By Pierre OGER, CEO of EGERIE
Innovation comes with both a requirement and a responsibility. Anticipating the needs of tomorrow, responding to the challenges of the future, while bringing an ethical dimension to the new technologies that accompany our daily lives. This is a new challenge to be met in our turbulent 21st century which must be urgently understood…
Rabelais, a visionary thinker, and forerunner, already challenged us in the 16th century, around a dimension that resurfaced, usually in times of crisis when we return to the essential values and fundamentals: ethics and meaning.
Reconciling scientific capabilities and their moral acceptability is now a challenge for citizens to demand a world that respects their rights, their data, but also by companies whose ethical dimension is a strong indicator of their DNA. Beyond economic profitability, these committed and convinced entrepreneurs are, above all, visionaries in the image of Walt Disney dreaming of spreading happiness around the world, or the Merck laboratory founding his empire with the desire to preserve and improve human life…
To innovate, you must have a vision of the future and faith in humanity. To reflect on the behaviors to be adopted to make the world humanly habitable (the definition of ethics), to project ourselves into the future and to take a 360-degree look at the society around us is essential.
« If we want to be an organization in line with the expectations of today’s society, ethics is a key differentiating axis for an innovative company, I am convinced » said Pierre Oger, CEO of EGERIE.
But that’s not mandated. « It’s a value that drives you, that carries you from the beginning of your entrepreneurial adventure. It is a deep conviction that gives rise to major innovations. Combining innovation and ethics also means opening to creativity, risk-taking, collective intelligence and the respect for essential values that will make your innovation a success by generating confidence. Companies that have integrated this notion of “ethics by design” by conviction – and not by necessity – ensure their sustainability » Adds Pierre Oger.
In a crisis like the one we are currently experiencing each of us, as a citizen, as a corporate employee or simply as a human being, seeks to rethink our understanding of ethics. The digital world, and its open networks, questions us as well as the protection of our data – especially of a personal or confidential nature.
« Expectations of respect for fundamental values have begun to change and the debates that have animated our news in recent months such as digital identity, tracking, facial recognition or artificial intelligence are some examples. »
In this regard, the entry into force of the GDPR has not only made Europe a pioneer of these protective values but has also paved the way for human considerations beyond technological aspects. « Of course, digital technology is now upsetting our value system – and “ethics” is unfortunately more often invoked as an advertising slogan, a kind of self-assigned “responsible” label. At EGERIE we don’t think about ethics in this way. We value it as a fundamental value, and we embrace it both in the conceptualization of our solutions and in our actions. » He added, «In order to drive its adoption, ethics must be placed at the heart of these innovations. It will be a guarantee of collective success»
Contemporary society imposes a frantic pace on us, a constant race for innovation, profit, and profitability. Can ethics really act as an antidote to maximizing profit at all costs ? « It’s a real question. This company we have the choice to undergo it or to drive and influence it towards new models » comments Pierre Oger. By placing values and ethics at the heart of the vital concerns and issues of our 21st century and, « By making them indicators of key values such as the ones we use today, turnover and profit – ethics may well become the indicator of a safe haven in which one decides to invest » he adds.
Technology does not carry meaning, but the men who imagine them, invent them, develop them, and use them – they do. « It is indeed man who gives meaning to these technological innovations. It is a great responsibility for us » stresses Pierre Oger and adds « At EGERIE, ethics has been a value that has animated us since our beginnings. We have integrated it both in the delivery of our services to our users and in the company’s philosophy. We therefore embrace it externally as well as internally, starting with the recruitment process or in the day-to-day management of the teams. By sharing these values, we are sending a strong message to the entire community. This notion of sharing carries a whole pattern. It is an innovative and profoundly human technological adventure as much as an economic success. »
Education and ethics training are another challenge of our time, which some countries such as Canada are already responding to through numerous cyber and digital trainings, and incorporating a major component dedicated to ethics. « This dimension is vital for the future. When it comes to digital and cyber training, France is still lagging, even though we are seeing several courses becoming more widespread, some of which have well integrated this notion of ethics. But we must go even further because today’s young generation includes our leaders of tomorrow and ethics will have to guide their decisions. ».
Europe has both a real strength of innovation and strong ethical values. In theory, these forces can be used to influence the global digital scene. However, for this influence to become a reality, Europe must have a sufficiently sized economic power. In the face of this pandemic, where the European finance ministers have jointly adopted a 540 billion euro stimulus package, would they be able to take the same initiative for the digital world, and for its security, the importance of which has increased tenfold in these devastating times ? « In this fight for a more secure cyberspace, it is urgent to think “collaborative” with a strong European dimension. It is an issue of both digital and economic sovereignty» Pierre Oger.
This is shared by a collective of French digital entrepreneurs and decision-makers who urge the government to prioritize sovereignty in order to support the efforts of digital transformation and industrialization 4.0 that will become even more urgent after the Covid-19 crisis. « There are European (and often French) alternatives to all these American digital services. We call for a productive start to make both this crisis and the reconstruction that follows an opportunity to regain our digital sovereignty before it is too late » Signed the collective.
Other modes of public consultation involving researchers and the world of education but also philosophers, anthropologists, writers, institutional leaders and politicians should be invented to collectively develop an ethical responsibility for the digital world and for cyber Adds Pierre Oger. A space for reflection and consultation that could take the form of an ethics committee led by a digital ministry… which does not yet exist. This is enough to provide a rallying call for the wishes of the whole community, which Eric Bothorel, French Member of Parliament, made the proposal in his information report on the future of European cybersecurity published last November : « The creation of a revolution would allow a real political embodiment of cybersecurity issues, both on the security and industrial side. An essential step if France wishes to associate concrete actions with ambitious speeches and positioning. »
The pandemic that is hitting the world in 2020 shows us that we must think about our actions, give more meaning to our projects and actions, and therefore to our innovations by taking risks and being discerning. « This period of uncertainty will lead to profound, lasting and ethical innovations. » Concludes Pierre Oger.