Embarking on a new year, with all the goodwill and enthusiasm so dear to us here at EGERIE, is an opportunity to express our wishes for the future, but above all to learn the lessons of 2020. While this was a year that will leave painful scars, it also highlighted strengths and skills, opened the way to previously unimagined developments and accelerated strategic projects that had finally become a priority.

It shed a painful but necessary light on the interconnected challenges of tomorrow’s world, a world that is being prepared today.

The year of anticipation through technology

So-called disruptive technological innovations will revolutionise our daily lives. Cybersecurity is already being combined with 5G, algorithms and very soon artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

These promising innovations must win trust and acceptance to achieve a secure, meaningful digital future.

We thus have a responsibility to design innovations transparently. Our cybersecurity and technological sovereignty must be based on strong ethical values shared across Europe, relating particularly to data, its use and its protection.

These new technologies are an essential element of this anticipatory approach. They will enable us to foresee risks more accurately and more quickly. Supporting our human skills, these next-generation tools will help us achieve a vision of the present and develop scenarios for the future. With our ability to anticipate reinforced, we may ultimately be able to gain a head start.

The human factor is at the heart of tomorrow’s technological innovation, which must be considered from the viewpoint of human innovation.

Tomorrow’s technology depends on what humans will make of it. Design ethics, usage ethics and societal ethics must guide future cyber innovation.

The year of collective intelligence, when humans reclaim their place

Cyber threats will continue to grow. So let’s prepare and equip ourselves, but above all let’s educate ourselves about digital; let’s provide teaching and training in the emergence of responsible, secure digital technology.

The year 2020 accelerated changes in the ways people use technology, while encouraging the development of a threat that was already all too present – cybercrime. Companies, local authorities, government departments and households were all affected, and will be again in 2021.

We must continue our efforts to inform and educate all of society.

We need to raise awareness among young people, attract students and help them understand the world around them. These steps are crucial in inventing the world to come. Reinforcing the skills base in greater depth throughout education from primary school onwards, with a common core and additional specialist teaching, will be one aspect of the secure, beneficial digital society we all want to see in the future. This will help attract young people and respond to this future-focused sector’s significant needs for recruitment and excellence.

The year of diversity and inclusive digital technology

In this context of accelerated change, where digital technology is a feature of all our daily lives, everyone must be able to take part in the adventure, whether they are digital natives, seniors, city executives or rural farmers.

While digital can make life easier, it has another ability that is now essential: preserving social links and enabling businesses to keep working. It will soon be everywhere in access to healthcare and finance. Everyone will have a whole digital identity. Every administrative procedure will require access to and mastery of digital tools.

Tomorrow’s digital technology must be inclusive. Every citizen must have the same opportunities and no-one must be left by the wayside.

A successful future for cybersecurity will also involve diversity, mixing and collective intelligence.

The year of the responsible digital and environmental transition

2021 will be the year in which the responsible digital transition accelerates, bound up inseparably with the environmental transition that will enable us to achieve ambitious decarbonisation targets by 2030.

The UN recommends that every adult should have affordable access to digital networks and to digital finance and healthcare services. This would be a way to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Reducing the environmental footprint of digital tech is a challenge we must all face collectively. The challenge today is to set the digital transition, already under way, to work on behalf of the ecological transition and its long-term goals. This convergence is a great opportunity to make digital players, and thus cybersecurity companies, an essential pillar of tomorrow’s economy. We must therefore rethink our relationships with resources and place them on a more responsible footing. We must give meaning to this digital transition by making it work to resolve ecological challenges while reducing the environmental costs generated by massive flows of data.

A year in the colours of Europe

We are now seeing real growth in awareness of the potential for Europe-wide economic development associated with the digital transition. The emergence of a digital economic strategy is finally a possibility. The goal of the Digital Europe programme, which will be implemented between 2021 and 2027, is to promote the emergence of a strong digital Europe by supporting a strong digital industry able to guarantee a certain level of European autonomy and sovereignty. To encourage the emergence of this strong, sovereign Europe, a new mindset will be needed, focusing on allocating financial and legal resources and operational systems better suited to the threats digital companies must face.

In concrete terms, 2021 must emphasise investment, the breakdown of barriers between public and private and interaction between different players. The clear lack of investment in European cyber technologies is real, and undoubtedly acts as a brake on the EU’s strategic autonomy, representing a threat to its businesses.

The announcements and initiatives launched by the European Commission, which has made digital technology one of the pillars of its programme, opens the way to promising prospects that we must actively support.

2021: a year marked by a collective approach

The current pandemic proves once again that we need to consider our approach systemically, globally and collectively. We now need to develop a culture of information sharing, review our understanding of network interdependence and look again at the overriding need for sovereignty over strategic issues such as digital. We must build this sovereignty and this strategy at European level and ultimately take up a position on the major risks incurred by depending on solutions or infrastructure owned by large continental blocs in terms of availability, data protection and reliability. 

Digital technology is a key aspect of our resilience, enabling a whole part of our country’s and the world’s activity to continue. But digital technology also reveals how far the issue is systemic, and how easy it would be for our societies to be brought down in a cascade like a house of cards. This makes it everyone’s responsibility to secure this environment so that it can deliver its promises in full.

We now have all the elements we need to respond collectively to the challenges we face: a powerful legislative framework, common values around data protection, proven innovative technologies of great quality and exceptional human skills.

All this wealth is available. The response can only be collective.

Having confronted a major health, human, social and economic crisis in 2020, we must develop and cultivate our culture of anticipation and our resilience. The security of the digital space requires a new approach and constant adaptation. Faced with multiple risks, a collective global response based on a strategic vision is essential in order to reinforce the secure foundations of future economic activity, trust and development.

In this digital world, the issues of trust and ethics are becoming a pillar on which to build a sustainable, secure future.

To succeed in this challenge and stand out from the competition, we must put together a strong, competitive European team. Cybersecurity innovation will enable us to imagine a successful digital future.

While innovation is undoubtedly dynamic in France, institutional hurdles and lack of investment in the defence, security and digital sectors make it difficult to scale up developments to address a European market and make an impact on the international stage. The talent war also conditions the emergence of this European third way. Courageous political decisions will be needed to achieve progress, and without them cyberspace will be left in the hands of foreign powers for whom the conquest has already begun!

Collectively, we need to drive a real national and European policy of digital sovereignty right now. This means defining the world we want to see tomorrow and finally accepting the need for power politics to create a Europe that is strong and credible with regard to the 21st century’s strategic issues. 2021 will be a pivotal year!

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