THE INTERNET IN FRANCE

A paper by Suzanne Schiller

December 1996

The context of the project

This paper constitutes my final project for the class taught by Professor Howard Besser during the Fall of 1996 at the Haas School of Business entitled Impact of New Information Resources: Multimedia and networks .

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The paper's objectives

This paper aims to identify the reasons behind the slow growth of Internet usage in France, with a view to predicting likely future developments and assess the opportunities which the Internet offers French businesses. I examine the effects of the French government's market intervention, both through the Minitel system operated by the national telecoms operator, and through regulation and supervision. I discuss in particular the French's fear that to the Anglo-saxon domination of the Internet and other multimedia will lead to the extinction of the French language and culture and evaluate the effectiveness of the remedies proposed.

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France has the second largest economy in Europe and its 58 million inhabitants enjoy a very high standard of living. The French, however, have been among the slowest adopters of the Internet in Western Europe. This cannot be explained by the French's suspicion for technological innovation and conservatism as they were one of the first in the world to be 'on-line' through the Minitel, a videotext-based system. Besides the barriers to the growth of Internet usage which still affect or have affected most European countries, such as telecommunications regulations and monopolies which have led to high telephone charges, additional barriers exist in France.

The Minitel, instead of serving as an initiator for consumers to the Internet, seems to be working to its disadvantage. First of all consumers may hesitate to invest in a PC when they already have a Minitel terminal, which was given to them for free and allows them to perform a significant number of transactions, to their satisfaction. In addition the French government, who is in the process of privatizing the national telecoms operator, France Telecom, which operates the Minitel system, is understandably reluctant to promote the Internet as it would probably kill the significant source of revenues drawn by the Minitel. The French government's initiatives in fact seem to have been designed more to pre-empt the use of the Internet for purposes contrary to public order and security than to encourage the development of the Internet. Discussions at government level have focused on the threats posed by the Internet (e.g. pornography over the Internet) and thus on the need to regulate the Internet and monitor its development; although these are clearly important issues to address, the government seems to have forgotten about the huge business opportunities which the Internet could bring to French companies, especially as the telecoms market is in the process of being liberalized pursuant to European Union legislation. Although the battle for the hardware and software market may already be lost, there may still be ample opportunities for French content providers to win a part of the market, which will grow, albeit slowly.

The government and the press have also been calling for defensive measures to be taken to prevent the Internet from further eroding the French language and culture. I believe that more positive measures should be taken to promote the French language and culture; these include encouraging the digitization of French works (literature, poems), promoting the use of the Internet to the French population while simultaneously facilitating the creation of content in French on the Internet.

Plan of the paper

Looking at France from Berkeley, California where everyone talks about the Internet and uses it regularly, one cannot help but be surprised to discover that the Internet remains relatively unknown and its potential untapped in a country, which is the 2nd largest economy in Western Europe. However, one needs to put this in the European context and not take the US, and in particular the North of California as a basis for reference. The first part of the paper therefore looks at the Internet in Europe, and compares the level of Internet usage in France with that of its neighbors. The second part identifies the reasons for the slow adoption of the Internet in France, even when compared to its European neighbors. The third part focuses on the key part played by the French Government's role in the Internet's development. The fourth part describes the current providers of access to on-line services and the Internet in France. The last part looks at future perspectives. After a conclusion, the paper also provides a list of useful sources of further information, as well as addresses of interesting web sites.

I. The Internet in Europe

II. The reasons for the slow adoption of the Internet in France

III. The French Government's role in the Internet's development

IV. Access providers to on-line services and the Internet

V. Future perspectives

Conclusion



Part I - The Internet in Europe

Internet usage is lagging far behind the US

Although the World Wide Web was born in Switzerland - at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva - Europe quickly relinquished its Internet leadership role to the U.S. As regards both the provision of technology and content as well as Internet usage Europe is now clearly lagging behind the US.

Estimates of usage figures vary. Euro-Marketing Associates report on European trends its on-line magazine InterNet Times (see article). According to the San Jose-based research firm Dataquest Inc., by mid-1996 there were about 5 million European Internet users (nearly 2 million of whom were in the United Kingdom). Although higher figures have been put forward they represent a very small percentage of Europe's total population, which amounts to more than 350 million inhabitants. The reluctance of some European on-line services to reveal subscription figures is a good indicator of the low level of usage in Europe. The bankruptcy of Europe Online just a few months after its launch in December 1995 was clearly partly due to the disappointing number of subscribers.

