Je suis heureux de vous proposer la suite de la traduction en anglais du compte-rendu d’une conférence-débat, organisée le 7 octobre 2014 à l’Assemblée nationale, à l’occasion de la première session de l’Assemblée des Français à l’étranger, avec le soutien de la revue Sens Public.

J’avais voulu, à travers cette conférence-débat, discuter de l’opportunité de diffuser la francophonie dans le monde grâce au numérique. La traduction de ce compte-rendu en anglais, effectuée par Amudha Lingeswaraan, était néanmoins importante pour moi, car elle permet de faire circuler les idées proposées par le débat hors des frontières de la francophonie. Je vous invite donc ici à en découvrir un deuxième extrait.


Angélique DELORME and Adrienne BROTONS, reporters for Jacques Attali on Digital Francophonie

Angélique DELORME, Supreme Court Judge, at the French Council of State,
Madam Secretary of State, the honourable Member, Ladies and Gentlemen

We are representing Mr. Attali, who could not be here this evening.

The presentation will be divided into three parts : (1) The connection between disseminating language and economic development, (2) digital praxis contributing to language development and (3) the different proposals in the report.

We used the macroeconomic theory of “gravity” to demonstrate that sharing a common language leads to 65% additional exchange with the respective community, both at the micro- and the macro-economic levels. French products sell well within the Francophone countries that share a common language and philosophy. Trust within the business community is essential for developing trade relations. Sharing a common language also promotes co-development. The business location hinges on the capacity of the industries to recruit employees speaking the language of the firm’s country of origin. Like Renault began operations in Brazil in 1996, importing a car assembly plant, delivering French language training to Brazilian workers who are required to understand a number of French terms. Sharing a common language creates a North-South industry partnership in the French-speaking countries, a dynamic business environment through employment and training resulting from the dissemination of technical knowledge and improvement of staff skills.

Francophone identity was seen as a strong economic asset. Globally, the consumer trend is for differentiated products needed to break away from the Anglo-Saxon mould.

Francophone identity attracts any consumer and not just French-speaking consumers. We have analysed the worldwide trend of increased interest in the French language, culture and products among non-French-speaking people. French products also include Francophone products.

The consumption of Francophone music is significant in Asian countries far beyond the French-speaking African countries. This attractive Francophone identity goes on to explain the international appeal of businesses like agri-food, music, cinema, medicine, law and tourism in France.

Therefore, the Francophonie will foster development or the economic decline of the French-speaking countries.

Angélique DELORME, Supreme Court Judge, at the French Council of State

I thank the honourable member for his invitation.

The report contains several proposals demonstrating why digital praxis is a tremendous asset intended for spreading the French language throughout the world. Let me make three points.

  • Internet users
  • Language technology
  • Updating the traditional sectors through digital praxis

Internet use is booming with 3 billion Internet users worldwide. Mobile Internet usage via “smartphones” is greatly on the rise. These “intelligent devices” allow writing content, in real time. The ongoing explosion of new content on the Internet creates real competition among languages. Most information on Wikipedia is in English, pointing to its predominance on the Internet, but that does not mean the overwhelming success of the language.

Jacques Attali illustrates his point with a metaphor : “Everyone would have become a Christian with the invention of printing”, but that was not the case with the Bible being the first printed text. Likewise, the Internet is not necessarily a great win for the English language, which has become a sort of Esperanto, a common language without identity. Internet users want content in their own language and authors continue writing in their own language.

Language technology is a booming sector that is set to transform the mobile Internet experience. It involves machine translation, where a text message sent in French will be received in German. It is closely connected to general linguistics (creating a word cloud). The French language needs to ensure integrating into the software because this high-value added sector is limited to only five or six languages automatically translated and embedded in the software.

Unfortunately, major pioneering groups in the US have acquired French SMEs like SISTRAN specializing in machine translation with our excellent digital engineers. We have our part to play in capturing this core digital business with 66,000 French people living and working within the San Francisco Bay Area.

Let me finish with various sectors influenced by digital praxis.

Culture : TV and mass culture : DTT generated a worldwide explosion in the number of channels with the advantage of mobile applications collecting Francophone music. Digital praxis has revolutionized the music business. Today, we can listen to French-speaking singers like STROMAE in India, whereas earlier only a CD was available in music stores. The use of mobile platforms for downloading music could boost this sector. NETFLIX provides a quick and effective distribution of films within and beyond the French-speaking countries through digital praxis.

Education : will be the subject of broad discussion with regard to MOOCs (FLOTs) and language learning applications for mobile devices like smartphones.

e-Health : covers other gestation areas with opportunities through videoconferencing for consulting an online doctor. The language is critical to the quality of French medicine in Vietnam, where many doctors have received training in France.

Finance : in Africa, microcredit serves as a numeric tool for mobile banking by letting a traveller do his banking online rather than by ATM.

