How did the France Services Digital Advisors scheme originate (Conseillers numériques France Services, CnFS)?
The public health crisis laid bare the extent of the digital divide and the need for training in everyday uses. Today at least 13 million French people are unable to use digital technology, but this is an issue that affects us all as potential digital learners or helpers.
On 17 November 2020, on the occasion on the “Numérique en Commun” (Digital in Common) event, Cédric O, Secretary of State in charge of the Digital Transition and Electronic Communications, announced the recruitment of 4,000 France Services Digital Advisors, to be trained and funded by the government. Their aim is to give everyone the chance to attend a local digital initiation workshop.
What were the steps in creating the scheme?
We put out a call for expressions of interest aimed at organisations that wished to take advantage of the scheme to recruit a France Services Digital Advisor. Over 2,400 organisations submitted applications on a dedicated platform. At the same time, on the same platform we collected applications from people wishing to become France Services Digital Advisors. As this was a new position that was being structured, it aroused a great deal of public interest, and over 40,000 people registered.
To determine whether organisations were eligible for the scheme, the Departmental Prefectures analysed the applications, organising a territorial consultations to arrive at a balanced and coherent coverage of the country based on the projects proposed. Their recommendations gave rise to 24 national selection committees led by the ANCT, which formalised the allocation of the 4,000 posts throughout 2021.
At the same time, we coordinated the training of the France Services Digital Advisors who had been recruited so that they would all receive training suitable to their level of proficiency, with face-to-face sessions in their own Department, and distance learning sessions adapted to the public health situation. Today, over 2,400 France Services Digital Advisors are in training or already trained and in the process of taking their exam to certify the first skills block for the qualification of Digital Facilitation Centre Manager (REMN).
It is also important to have a strategy for organising an active community of France Services Digital Advisors which will be able to support them throughout the scheme and deal with any problems encountered. The Espace Coop (Coop Space) is an online discussion space and resource centre where they can swap good practices and build a community.
Our intention is for the scheme to be iterative: feedback on the training delivered or the tools provided is invaluable to us in that it allows us to develop and improve certain aspects of the scheme.
What are the objectives of the CnFS scheme?
We want to support citizens who want to learn digital skills as effectively as possible. The challenge is to go out and bring in people who would not spontaneously contact a France Services Digital Advisor, in order to raise their awareness of the services on offer.
« With this scheme, we are seeing the structuring of the job of digital facilitator and the training for it. It is the symbol of a public policy in favour of digital inclusion, which has become essential in citizens’ daily lives. »
€250 million of funding has been invested through France Relance to provide a digital support solution for all French people that meets their needs and is available close to home.
There are also two other complementary components to the scheme, namely the equipping of local authorities with reconditioned computer hardware and digital inclusion equipment, and the rolling out of the Aidant Connect (Helper Connect) scheme, which aims to provide support to French people who are unable to carry out their digital administrative formalities themselves.
The France Services Digital Advisors scheme also complements the historic digital inclusion scheme that was part of the National Strategy for Digital Inclusion: the Digital Pass.
The France Services Digital Advisors scheme is an unprecedented acceleration scheme funded by France Relance and due to last just two years. The Digital Pass is a structural tool which should be able to be envisaged and mobilised as of now with a view to making the France Services Digital Advisors scheme permanent: the Digital Pass can be a vehicle for channelling complementary funding in the medium term and consolidating the services rendered by the Advisor. This complementarity covers three areas
1/ France Services Digital Advisors can offer services that are eligible for payment with the Digital Pass
2/ France Services Digital Advisors can offer services that are eligible for payment with the Digital Pass
3/ 3/ France Services Digital Advisors can participate in identifying new places that accept Digital Passes in conjunction with the backers of the Digital Pass and the Territorial Hubs to promote digital inclusion. The latter also have a role to play in the structuring and operation of the network of France Services Digital Advisors at the local level.
How does the CnFS scheme work?
The main interlocutors for project sponsors are the Departmental Prefectures, with which they will already have been in dialogue. Certain local authorities have taken advantage of the scheme to structure their own local digital inclusion strategy.
The diversity of the project sponsors brings a variety that enhances the scheme. Rural local authorities as well as urban ones, whatever their size, associations and even consulates have shown an interest in the scheme. There are, for example, 120 France Services Digital Advisors in 81 “Fabriques de Territoire” third places. To be as accessible to local residents as possible, we decided to rely on the “Fabriques de Territoire”, which are structural third places that encourage meetings with local inhabitants and interactions with new forms of learning and ways of working. This ad hoc measure allows us to make the most of these indispensable spaces to train users.
« This varied typology of actors show that digital inclusion is a matter that concerns everyone. »
We have prioritised, for example, projects where the job of the France Services Digital Advisors includes going out to rural areas, where mobility is essential to access to services.
The ANCT has tasked the Banque des Territoires to operationalise the scheme in terms of the drawing up of contracts and the payment of grants to the host organisations and the coordination of training sessions with the France Services Digital Advisors. It is also involved in supporting the promotion of the scheme at national and territorial level.
Have you identified any areas requiring vigilance in the rolling out of this new scheme?
The allocation of posts as France Services Digital Advisors depended on a number of criteria that aimed to guarantee the relevance of the way the service provided ties in with other local projects. In fact, there is an issue concerning geographical coverage, but also the coverage of specific types of target audience: non-native speakers, the disabled, vulnerable young people, etc. In addition, the organisation has to have the equipment necessary to carry out the services offered.
What is your ambition for the scheme now?
France Relance has allowed unprecedented investment over the past few months to bring digital technology and practices into the daily lives of all French people, allowing a network of France Services Digital Advisors to be developed in the territories.
« We hope that this scheme will back up the initiatives of local authorities and associations in favour of digital inclusion over the long term. »
To achieve this, we are going to work to ensure the public and prescribers are aware of the France Services Digital Advisors services available, but we will also support them to upskill so as to boost their employability after the two-year period ends.
Finally, the ANCT has commissioned the ASKORIA research centre to carry out a research programme to describe how the territories have used the scheme to develop local digital inclusion policies and strategies.