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The digitalization of local authorities

The mayor of the city of Autun, Vinvent Chauvet, did us the honor to welcome Paul-Antoine de CARVILLE, deputy mayor of the city of Sens. These two men have two things in common. They are both local elected officials and entrepreneurs. The mayor of Autun is also the co-organizer of Startup SAFARI, while the deputy mayor of Sens is co-founder of the startup Le Parapheur. Together, they discussed different practices and ways to make our cities more connected. Who knows, the smart and high tech city may be coming soon!

Here is a summary of their passage. You can also watch the video by clicking on the link at the bottom of the article.

Public affairs, politics and technology

Le Parapheur

With an associate, Paul-Antoine created Le Parapheur, which aims to digitalize the way communities manage their mail. They also intervene on phone calls and emails. Their clients are about fifteen cities with populations ranging from 2,000 to 15,000. The challenge is to introduce the users of these cities to this technology and this change.

Le Parapheur is incubated in the incubator of ScinecePo Paris which is surprising. Indeed, this school does not have the vocation to teach business or technology. It was far from entrepreneurial policies for a long time. Paul Antoine thinks that through its incubator, SciencePo wanted to allow local authorities to catch the web and digital wave in order to promote the development of startups specialized in the digitalization of local authorities and state agencies.

The state startups

In all this, the gold mine so sought after is called “developers”. They are the ones that the state needs to be able to code new solutions. The executive wants them to create startups for a public market. Indeed, in France there are 36,000 municipalities that cannot afford to hire in-house developers to code their solutions. So this is a big market to conquer for startups.

However, there are difficulties in setting up such a market because among these 36,000 communes scattered over the territory, some are rather isolated villages; others are still in white zone internet (no good internet connection). There is also the generational conflict of older elected officials, who feel distant from this whole digital trend.

Will local authorities become technophiles?

There are many types of municipalities and elected officials. Some are still reluctant to change because they are looking for simplicity. Others already have a foot in the digital world and could jump on the bandwagon. We just need to make these two types of communes aware that the changeover is underway. It’s only a matter of time.

Moreover, with the times we live in and the rules imposed by the confinement, the digitalization has proved to be very effective and it is accelerated. Before the lockdown, appointments were made in person. This imposed a trip to the mayor and his collaborators. But today, because of the social distance, the municipalities have started to use video-conferences. For Le Parapheur, the canvassing of cities by startups will finally convince them to digitalize.

Is the cloud for municipalities?

In the digitalization of our municipalities, there is still a debate about data storage. The most common thought in France is to store data on French territory. Our local authorities think that we should have our own servers, either at the town hall or on servers domiciled on the territory in order to guarantee the security of the information. Then there was a change in thinking. We said to ourselves that the cloud is the right solution because it is economical. But the fire at the OVH hosting company has called these new arrangements into question because data has been lost.

For Paul-Antoine, we should no longer have local servers. They are expensive to maintain and there is the risk of hacker attacks. Economically speaking, the cloud is the winner.

As for security, Paul-Antoine prefers the cloud to have his server in the town hall or at a hosting company. Hosting companies are able to protect our data. Indeed the RGPD is also respected. The fire at OVH can be seen as an industrial accident. It does not happen every day. It is not because one center is burned that all centers will be.

Conclusion

The digitalization of local authorities is underway. There is still some resistance to change, which is normal. But the COVID and the confinements have accelerated the process. Moreover, it is a large market that is opening up to young entrepreneurs and startups, so digital solutions will not be long in coming.

Follow the link to watch the video.

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