The UK and the Nordic countries are leading the way as regards usage as they have the highest proportion of users. Sweden boosts 150,000 homes connected, Finland 90,000, Norway 70,000 and Denmark 60,000, which are very high numbers compared to those countries' populations (between 5 and 9 million inhabitants). Germany, the largest home market, counts 900,000 households with access to the Internet; in addition 2 million Germans also have access to the Internet from work. 160,000 Spanish households are have Internet-wired homes.

The French are among the slowest adopters of the Internet

A statistical study undertaken by the Médiangles institute in May 1996 evaluated at 400,000 the number of Internet users in France, 25 years after the establishment of its infrastructure, a ridiculous number compared to the country's 58 million inhabitants. Most businesses are not yet linked to the Internet, let alone use email. Ministries and the French administration are only beginning to have web sites and use the Internet themselves. An initiative is underway to have all Ministries establish web sites before the end of 1997. Many ministries and government agencies already have such sites, which are accessible through the Admifrance site. Some sites even have a small summary available in English or German. The President's and the Prime Minister's pages should have an English version soon. For the moment these unfortunately only say: Sorry this page is currently only available in…francais

But where European Internet usage falls far behind the U.S. is in the home. For most Europeans, the Internet remains a mystery and the majority of Internet-savvy Europeans tend to be students, researchers and technologists.


Part II - The reasons behind the Internet's slow development in France

A yet to be liberalized telecoms market

Growth of Internet usage is dependent on the development of the telecoms infrastructure and the extent of telecommunications liberalization. France's telecoms infrastructure is pretty much in place as France is the leader in many telecommunications segments. It is the first producer of telephones on the international market. The telephone network is completely digitized; all 32.4 million lines are connected to fully electronic digital switches, and the long-distance network has more than 1.1 million kilometers of fiber-optic cable. ISDN access is available nationwide. Numeris, the ISDN service of France Telecom, the national telecoms operator, was developed in accordance with international standards. France Telecom now has 1.27 million ISDN B channels in operation, with usage charges billed at the rate of a standard call. The Transpac subsidiary operates the world's No. 1 data network in terms of size (128,000 access points in Europe) and volume transmitted (some 4.3 trillion characters in 1995). In 1994 Transpac began offering Internet access, and in 1995 more than 200 Internet access points were installed.

The French telecommunications sector, which represents an annual turnover of U$41 billion, however still remains regulated, in particular if compared to the UK and the Nordic countries where liberalization was achieved much earlier. Essentially all services except public switched voice telephony are currently open to competition and have been since 1990. By January 1, 1998, switched voice telephony and all

telecommunications infrastructure will be open to full competition as required by European Union legislation. In parallel to liberalization - but unrelated - France Telecom is in the process of being privatized.

A lot of information on the French telecoms market and France Telecom can be found on the web site of France Telecom .

Low home PC penetration

France has a very low home PC penetration - under 10% - compared to Canada and the U.S., where it now exceeds 35% of households. One reason could be that computers in France are expensive. Another reason could be the French's suspicion of technological innovation and conservatism, which is supported by certain statistics. Indeed household equipment rates in VCR, freezer, hifi and even color TV still remains lower to many other European countries. Lastly, other observers believe that "the French have better things to spend their money on, like sidewalk cafes, dressing well and fine food."

High telephone charges

Although France Telecom proudly announces that its telephone charges are among the lowest in Europe, local usage charges are still very expensive and French telephone subscribers are always on the meter, even for local calls. High local line charges definitely discourage Internet usage, and in particular random web surfing. In addition it discourages electronic purchase and delivery of software as downloading software may turn out more costly than buying it from a dealer.

Some industry observers also note that France Telecom has such a firm grip on pricing for services such as leased lines and ISDN that WAN services are too expensive. A 64Kbps ISDN line, for example, costs nearly $ 2,000 a month in France, making wide-area networking unrealistic for many companies. By comparison, 64Kbps ISDN in the US can cost $ 30 per month or less and rarely exceeds $ 200 per month.

Language

Language is a significant barrier to widespread European Internet usage. According to Euro-Marketing Associates in Paris, 85% of all Web pages are in English while English speakers represent 80 to 85 percent of today's on-line population. This is clearly a strong barrier to Internet usage growth in France, as the French are not as good at English as their Nordic neighbors. This however is changing as English proficiency is improving in France.

Lack of content

Content is key to attracting customers and stimulating Internet usage. Although France ranks ninth in the world for the number of sites created - for a list of all of the 4850 French sites registered in December 1996, check out the following site, these have not managed to attract the French on-line and generate sufficient traffic.