The lack of a proactive digital policy may involve a threat to the French language owing to the rise of many local-language channels through the growth of DTT in Africa. The failure to advance bilingualism may imply the disappearance of the use of French and this would spell disaster to the Francophone community.

This has led to a content war on the Internet. France is now lagging behind, occupying the eighth position in terms of content while French is the fifth language spoken worldwide.

A brief overview of Mr. Attali’s proposals for digital praxis :

  • Proposal number 5 : Tailoring the CNED course to sociological and technological changes in line with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Proposal number 6 : Developing qualifying French MOOCS (FLOTs)
  • Proposal number 10 : Distributing textbooks and software at French schools in developing countries
  • Proposal number 16 : Starting a French-language business for Netflix
  • Proposal number 18 : Seeking support from the French CNC for subtitling films in five langages
  • Proposal number 26 : Implementing a French industrial policy for digital technology
  • Proposal number 44 : Creating a digital platform for identifying students who have received part of their education in a French High school abroad or in a university in France or a French-speaking university

Raphaël TAÏEB, director of ‘livrescolaire.fr’

The honourable member, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank you for inviting me to broach a topical issue. I should like to start by presenting livrescolaire.fr building on statements from Minister Axelle Lemaire.

At livrescolaire.fr, we believe in “Co-developing open resources”, “Developing digital resources based on tablets” and “Thinking internationally”. We are techno-publishers. As a technology start-up and publishing company, we compile textbooks in both paper and digital format.

We rely on a community of 1,000 teachers within France and in French schools abroad for content creation. We co-develop free and Open Source web resources under a Creative Commons licence.

With this successful model, 35,000 professors are using student textbooks in France and abroad. We are now focusing on the college and high school. Among 35,000 college professors, one in three professors engages with 250,000 students.

In 2009, we began using Open Source. The early 2010 saw the launch of iPad with the advent of an educational and digital revolution through our first collaborative free Open Source online textbook. At that time, we forged ahead of the US and California when the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had invited contributions to that end. We had entered the US market by creating a website similar to the one created in France that gathered an American community of fifty teachers teaching French as a foreign language to produce a textbook. We have demonstrated that France could be at the leading edge of digital and education issues.

Focusing on our growth, we had proposed an innovative business model to the local authorities in France. Almost 250 million euros are spent annually on purchasing textbooks. With fixed funding for designing a manual including content creation, purchase of icons and maps, and data collection by communities through open tenders). We would have placed free content on the web using open source software. We had met with twenty local communities but there was no response. America has now overtaken France, offering an extensive range of free Open Source online textbooks.

I recommend implementing a strong policy in light of the proposal number 10 to : “distribute free textbooks and software among French schools in developing countries”. Offering textbooks at a lower price reduces the increasing cost of schooling for children and spreads French culture. We are working on finding the local champions in the countries involved for co-developing content and producing Open Source educational resources.

Proposal number 26 for implementing a French industrial policy on digital technologies supports French e-learning companies with access to capital funds. It is proving very hard for digital and education start-ups to raise institutional funds despite guaranteeing an innovative educational project in France. Innovation in the field of digital education is pursued through public-private investment fund. Digital teaching can provide personalized education to students by supporting adaptive learning through the adaptation of content. We have developed an application in the field of grammar for identifying student difficulties with a scope for reviewing the basics.

Olivier NUSSE, President of the French Music Export Office (BUREX) and Director of Mercury

The honourable member, I thank you for the invitation. I am a producer of Universal Music Group. The widely anticipated Attali report articulates the importance of exporting French music and recommends, “building on the successful French-speaking music artists everywhere to encourage learning French”. Digital praxis has revolutionized the French music industry, relying on export-led growth. The French-language production sector is also doing well with Daft Punk and David Guetta being French. In 2013, 17 of the top 20 best-selling albums were in French in France. Today’s French artists like Fauve for rock, Christine and the Queens for songs or Zaz for variety, including Stromae for urban electronic music are the wonderful ambassadors of our language. A whole generation of artists are motivated by them to sing in French.

France is fortunate in having the French Music Export Office that was created using public-private capital about twenty years ago by independent and big producers of the phonographic industry. The main funding comes from the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs. The BUREX is mainly responsible for developing export strategies, providing market intelligence and assistance for promoting artists’ projects. It can also grant financial aid to support development projects on recording or the performing arts. The BUREX has five offices abroad, in Berlin, London, Tokyo, New York and São Paulo.

With the borders, becoming porous, digital music is now available everywhere on all platforms. However, the field presence remains essential in helping artists to set up their project. The BUREX primarily supports Francophone projects that represent over one-third of French projects. It is equally important to scale up such projects in non-French-speaking countries like Germany, the 3rd global music market.

