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Facing the digital revolution: the need for strategic and geopolitical training

(by Alix DESFORGES, GEODE)

Cybersecurity has been largely excluded from technical training programmes in higher education. For several years now, the ANSSI, the Ministry of the Armed Forces and other cybersecurity stakeholders in France (industrialists, professional associations) have been warning of the blind spot that cybersecurity represents in technical training courses. This situation raises two main issues. The first is the lack of people trained in cybersecurity on the labour market. The second is the dissemination of basic cybersecurity knowledge to all IT professions to take better account of the security dimension in a comprehensive manner. Since the mid-2010’s, the various French players have implemented concerted actions in an attempt to remedy these shortcomings (for example the ‘SecNumEdu’ label or the ‘CyberEdu’ kit). The situation is improving even if the dynamics are slow in essence (time required to set up new training offers and to impact the labour market).

However, the human and social sciences have so far had little or no place in the consideration of cybersecurity issues, particularly in their strategic dimension. However, the global interconnection of information and communication systems and the widespread digitisation of our societies have profoundly affected our social organisation and the decision-making processes that shape it at all levels. Decision-makers, both in companies and administrations, are now confronted daily with strategic issues related to the use and dissemination of digital technologies. In fact, these changes, accelerated by the health crisis, have given rise to both new opportunities (economic, political, organisational) and new threats (strategically motivated cyber-attacks, cybercrime, informational actions). They favour the rise of new non-state actors that challenge the sovereignty of states through their cross-border activities and unprecedented ubiquity. They also provide states with new means of exercising their sovereign powers. In short, they are transforming power relations, both between states and between civil society, states, and the private sector. Knowledge of these strategic and geopolitical issues has become essential for decision-makers, in companies and administrations alike.

The University Diploma (UD) titled “Digital Revolution: Strategic and Geopolitical Challenges” of the GEODE Research and Training Centre (University of Paris 8), which will open its first session in February 2021, responds to this need. This training course is mainly aimed at professionals from the human and social sciences or computer and engineering sciences, including military, diplomatic or corporate executives, to train them in the strategic challenges of the datasphere and the tools that enable them to exploit the data available in open sources. The geopolitical approach, combined with the processing of highly technical information and the cross-referencing of huge volumes of open-source data, enables an understanding of the relationships between actors, influence strategies, and the elements of a geopolitical conflict or a sensitive market.

This one-year training course, which will be held on the Condorcet campus – a major training and research centre for digital humanities – is structured around 12 modules, grouped over 2 to 3 days per month to facilitate the link with the professional life of the participants. The content, backed by a strong research dimension, will require a resolutely multidisciplinary approach, highlighting the various challenges of the digital revolution, whether technical, geopolitical, diplomatic, legal, or social.

At the dawn of the digital revolution, the challenge for France is to succeed in its digital transformation and maintain its capacity for autonomous assessment and decision-making in the face of the powers that have invested heavily in these capabilities.

For more information on the UD, visit the GEODE website: www.geode.science