Focus Lab: The conditions for a sustainable digital world

Published on 10-02-2022

" Sustainable are production processes that do not exhaust the resources they use, but also, more generally, configurations that allow human society to ensure its sustainability. These characteristics make it possible to sketch out an initial analysis of public policies according to the different dimensions of sustainability. They outline an approach to public policy that takes note of the impasses in our development trajectory and the limits of simple adaptability to crises. They therefore include "a radical element" by aiming at structural transformations of our model.

It is in this spirit that France Stratégie has brought together representatives of national and local administrations, experts, researchers, association leaders, business leaders, and elected officials throughout 2021, in order to develop the contours of a sustainable digital policy. The result is a convergence around the triptych sovereignty, sobriety and citizenship.

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Cahier - comment construire un numérique soutenable ?

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The sustainability of our digitized society implies strengthening our technological sovereignty

It is clear that there is " a loss of capacity to act at both the European and French levels. The sustainability of our digital future depends on our collective ability to regain control of these technologies.

Moreover, " the notion of digital sovereignty as a sustainability issue must be understood in a broad sense. It is not limited to the protection of a production chain [...]. Thus, the choice to use artificial intelligence or facial recognition technologies in the field of security is less a technological debate than a question of value. These technologies can be used for purposes that do not call into question European values or the imperatives of innovation and competitiveness.

More sobriety to reduce the environmental footprint of digital technology requires rethinking our uses and improving our measurement tools

France Stratégie points out the need for more effective and universal macro and micro measurement tools and for these indicators to be included in the evaluation of public policies," while emphasizing the difficulty of the exercise: " Whether it is a question of positive or negative externalities, the implementation of reliable measurement tools is proving to be complex, because the impact of digitization is systemic and takes place through a multitude of rebound effects that are almost impossible to model.

Sustainable digital technology must take into account the expectations of citizens

" Sustainable digital is digital that is understood and accepted by citizens and that responds to needs that arise from observation of users' practices and needs. "

Moreover, it should be borne in mind that the dematerialization of public services " profoundly transforms the relationship between the citizen and his administration, well beyond the simple transposition of the procedure in its digital format.

These conditions alone do not constitute all of the actions necessary to make the digital sphere sustainable, but they do " outline possible paths towards greater sustainability and sustainability of our development ", and in this sense, France stratégie emphasizes the importance of " acquiring the capacity for anticipation and discernment to choose the digital world we want ".

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