CSR at the heart of the new sovereign digital challenges

The group of digital stakeholders for defence, security and issues of vital importance (Ginum), has published its Blue Book on the issues of digital sovereignty. Questions that intersect with the actions of companies in terms of CSR.

The digital sovereignty debate goes beyond just the buzzwords of “sovereign cloud” and cybersecurity. In any case, this is what we can retain from the main priorities put forward in the publication of the Ginum Blue Book (the group of digital stakeholders for defence, security and issues of vital importance, created in 2021), on March 18.

The association wanted to address the urgent issues of French digital technology, in a context where recent crises, particularly health and geopolitical, have shown both the essential nature of digital tools but also the issues of dependence-resilience that they took with them to the organizations.

“It is always difficult to get everyone to agree on what digital sovereignty is. We have taken the side of a definition which is a common denominator: it is a question of controlling our levels of dependence on foreign digital inputs which condition our capacities for action in the future “explains Nadine Foulon-Belkacémi, President of Ginum . The latter particularly welcomes the discussions she was able to have on the subject with Dominique Luzeaux, head of the digital defense agency (AND). During an interview with Alliancy on the subject of digital resilience, the leader, general engineer of 1st class armaments, had moreover confided to us: “I observe with great interest this industrial and associative initiative, for us help to better understand the issues and answer these questions”.

Behind these messages, we can indeed make out the concept of strategic autonomy, dear to the French State: the idea that Europeans can be a third way, between the American and Chinese blocs, by offering a different vision of the issues who will shape our societies tomorrow. In particular to deal with the necessary adaptation to the most disruptive technologies and uses related to AI, quantum computing, 5G/6G networks, etc. in a context where the increase in the cyber threat is also becoming more and more blatant.

Create an end-to-end vision

The Blue Book thus intends to clarify a cartography of the “digital freedom of action”, conceived as a gradation of possibilities on many different subjects. “Sovereign digital covers a wide spectrum: from components, hardware to the stack of applications and services that make up the digital we know… and the entire value chain linked to it. It is absolutely necessary to have this global reflection which goes from the rare earths to the services. The integration of solutions from all sources is based on numerous and complex agreements. It is not a question of calling them into question on principle, but rather of being well aware of these dependencies on the one hand and of French capacities on the other. The Blue Book offers concrete lines of thought on these subjects,” acknowledges Nadine Foulon-Belkacémi, who is also executive vice-president for large customers at Orange Business Services, one of the founding companies of Ginum.

By talking to many different types of players, the association identified 19 important areas of reflection, which it synthesized around four convergent subjects: the effective implementation of an industrial strategy; innovative and respectful digital technology from an environmental and ethical point of view; securing supplies; and better skills management.

What is notable in Ginum’s approach is the effort to tackle the issue in an “end-to-end” logic, not excluding subjects that might seem less central, because they are further removed from the question. technology itself. It is therefore clear that the subjects of corporate social responsibility hold an important place in the reflections, and are far from being relegated to a few appendix pages declaring good intentions.

At the crossroads of worlds, between CSR and resilience

“Digital technology, which is both innovative and respectful of the environment and ethics, has clearly become a differentiating factor for European companies” assumes Nadine Foulon-Belkacémi. For her, many topics naturally arise at the border between sovereignty and CSR issues and should no longer be ignored. “Recycling is perceived as a CSR subject but it is also a key point of resilience in digital matters, faced with the scarcity of electronic components. This is a key for manufacturers to give themselves more leeway,” she illustrates. Before specifying: “Unfortunately, there is still everything to build in this area and there are not enough structured sectors today to lead this fight”. A message to call on companies to mobilize on these issues, both by reinventing their CSR programs and by putting the issues of sovereignty back on the table.

Moreover, the expected effort is not limited to the subject of environmental responsibility. Social impact is at the forefront of the arguments of the Blue Book, through the priority of a new approach to training, recruitment and inclusion. “This is also reflected in terms of skills management. “Insists the president of Ginum. “Academically, since high school, there is very little talk about the impact of skill dependency and our educational choices on our long-term sovereignty. she laments.

But the transformation to be carried out is not only on the side of National Education. The questioning of business habits is also becoming essential, with here too the possibility of killing two birds with one stone between CSR issues and the strengthening of sovereignty. “To weigh in, you have to be able to offer young people a coherent career path. Companies have a leading role to play at this level and must help to clarify sector choices and employability issues, for example by seeking out people who are usually far from digital or even employment altogether. . By looking for retraining, new audiences, it is possible to act on the job market and on issues of sovereignty,” clarifies Nadine Foulon-Belkacémi.

Practical deliverables and a 2nd edition of the Blue Book to come

In order not to remain at the stage of the recommendations of its initial working groups, Ginum is planning more concrete deliverables in the months to come: a sovereign digital purchasing guide, to help organizations in their calls for tenders and their specifications; a “Digital Code” designed as a practical guide to enable companies to evolve effectively between the intersections of different regulations, particularly in terms of data protection; the implementation of the first building blocks for a French end-to-end component recycling sector; and the emergence of a sector action on career paths and support for digital employment.

Initially, these four actions will focus on the three areas well mastered by the members of Ginum: defence, security and OIVs in the energy sector. But this first work could make children. In particular, the publication of the Blue Book, in the middle of the electoral campaign, made it possible to stick to topical subjects. From the end of the period of indecision linked to the presidential elections, the messages can be conveyed to the highest level of the State… and of Europe. Ginum is indeed promoting the points of contact with the European Commission so that the structuring subjects are taken into consideration, from 2023. A second edition of the Blue Book, in a few months, should make it possible to update the messages.

Above all, Nadine Foulon-Belkacémi believes that the subjects addressed by Ginum could radiate more globally within French companies: “As soon as we talk about resilience, any company can feel concerned and be inspired by what we recommend. These questions are for example key for ETIs, halfway between defending their expertise and the need for digital technology to develop rapidly. The problem today is that in many organizations, choices are made by default, rather than thinking about long-term impacts. “. And the reinvention of their CSR approaches could therefore be one of the new levers to implement broader changes.

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CSR at the heart of the new sovereign digital challenges

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