“Somewhere between the O’s and ones” (Nemo), we will find an infinite future. Once the “hardest to reach” were the “geographically isolated.” Today, they are the “digitally disconnected.” Digital public infrastructure (DPI) is a fresh conceptual model for services that are essential to participating in society and markets in the e-Age.

Given the proliferation of this new type of infrastructure, how DPIs are financed is quickly becoming a complex issue that encompasses questions of objectives, operations, stakeholder management, and governance.

DPIs have two key conceptual features. As infrastructure, they replace public service silos with interoperable, society-scale platforms built from Use Cases. DPIs are a combination of software, standards, and policy and therefore give priority to access and inclusion. Financing DPIs has three key components:

  1. public value
  2. operational feasibility including financial, legal, technical, and managerial and
  3. state support

The aim is to close the digital divide, protect freedoms and privacy, and redistribute the gains from digitalization. To achieve these goals, three priorities surface: (1) targeting overlooked populations when ramping up access to infrastructure and digital services, (2) building capacity within central and local government teams to manage and maintain lines of communication between experts and regulators. This can involve the establishment of an agile technology observatory to support innovation in government, the private sector, and civil society, and lastly, (3) a data security and privacy policy that addresses the tension between open-data standards and data protection.

President Emmanuel Macron plans to invest a further €500M in the AI future of France. France’s “AI Plan” is already endowed with €1.5B. This additional package will create champions in AI. It is a direct response to the dominance of AI innovation outside of Europe.

The aim is to put France at the forefront of the e-Age. For President Macron the worst scenario is to be at the forefront in creating an AI Regulatory Framework while investing less in AI-Assemblages than other countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the role of public digital infrastructure in delivering health care, education, financial services, and social services. Early warning systems with access to real-time data during torrents from atmospheric rivers, earthquakes, coastal flooding, and health information during mass gathering events can make a huge difference in accurately evaluating each situation.

Using satellite imagery to predict torrents and extreme drought, and monitoring deforestation makes a great difference to a sustainable future.

Digital tools also allow the decentralized tracing of food along supply chains to prevent scarcity. A meshwork of solar-powered digital weather stations connected to regional meteorological services permits the accurate forecast of unseasonable weather.

Efficiency gains are huge for water and power utilities as well. Waterworks can now use smart sensors, meters, networks, and apps to capture daily consumption and operational information. This allows utilities to optimize operation and maintenance, and energy efficiency.

Capitalizing on AI-Assemblages, TV White Spaces, and Satellite Internet can deliver the efficiencies and inclusion critical to the sustainable future of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).  However, gaps in access can exacerbate intergenerational immobility and inherited inequalities. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed low access to digital technologies across (LAC).

Digital technologies can also be disruptive and can have profound impacts on economic geography and territorial development. As supply chains transition to highly decentralized modes of delivery of data, goods, and services, work can find the talent it needs anywhere.

In large cities iconic buildings facing an office exodus will become pockets of creativity, filled with community-centred businesses, specialist services, and experiential spaces in a shared environment. Buildings, once deserted during weekends, will become hybrid destinations filled with green spaces, pedestrianized areas, and leisure options.

Prime Minister Gabriel Atal of France has recently decided to use a French-made AI system to simplify and upgrade access to administrative services in France. By 2027, Prime Minister Atal will supplement the existing 2,700 Service Centres across France by adding 300 new branches. Citizens everywhere in France will still have the opportunity to interact with public officials.

The new model will offer one-stop-shop public services linked to the new French Identity Card. This is a sprinkling of technology across France to make the future more evenly distributed. The new AI system is called “Albert”. It will address the sixteen million queries that tax agents receive annually.

Four thousand environmental projects which are submitted annually to regional environmental directorates will now be “preinstructed by an AI”. AI will be used to automate the transcription of legal hearings, the filing of complaints, and medical records and reports. AI will also be used to detect forest fires and the HR management of the Civil Service.

Ministry-by-ministry audits will be conducted to build Use Cases. These audits will serve to critique all online content including forms. The audits will also search for ways to reduce bureaucratic delay, reengineer processes, make them more agile, and make administrative language intelligible and accessible to all citizens.

At the Cannes Film Festival, on the French Riviera, France will pilot an AI camera system two months ahead of the Paris Olympics. The AI camera system will identify events or behaviours deemed suspicious, and detect abandoned packages, weapons, and persons in distress.