A similar development occurred in cable television, where the emphasis was put more on providing the infrastructure and connecting over 5 billion people in 10 years, than on providing the services and the content which the viewers would have to pay for. As a result only 1.4 billion actually subscribed to cable TV. The strategy of Canal+, the pay-TV, of high quality content has, on the other hand, been very successful and now competes with cable TV.

In addition many French companies seem reluctant to make the transition from the Minitel, from which they derive revenues, to the Internet where services are generally offered for free. However a report published in June 1996 by the Paris-based research firm Benchmark Group indicates that more than 50% of the major French firms had Web sites or were in the process of building them.

Minitel

The Minitel network is an on-line system set up in 1980 by France Telecom to offset some of the printing costs associated with France's massive yellow pages. As the web site established by the French Embassy in Washington proudly indicates: "The Minitel videotext system is used by more than 6.5 million households and the terminals provide 17,000 interactive information services including home banking and electronic mail. Thanks to the Minitel, the French are leading the way in electronic financial transactions. " Indeed the Minitel generated more than US$ 6.6 billion revenues in 1995, of which France Telecom kept half, and the other half went to the content providers. Some industry analysts even claim that as many as 90 percent of the French population have regular access to a Minitel terminal, either at home or through work.

The Minitel's success may have slowed households' investment in more sophisticated equipment Consumers may indeed hesitate to invest in a PC when they already have a Minitel terminal, which was given to them for free and allows them to perform a significant number of transactions to their satisfaction. In addition France Telecom - and thus indirectly the French government - has been and still is reluctant to promote the Internet as it will most probably mean the end of the Minitel business (as the Minitel suffers from poor-quality screen display and graphics, which cannot easily be improved). Such reluctance has clearly had negative effects on Internet usage.

Lack of media attention

The lack of media attention has clearly had negative effects on Internet usage. It has only been very recently that the European media have started devoting attention to the Internet. This has been particularly true in France. Major newspapers have recently created information technology or multimedia supplements and specialized weeklies have appeared, while works of vulgarization are being published. A number of French newspapers are also now available through on-line services.

When there has been media coverage, it has usually focused on the negative effects of the Internet Le Monde, a highly respected national newspaper, ran a series of articles on the Internet this year, most of which seem to have addressed the possible negative effects of the Internet, namely the opportunities for crime involved and the dominance of Anglo-saxon language and culture over the Internet. There has been limited coverage of the huge array of opportunities which the Internet presents both businesses and individuals. Such positive coverage would clearly have encouraged the French to try out the Internet, , in particular as the French are big readers of newspapers and magazines.

The Internet as the Outlaw

The Internet has tended to be seen as being outside the law. For example a book about the Mitterand's battle against cancer, which was banned from publishing, was published on the Internet. The government , as is explain in part III, has been extremely vocal in warning of possible abuse through the Internet. The press has reported extensively on several cases of infringement of public morality and order as well as discrimination. These cases concerned clear anti-Semitic web sites, pornographic web sites and web sites enabling the easy adoption of children, made to fit specifications. Although these cases clearly needed to be investigated and legal action taken, the lack of coverage of the positive aspects of the Internet (which constitue the majority) can give readers the impression that the Internet is all bad.

Security issues

Although security issues and encryption are discussed at government (for defense and anti-terrorism purposes) and business levels (to allow safe Internet-based financial transactions and enable export of software), they do not seem to have played a role in scaring off new Internet users, many of whom have experience of the safe Minitel-based financial transactions.


Part III - The French government's role in the Internet's development

Protecting the goose with the golden eggs

As is explained in part II, France Telecom and thus indirectly the French government, has been reluctant in promoting the Internet as this would be to the Minitel's disadvantage. France Telecom was able over the years to exercise a lot of pressures on the French government to get its way and maximize the revenues from Minitel business. At the time of the launch of the Minitel it managed for example to get the French government to ban TV teletext and to price the telephone directory inquiries on-line highly. Its pressure on the government is still high, in particular as the government has an interest in the firm's well-being, as it is in the process of privatising the firm.

Avoiding the "Digital Wild West"

In an on-line interview of the French Minister of Postal Affairs, Telecommunications and Space, François Fillon, posted on the French Embassy in Washington's website, he declares: "Internet represents an opportunity for society as it increases the ways we can access knowledge. In fact, while there can be no question of challenging the freedom of use of these new networks, we cannot allow a "digital wild West" to develop in which our French laws would hold no sway."

