Henri Verdier was born in 1968. Currently, he is Ambassador for Digital Affairs for the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Previously, he was the interministerial director for digital information and communications systems (DG Dinsic) of France; and director of Etalab, the French agency for public open data. Mr Verdier is also an entrepreneur: he was the co-founder and CEO of MFG Labs, an internet-based startup involved in social data mining, and chairman of the board of Cap Digital, the French-European Cluster for Digital Content and Services, located in Paris. He is member of the ARCEP strategic committee, member of the CNIL strategic committee and also served as a member of the board of Paris-Sorbonne University. In addition, Mr Verdier was the founding director of Edition Odile Jacob Multimedia, a publishing company in the field of e-learning and executive adviser for innovation at Lagardère Group as well as director of foresight at Institut Telecom. In 2012, he co-authored, with Nicolas Colin, the book, L'Age de la Multitude, Entreprendre et Gouverner Après la Révolution Numérique (The Age of Multitude, Entrepreneurship and Governance After the Digital Revolution). Mr Verdier is a graduate of Ecole Normale Supérieure.
Our personal data is being mined for economic gain by private companies, which raises questions about who owns it and what they can do with it. Simultaneously, data is increasingly being viewed as a resource for states seeking an economic and strategic advantage over their rivals. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently asserted that it is time for Europe to wrestle control of European data from their US and Asian counterparts. German Minister, Peter Altmaier, is spearheading GAIA-X as a way to counterbalance what he views as strategic and economic advantages derived from Chinese and US companies owning the most considerable portion of cloud services in the world. As data enters the great power competition domain, how can we balance a state’s legitimate economic and security concerns without sacrificing the free flow of cross-border data channels? What impact will the new scramble for data have on existing trade and geo-economic conflicts? Should Europe’s ambitions go beyond data sovereignty towards AI sovereignty*?
* AI sovereignty = access to the most advanced AI-enabling technologies and data on a global level, applied according to European rules and values, without being dependent on foreign actors