection, the benefits of some types of opening up, and the degree of standardization to aim for, in particular in terms of administrative procedures and their interoperability (e-government), as well as opening up public data (open data movement).

Create a MEDICT fund (public/private partnership)
This would fund all “.med” start-ups, and exchange platforms. The creation of this development and coordination instrument would guarantee the existence of the “.med” area, which will remain a pipe dream in the absence of solid funding. One of the fund’s first projects would be to finance a Cloud to host all of the “.med” spaces.

Develop an industrial strategy
The main objective of this policy would be to encourage the development of content (software and programmes) and services linked to ICT, and to support young engineers via start-ups and incubators. It could also support structuring content projects like digitizing the Mediterranean cultural heritage or a Mediterranean Web TV.
Content production is costly and cruelly lacking in countries in the South. The MEDICT fund would be a way of consolidating development and innovation thanks to Mediterranean funding. It would thus help to stem the brain drain, relocate activities in countries of origin, and possibly encourage nationals located in Silicon Valley to return home.

Promote research and training
These are two essential axes of all Mediterranean policies.
The priority would be to train young people, as well as trainers, elected representatives and economic leaders. The focus should also be on encouraging research activities, especially in renewable energy, electronic payment and network security. This could involve the creation of a network of research, innovation and development clusters to build skills; setting up a Mediterranean observatory of the immaterial world and data, so as to dispose of consistent data and efficient tele-geography; and a Mediterranean university, in virtual and network form, to educate engineers along with artists, designers, copywriters, etc. to stimulate content creation.

Celebrate the digital Mediterranean
Organize an annual, cultural, scientific and educational event to promote the digital Mediterranean. The event would focus on ICT in the Mediterranean and provide an occasion to federate the Mediterranean digital society, and showcase innovation and new talent (fairs, festivals and competitions, etc.). The get-together would foster exchange and trust between participants and seal their cooperation.

To undertake this brainstorming, a working group was set up comprising a dozen experts, researchers and economists from the ICT domain, balanced between North and South Mediterranean. The aim was to validate the avenues identified, evaluate their feasibility and explore any new ideas capable of enhancing security and trust in sharing Euro-Mediterranean information systems. The idea was to initiate cooperation to accelerate regional stakeholders’ entrance into the digital exchange revolution.

The following Mediterranean figures and experts took part:

Pierre BECKOUCHE, IPEMED’s scientific advisor
Vincent BEILLEVAIRE, Delegate general of UNIT, Royallieu research centre
Bouchra BOULOUIZ, Researcher and chairman of the Moroccan communications forum, FORCOM
Emmanuele CARBONI, Vice-president, Telecom Italia
Laurent GILLE, Lecturer, ENST Paris
Wahiba HAMMAOUI, PhD student, Télécom Paris Tech
Alain KAVENOKY, Honorary Ponts et Chaussées engineer, Scientific director of UNIT
Nassim KERDJOUDJ, General manager, Net Skills
Yamina MATHLOUTHI, Researcher, IRMC
Alessandra MERCANTI, Telecom Italia
Pierre MUSSO, Lecturer at Rennes University and Télécom Paris Tech
Laurent PONTHOU, Orange Program Manager AMEA Technocentre Cluster Voice & AMEA Group Marketing Innovation
Giuseppe RICHERI, University lecturer on information and communication, Facoltà di Scienze della comunicazione, Italy
Gilbert TOUZOT, Chairman of UNIT - Université Numérique nationale Ingénierie et Technologie

MUSSO Pierre

MUSSO Pierre

Associate Expert

Professor at Rennes University and Télécom ParisTech University

Philosophy diploma, doctorate in political science, professor of information and communication sciences  at Télécom ParisTech and Rennes 2 University, and researcher at LTCI, at LAS Rennes 2 University and associate professor at LIRE-ISH Lyon 2 University. He holds the Chair of teaching and research “Modélisation des imaginaires, innovation et création” launched in October 2010 and supported by Telecom ParisTech and Université de Rennes 2


Associate Expert

PhD student Telecom Paris Tech