Leveraging the pandemic to accelerate public services digitalization: the French case
The recent pandemic has revealed many things, including the “must haves” necessary for transforming our digital infrastructure for public services, spurred by an unprecedented urban exodus, remote work and a resulting surge in internet traffic. A French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) poll found that 57 percent of urban dwellers wanted to leave the city, while internet traffic increased up to 60 percent according to the inter-governmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These trends have been similar in industrialized nations all over the world, increasing access and capacity needs as never before.
So how do governments best deal with this? A priority is delivering broadband access to every home across their whole territory, even the most distant or complex connections. Second, they also must leverage broadband connectivity for their own needs and transformation. Legitimately, they must extend the connective reach within and among thousands of public buildings and sites, each potentially with sub-networks and nodes servicing vast numbers of individual devices – allowing services to more public and semi-public entities. The growing traffic volume certainly has brought needed government attention to the cost, governance and capacity of regional backbone networks.
And that’s not all. Governments must anticipate emerging usages that will require the deployment of new technologies and sustainable infrastructures such as cross-silo Internet of Things (IoT) networks, private wireless mobile networks, as well as 5G to connect agents, machines and sensors. Additionally, they need to address innovations like autonomous shuttles, horizontal data platforms with their associated analytics and marketplaces, as well as the challenge of meeting the needs of CCTV/videoprotection networks at scale.
Of course, we must identify successful business and operational models for this expansion. On the cost side, the aggregation of several services, existing and future, on the same infrastructure can provide an effective and persuasive case for a public policy in favor of investment (in CAPEX) by the community. Operationally, we can look to the wholesale expertise offered by operators managing those regional or local broadband networks providing neutral host and multiservice offers with differentiated profiles for service-level agreements (SLAs), latency requirements, resilience and even capacity.
The view from France
Here in France, pandemic-borne realities are spurring strategic reflections as different territorial levels work to complete the nation’s Très Haut Débit (THD) initiative, focused on delivering ultra-broadband access to 100 percent of homes by 2025. The country’s regions are looking to extend controlled academic networks to other important services, such as those that connect various public buildings and hospitals. Departments and joint unions are deploying ultra-broadband access networks (réseau d’Initiative public (RIP), opening new doors for leveraging fiber capacity for the benefit of public entities, while developing a catalog of attractive digital services for local authorities, such as the scaling up of IoT or CCTV networks, LAN2LAN and other services. Looking forward, this catalog can be much broader and include 5G use cases and integrated operations center platforms.
Those on the metropolis level are working with inter-municipality public bodies (etablissement public de coopération intercommunale (EPCI), in which several munis manage shared services such as waste management, roads and lighting. Here the focus is on pooling urban as well as fixed and mobile telecom infrastructures, smart poles and other essential “smart city” assets.
Key elements of the transformation
We’re already working with many government and public entities on these projects - in France and around the world. Leveraging our own experiences from the pandemic, we’re combining transformative technologies such as WDM, IP/MPLS and 5G networks with our ecosystem of integrators and partners who have a deep understanding and proximity with their government customers. The result: an accelerated rollout of new-generation of digital assets for efficient, resilient and sustainable public services.
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