Curious sabotage. On Wednesday, April 27, internet cables were cut simultaneously in several places in France. That malicious acts should also make us aware of our very strong reliance on digital now. The Internet is everywhere in our industry, in our entertainment, in our purchases, in our public services. Slowing down the internet is the new anarchism. It weakens our economy.
It is both a strength and a weakness of our economy. It’s believable that the crises for two years are pointing fingers at all our addictions : to medicines during the Covid, to semiconductors just after the pandemic, to Russian and Ukrainian raw materials. This sabotage proves that we are slowing down France’s economic activity by reducing the internet.
What is the weight of digital in our economy? The difficulty is that everything is digital and everything goes through the internet. So you have the digital players and you have the users who need the internet to develop their business.
A market of 150 billion euros
Today, the weight of the internet in our economy is 6%. Twice as much as farming. It is a market worth 150 billion euros, which is the same as the bank-insurance sector plus the aviation sector. So that’s huge, and you have a million people working directly for IT service companies.
But, of course, the internet powers our entire economy. And there it becomes our Achilles heel. The Russians understood this well by threatening to cut the submarine cables through which web information runs between the United States and Europe. It seems rudimentary and archaic, but the broadband runs through the shallows of the ocean via simple cables at a depth of 600 meters. If we shut down the internet, we slow down transactions and thus economic activity. Wednesday, April 27, it was the same will by attacking a few cables.
What happens if we slow down the internet?
Let’s take two simple examples: financial transactions. This is called “high frequency trading”. These are computers that trigger sell orders on the nanosecond to realize capital gains. They are no longer human waste traders. Every second is worth millions. So every delay has a price. Time is money.
Another example : ecommerce. It is now a large part of our economy that only goes through the internet: two billion transactions per year (4,000 purchases per minute) for a turnover of 130 billion euros. If the validation of purchases slows down, there will be fewer sales and a loss of activity.
Internet dependent public services
Even our public services depend on the Internet. We can even say that France is at the forefront of European e-administration. We offer many online services (declaration of income, payment of fines, Parcoursup, etc.)
A slowdown in the internet network quickly leads to a congestion of our administrative services, which are no longer numerous enough to cope with the delays. You also have several hundred thousand students and employees who follow online training courses (so-called MOOCs). The economy is a network of veins and arteries… the internet is the blood that circulates information and financial flows.
Is slowing down the internet weakening our economy?
In reality. Create a crisis of confidence. Destabilize. Especially because digitization is a one-way journey: when we use the internet, we reduce physical services and especially public services. With the Covid we have digitized our economy considerably. We are therefore gradually separating from cash by paying with our contactless bank card for amounts under 50 euros. These operations are more complicated if the payment terminal is left behind. But the banks aren’t ready to replace ATMs on every street.
However, in a climate of war in Ukraine, certain countries such as Finland, Norway and Sweden that had given up cash are rediscovering notes and coins. The cash transport company Loomis saw a 20% increase in the withdrawal of banknotes in these countries. The population is afraid of losing access to their money.
Time is money, but money and the economy of western countries have a lot to offer thanks to the trust of citizens. If you receive this message outside of your working hours or during your rest periods, you do not need to respond to it, except in an emergency and/or a topic of extraordinary importance.