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In 2021, among French people aged 18-35, six out of ten were registered on BlaBlaCar. This digital platform is included in the list of digital services that have influenced and still influence traditional public players.
How do digital platforms have normative power over public actors? How do digital platforms have normative power over public actors? What does this digital “privatization” of certain sectors do to users’ accessibility to services? What is the “platform state”, and how did this trend appear in France?
Questions to be answered Anne Bellonlecturer in political science at the Compiègne University of Technology and author of The state and the web (Ed. du Croquant, 2022), Gilles Jeannot, sociologist, director of research at the École des Ponts ParisTech and co-author of Digital privatization (Ed. Reasons to act, 2022) and Lucie Castets, co-spokesperson for the “Nos services publics” collective.
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Digital privatization disrupting public services
Over the past few years, the term “Start-up Nation” has established itself in the French digital landscape. Having become a political slogan associated in particular with Emmanuel Macron, this term designates the government’s desire to develop innovation among French companies, particularly in the digital sector.
For Lucie Castetsco-spokesperson for the collective
“Our public services”this start-up economy is not entirely positive: “We have gradually transferred missions that were either public service missions, or more broadly missions of general interest to companies, whereas previously these missions were rather devolved to public services of the State or local authorities ( …) We were able to consider the fact that it is not at all intuitive to entrust a service which makes it possible to make the interface between citizens and the production of a public service, to a private company. »
Taking the example of certain companies, the research director at École des Ponts Paris Tech and co-author of
Digital privatization (Ed. Reasons to act, 2022), Gilles Jeannot, explain : “Perhaps the most original are situations where there are offers which are not in competition but which shake up the State or local authorities. For example, the Airbnb platform does not offer a public service but, despite everything, it is in the housing sector and therefore interferes with public action. »
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The absence of a similar technology within the state
During the health crisis, these private digital platforms came to the aid of the State. This is particularly the case for the health application, Doctolib, to which the government site redirected us, ”
One could thus think that there are no similar digital services developed by the State, but this is not what is described Anne Bellon, author of
The state and the web (Ed. du Croquant, 2022) : “We often have internal solutions that are very poorly known. For example,
Inria complains of developing proposals that are very little known by the central administrations (…) It is a problem of valuing the hierarchy of the State (…) We cannot recruit IT specialists, we have trouble paying them well , to perpetuate them in the State. There is no body of computer scientists. »
For Lucie Castets, this absence of technology within the State is also largely based on a lack of development of solutions internally: “We also have to come back to the cultural question and the question of strategy. There is not this reflex of first turning to oneself to see if the competence exists internally, for the cultural reason which is to think that the private sector knows how to do better, that it is more efficient, that will do it faster. However, this is not always the case at all. »
Gilles Jeannot, sociologist, director of research at the Ecole des Ponts ParisTech and co-author of Digital privatization (Ed. Reasons to act, 2022)
Lucie Castets, co-spokesperson of the collective “Our public services”
Anne Bellon, lecturer in political science at the University of Technology of Compiègne and author of The state and the web (Ed. du Croquant, 2022)
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State and digital, towards a privatization of public services?