Today in September 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically altered the way we live, we work, we learn, the way we interact with one another.
Even the least tech-savvy have been forced into the digital world in order to work, learn or to stay in touch with family and friends all the while avoiding physical contact.
More than ever before, as people adapt to new circumstances, though, they have been galvanized into action sparking new ideas and entrepreneurship on new platforms.
For digital social innovation, the Covid-19 pandemic has served as the unexpected crisis opening up new opportunities.
But, well before Covid-19, well before the pandemic at the forefront of the digital transformation of one European nation that's been leading digital competitiveness and improvement in innovation indices was Cedric O - the digital minister of France.
Not only is he determined to transform his nation into a digital powerhouse, but he's also resolved to make sure no one gets left behind along the way.
I'm Jennifer Moon, Principal Anchor and Chief Editor for Arirang TV.
On Day One of the 21st World Knowledge Forum, this is Open Session on 'Digital Social Innovation.' And I am delighted to have M. Cedric O, Minister of State for Digital Affairs of the Republic of France join us for our discussion today.
Minister Cedric O, thanks for joining us.
1. Thank you, Minister O.
You've prioritized the development of ecosystem for digital technology, the access to online public services for all and the regulation of online platforms as key to digital transformation.
In this time of the pandemic, it's become more pertinent.
The pandemic has brought, for better or worse, a disruption to analogue connectivity and increased web traffic, begging digital platforms to better serve as connectors, or matchmakers.
What we've also seen in the past months is a spike in the demand and supply chain on the digital platform without outstanding stimulation.
Going digital, especially at times of urgency mitigates the challenge of orchestrating the two sides of a market - demand and supply.
Set to take advantage of a digitally stimulated society is a new generation of extremely ambitious entrepreneurs.
You've been a huge ally to France's bubbling startups ecosystem, before and through the COVID crisis. Does the dramatic shift online level the playing field for startups?
Where does the current platform stand in playing favor to such startups, and what are the challenges that remain as obstacles?
2. You spoke about the 7 billion euro government stimulus towards all things digital - from startup investment, to infrastructure investment, and digital transformation.
How do you see this new investment plan setting out for the next two years to contribute to the tech ecosystem of France?
3. As entrepreneurs of all scales, from startups to major corporations incorporate more digital activity, the government has crucial roles to play.
I know you place great emhasis on the importance of diversity as creators go digital, particularly to avoid the platform becoming hegemonic.
My first question is how can government ensure diversity on the digital platform, and how would its failure to do so produce cultural risk?
Another aspect that the government needs to play a role in is in the conflict between the traditional and the new companies.
As newly emerging companies launch on the premise of digital advancement, it is also important that the traditional firms embrace new technology.
To what extent can governments be held responsible for supporting this balance?
4. During your last visit to South Korea, you mentioned boosting strategic partnership with South Korea.
With South Korea as a strong player in the semiconductor, battery and 5G, and France's strengths in artificial intelligence and aerospace what do you envision the partnership to bring to creation?
5. When COVID-19 broke out late last year, early this year, mobile app developers were hurried to develop different kinds of tracking applications.
France, instead of submitting to Google and Apple as they pushed out their tracing architecture on a global scale, assembled a grouping of research labs, big corporates, as well as startups, to build an alternative software "StopCovid."
Unfortunately, France has not been so successful in adapting the "StopCovid" virus tracking app.
Here in South Korea, the first map application developed by a college student went viral in late January to be followed by a number of others by fellow students. These apps would track and publish routes taken by infected patients using different colored circles, and later would go on to show mask availability at drug stores as people scrambled to acquire face masks.
The same centralized system taken over by the Ministry of Health and Welfare now sends out location-based emergency messages, as well as providing self-diagnosis and self-quarantine apps.
But, despite how useful and informative these coronavirus tracking apps have been, privacy concerns remain unavoidable. The issue of privacy seems to be one of the biggest obstacles as the tech ecosystem expands.
I'd love to find out how you see governments, tech industries, and the people finding common ground for policy and regulation around this issue.
And then there is the pressing question of how sustainable this new digital platform will be. The Covid-19 pandemic will eventually come to an end, hopefully. How do we ensure the rapid digital adoption driven by COVID-19 will continue into recovery and beyond?
Absolutely so. Thank you, M. Cedric O, France's Minister of State for Digital Affairs.
So, the COVID-19 crisis for many has pressed the reset button with significant implications for every country, every industry, every individual by challenging forward operating assumptions.
New opportunities not present previously might have materialized in a post COVID-19 world, and governments and organizations need to be better prepared to continuously monitor for these opportunities.
This is because for countries and governments, citizens for businesses, their consumers need help navigating the new terrain as they move from initial shock to recovery to a "new normal" in a COVID-19 world order, and they can use the help via digital transformation to make that pivot.
Key takeaways from this session are probably that key concepts that need revisiting along that journey are inclusion, innovation with purpose and responsible digital transformation.
That is a wrap for our Open Session on Digital Social Innovation. I'd like to thank Minister Cedric O for taking the time out of this busy schedule to participate in this very meaningful discussion and all of you here at the venue as well as those of you watching our live streaming service.