Since 1992, the BUREX has published and distributed teaching materials entitled ‘Génération française’ to French teachers around the world via the diplomatic network. The office in Berlin offers a song compilation with French lyrics used for French-language teaching through associated teaching materials. Hence, 200,000 students throughout Germany are having access to French-language training.

Recently, the BUREX has merged with Francophonie diffusion that sets out to promote Francophone music production with foreign media. Traditionally, music is promoted through sending discs to foreign media, and since 2000, through a distribution platform. We need to rethink how to use this platform at the BUREX 2.0.

The Attali report reiterates that the music industry has an export turnover of 239 million euros in France, and a total of 574 million euros, which is two times more than the turnover of the film industry. Yet, music receives eight times less public funding than films. Music is perhaps the fastest way to spread the Francophonie among young people. French music is especially popular in the non-French-speaking countries. At least one French song makes the top 100 on the streaming music platform Deezer in one hundred and twenty-five countries.

Stromae became known by disseminating content on the Internet in Belgium and continues to achieve success singing in French. Returning from a tour in the United States, where he sang in French to an American audience, Stromae is an incredibly positive ambassador for French music. The French touch Pop music is also in great demand. It is, therefore, a most opportune moment to develop tools for promoting French music.

We must extend the BUREX network by opening offices in other countries, notably in Africa where there are 100 million French-speaking people. The major recording companies are starting to settle there, where more than 80% of the population is connected to a mobile network. With opportunities via social networks and streaming platforms, there is emerging a model from mobiles that will be promoted in the near future. It is estimated that Africa has 30% to 40% of fans of francophone artists on the Internet.

We must mobilise the cultural network of the Quai d’Orsay, mainly the cultural attachés dedicated to cinema. We are fortunate enough to have the second largest global diplomatic network, which must support French music. The BUREX must modernize this digital platform by developing dedicated French music interfaces. This tool aims to maximize functionality for our partners in the field. We will also develop mobile phone applications as well as and informative and entertaining content for music. We have a severely limited budget for development of French music. The BUREX has only 3.1 million euros, whereas the British, Swedes and Koreans are setting out to invest in export. We can drive the French music business forward, with an expected growth of at least 5% in the coming years by investing in marketing tools.

Clara DANON, Head of the Digital Mission Wing of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research

I would like to explain the national policy established for online and digital training. Nobody uses the term CLOs, the official name of FLOTs or CLOMs, because it means the opposite of openness. Other speakers have used the English equivalent but we are striving for French language terms.

Distance learning or online training has been ongoing for a long time. The FLOTs are different from modern technologies that let several tens or even hundreds of thousands of people to connect at the same time. Furthermore, there is a significant global demand for lifelong learning. It is estimated that the number of students will increase from 100 to 198 million by 2025. This would require creating universities to accommodate 30,000 students a week. We move towards new learning approaches combining distance and presence.

The FLOTs are open because they are free with no prerequisites. However, new business models are springing up because the free portion is combined with paid services. It simply involves certifying the FLOTs and peer collaboration because it is not possible to monitor 30,000 people. Learners are thus supposed to help each other.

In the United States, large prestigious institutions have embarked on online programmes. Why not let the French institutions that are supposed to be autonomous do the same ? The France Digital University initiative has been launched to drive synergy of skills and improve the visibility of the online training program, offered by French universities. This technical platform is based on a quality charter to enhance the trust in content and a joint animation for openness within the business ecosystem by mobilizing start-ups and major groups.

There is a continuous growth of the FLOT’s on this platform. Today, we have sixty-four completed over a few weeks because the FLOT training is shorter than the traditional training. We expect ninety-two FLOTs in 2015 with forty higher education institutions involving all disciplines like law, environment or mathematics. Such content can be highly specific or open to the public. However, half of the users hold at least a master’s degree.

Consequently, this is a lifelong learning tool for autonomous individuals. We pay close attention to the security and confidentiality of data stored on the portal. The data collected should not be exploited commercially. It must be used for research because we are moving towards personalised learning practices. Under certain conditions, the platform is open to both French and foreign institutions including Francophone institutions. Certain institutions in the French-speaking parts of Belgium and in North Africa or in Africa wish to co-develop using this platform. A critical mass of institutions is arising. The training sessions are delivered in French including other languages because some courses are multilingual. 18 % of the people taking the FLOTs available on this platform are foreigners and 13 % are from French-speaking countries.

Using this platform built on open resources for more people to gain access to knowledge must produce revenues. We also need to increase the visibility of the platform. We must ensure co-developing content with the French-speaking countries, in particular African countries to produce contextualised content meeting specific needs. The partnership with the association of Francophone universities (AUF) is valuable with regard to African countries seeking training on malaria. Finally, there is need for online certification.

Digital praxis may also encourage mobility because online training incorporates physical presence in the host country. This allows distance learning of subject matter as well as the French language and culture. The FLOTS are a great asset to the Francophonie.

Retrouvez cet article sur Sens Public, et la première partie ici.