Digital Transformation has not only transformed the way we do business but has also shaken the very foundations of traditional international diplomacy. This month, we talked to Dalila Rahmouni, Political Advisor (Digital & Internet Governance) at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and participant in our Women Talent Pool programme (WTP) to find out what digital diplomats do. She talked to us about her work at the Ministry, digital diplomacy, and data privacy challenges. Curious to know what the future of the internet might hold? Read the interview with Dalila to find our more!
You are currently working as Political Advisor in Digital & Internet Governance at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What does your typical workday look like and what is your favourite part of your job?
I love the fact that I don’t have a typical workday. My workload is different every day! My role requires me to be in contact with all main actors in the digital sector – companies, civil society, and the internet community and have a good overview of the latest developments in the field. The next step involves transforming these observations into a concrete action plan. I am also in charge of developing strategies for tackling some of the challenges that arise in translating these strategies into action.
What impact has the digital transformation had on diplomacy?
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a diplomatic organization and yet my job scope is very different from the usual work of diplomats. Digitalization has had a major impact on diplomacy, in terms of the ways diplomacy is undertaken and in terms of how stakeholders are involved. In other words, in the digital age, it is not enough to only interact with international organizations and national governments. In order to make our diplomatic efforts relevant, we need to interact and build relationships with very different actors in ways that are different than traditional diplomacy.
This encourages us to rethink our understanding of international relations and adapt our strategies accordingly. For example, during the Paris Digital Week, the Paris Call for Cybersecurity was launched. This initiative not only targeted governments but also other digital actors, such as companies, NGOs, and technical Internet organizations.
We need to find new ways of conducting diplomacy in the digital era. We need to change our approach and find new ways of interacting with the international community. The question of digital is not only a business question. It is also an international relations question!
We need to find new ways of
conducting diplomacy in the digital era.
We need to change our approach and find
new ways of interacting
with the international community.
Your work also involves research and teaching. You are a lecturer at Sciences Po on Privacy Regulation & Data Protection Compliance. Moreover, you recently published an article in Revue Lamy Droit de l'Immatériel n°151 on GDPR as a soft law tool. What will be the next major data privacy challenges, according to you?
The main challenge for European countries is to remain sovereign in private data protection. In the coming years, individuals might lose their individual freedom and autonomy, which are the basis of the rule of law in Europe.
The GDPR represents the first big step towards designing a collective vision of data protection and spreading it all over the world. This is going to be challenging since we don’t share the same vision all over the world about what the future of data protection should look like.
However, at this stage, we have a good approach in place. Microsoft and other big companies already have their own private diplomatic bodies. Google and Microsoft have both announced that they would implement the GDPR all over the world before the GDPR would be legally implemented by state authorities. Many countries are now preparing data protection laws and regulations based on the GDPR model.
Finally, the GDPR needs to be successfully implemented in all companies. It is certainly more difficult to implement it in small structures than in big ones. Big companies have many tools and types of support that smaller structures don’t possess.
The GDPR represents the first big step
towards designing a collective vision of data protection
and spreading it all over the world.
You are currently taking part in our Women Talent Pool Programme (WTP). What leadership skills are in your opinion crucial for successful career in the public sector and how has this program helped you develop your leadership skills?
Leaders in the public sector need to have good teamwork skills, be able to inspire others, and know how to coordinate a group. If you are capable of working in both small and big groups, listening to all members, and taking into account everyone’s opinion, you can tackle very complex challenges.
The WTP program has been very helpful. It allowed me to meet a lot of women whom I would not have met otherwise and expand my network and horizons. It also gave me the opportunity to share my experience and ask these women for advice. At any time in your career, it is crucial to surround yourself with people who can advise you and encourage you to grow.
You were one of the organizers of the Internet Governance Forum during the Paris Digital Week, a series of three high-level events that took place in November in Paris. What are the most pressing digital issues for Europe and what will it take to tackle them?
Europe is currently facing two big challenges. The first one is finding ways of protecting its vision and values in the digital world, in terms of sovereignty. How can Europe ensure the development of governing structures and tools that will allow it to be in control of its own future? Let me give you one example. European citizens have to be protected both in Europe and outside Europe. In other words, when a company is located on another continent and is dealing with the personal data of European citizens, it still needs to respect the rules of Europe.
We also need to think of ways of making Europe more attractive for digital innovation. Europe has the potential of being a very attractive place for entrepreneurs and companies thanks to its rule of law and good regulation.
Despite all these challenges, I believe that we can take the future into our own hands. All individuals can be agents of change! As Gandhi nicely put it, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
All individuals can be agents of change!
As Gandhi nicely put it,
“Be the change you want to see in the world.
At WIL, we have a tradition of concluding the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. We have picked the following question for you: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I am very proud of the fact that I am currently taking part in an equal opportunities programme that helps students develop their skills and find suitable job opportunities. Another great achievement is the collective book I have coordinated this year with 15 experts of digital issues entitled The Digital Challenges. Thinking and Practicing the Digital Transformation.