If local authorities in France want to keep up with their own residents when it comes to the use of digital technologies, they still have some way to go in the fields of administration, transport and public services.

French local authorities challenged to do more with digital

Some 90% of French people polled state that online services – enrolling on electoral lists, retrieving public documents, paying for extra-curricular activities via the Internet, etc. – have helped to improve their daily lives over the last ten years. These are the findings of a survey carried out by Microsoft CityNext, an initiative aimed at speeding up the move towards the city of tomorrow, in conjunction with Paris-based global market research company Ipsos. Some 1,000 French people were quizzed on their expectations and perceptions of digital services offered by their local authorities, and asked how these services might be improved. Although the respondents on the whole expressed their satisfaction, they were nevertheless of the opinion that digital technology is generally under-used by the municipal authorities and that they could be taking greater advantage of digital tools to implement innovative services that would get things done faster and at lower cost.

Municipal facilities still not sufficiently ‘digital’

Some 46% of French people polled for the study are expecting a digital revolution and believe that some major innovations are yet to come. Overall, French people expect more from their cities in terms of digital channels. Only 44% of respondents thought that the local authorities were using digital services to improve public services for residents, while some 29% of those surveyed believe their municipality is lagging behind when it comes to using new technologies. This is the opinion especially of young people and those living in more rural areas. Moreover, more than half of all respondents think that the town hall is doing little, if anything at all, to improve citizens’ daily lives in the areas of public transport, health services and air quality/pollution levels.

Administrative services and transport the priority areas

The main advantages that French citizens expect to get from using new information and communication technologies are time-saving, cited by 58% of those polled and cost reductions, mentioned by 51% of respondents. French people believe that they can save time first and foremost by being able to do their administrative correspondence on the Internet. They also say it would be useful to have advanced public lighting systems such as smart lamp-posts that light up when needed and smart traffic lights which adjust their phase-timing according to actual traffic flows. They also hope to see smart systems put in place that will help them make savings on their energy and water bills. The study points to some concern among residents regarding data protection, but the findings nevertheless show that French people generally trust their local services when it comes to the use made of their personal data.

By Eliane HONG