Le Web 3: France ‘behind’ in web commerce, culture

France is lagging behind in online innovation because the government has not created good enough conditions for entrepreneurs, according to French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Staking out his e-commerce credentials in the 2007 presidential election race, Mr Sarkozy on Tuesday told 1,000 bloggers and web professionals France had come late to the internet party, and he painted a bleak picture.

“The state did not create the conditions when it needed to for innovation, creativity and enterprise in the field of the internet,” he said. “France, with its excessive centralisation, wasn’t ready.

“Our lag is also cultural because we did not build the tools to successfully implement the internet. France is not investing enough in the net – we are last but one out of 19 OECD countries in terms of contribution of internet growth. The internet should be a priority for our efforts.”

The conference previously heard from rival presidential hopeful Francois Bayrou and former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres. Sarkozy, who enjoys the support of Six Apart’s European chief and conference organiser Loic Lemeur, said three million blogs had been created in France in the first part of 2006.

Europe should learn from the online success of the US, he said, adding he would press ahead with public national projects to digitise French culture.

“I want us to invest massively in public and free sites to make available to free people and the whole world our cultural heritage,” he said, “the systematic digitsation of archives, making French heritage available publicly”.

A previously announced drive to digitise European culture in the face of the rise of US giants like Google was driven by a France increasingly fearful about the place of its language and culture in the world, but was met with some suspicion outside of Brussels.