It is interesting to note that in this interview the Minister draws a clear parallel between the development of the Internet and that of the audiovisual industry. As he says, "Through the development of a network like the Internet, our society is confronted with the same challenge it once faced with the development of the audiovisual industry. Internet, as all these new technologies, represents an opportunity for society as it increases the ways we can access knowledge. We must learn to live with these technologies and not be afraid of the future they embody. We must, therefore, take time to reflect before regulating how they are used, noting, moreover, that from now on French judges have the necessary competence to deal with almost any crime committed against or using the Internet. Well thought out regulations are not necessarily the enemy of the development of a technology - audiovisual regulations are a good example - but must make it possible to limit abuse."

Behind the "Digital Wild West" lies concerns over morality and crime, security and the dominance of the Anglo-saxon language and culture over the Internet.

The French policeman - defending law, peace and order

Last May, the offices of two of France's larger ISPs were raided by police in a crackdown on child pornography distributed on a usenet newsgroup. Subsequently, access to all newsgroups was blocked until the government determined that ISPs are not liable for information posted by users. In May the Union of Jewish students in France lost a case against 9 service providers they had asked to block access to web sites denying the Holocaust as the judge acknowledged the impossibility of ISPs to control the content of the messages which transit via them. Access providers are not liable for the nature of the information they provide access to, as long as they offer a filter software to their subscribers.

As regards security issues, France, which was one of the last country opposed to encryption, has softened its regulation, and is now holding discussions on the way to encrypt and no longer on the need to encrypt.

Defending the French language and culture

The issue

The Internet is accessible in most countries and all cultures, to a certain extent, are represented on the Internet. The Internet may thus have beneficial effects by enabling easy access to other cultures, including the French culture. However many in France warn of the risk of a cultural uniformization, pointing in particular at the danger of Anglo-saxon hegemony, in particular from the United States, over the Internet. Many fear that the Internet, just like the audiovisual industry, will become dominated by America.

English is indeed by far the dominant language in the Internet world. As mentioned above, 85% of all Web pages are estimated to be in English. English dominance also means for example that one cannot write accents (as are needed in French) on e-mail.

In addition a huge proportion of the reference sources found when surfing the web looking for information on French history, culture and art are American sources. Although this is not a bad thing, it should be balanced by more French or other national sources. In addition some observers indicate that more sites on the Internet seem to have been created by the French-speaking Canadians than by the French proportionally.

Cultural policy

André Malraux, the first Minister of Culture, set forth, in 1959, the goal of " making known the most important works of art to the largest number of people ". Five priorities of cultural policy were derived from this goal: education, creation, preservation, access, and promotion.

The first modern language regulation aimed at monitoring and transforming the use of French emanated in 1966 from President Charles de Gaulle, a name associated with French independence, nationalism and power. Further regulations followed and committees were established to examine issues relating to the use, practice, promotion, enrichment, and dissemination of French in France and abroad. The first Parliamentary regulation dates back to 1975 and took the form of a consumer protection law; it provided for an exception to the "use French" rule when the word for a product had no French equivalent. The 1994 Toubon Law replaced the 1975 regulation, with a much clearer cultural objective. French is required for all radio and television shows and advertising; exceptions include musical works, original version films, and language learning programs. Private individuals or entities engaged in "public sector" activities (a term not defined in the law) must comply with the language regulation. However, the extension of the law into the sensitive area of privacy rights was successfully challenged under constitutional law by opponents to the bill as an excessive constraint on the freedom of expression.

The French were also instrumental in the drafting and adoption of the European Community Directive requiring that its member countries dedicate at least one-half of their television air time to European -made

programs. The Directive was the European answer to the fear that Europe's cultural autonomy, and thus its cultural creativity were being seriously undermined by the American intrusion. Europe, which

takes pride in its multi-secular capital of culture, took this step to try to prevent the United States from commodifying culture.

Promotion of Multimedia and supervision of the Internet

A law adopted in June 1996 places the Internet under the supervision of the High-level Telematics Committee (Comite Superieur de la Telematique or CST), a re-modelled version of the Committee which used to oversee the 25000 Minitel servers. The CST reports to the Superior Audiovisual Council (Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel or CSA). The CST will adopt recommendations which access providers will have to follow. The Internet community reacted strongly to the imposition of such a supervisor, emphasizing the freedom of speech. Indeed the definition of morality and decency is very difficult to pinpoint as it means different things to different people and cultures. Also some have insisted on the need to have international solutions and not French solutions to the problems, which are international in nature.

The French government has been instrumental in bringing the issue of the supervision of the Internet and the protection of public order and morality to international forums. In April 1996, the French government presented a proposal for an International Cooperation Charter to its OECD partners which would aim at defining effective common principles of application of national law, definition of the responsibilities of the parties involved, commitment to the exchange of information and the promotion of a code of conduct established on a voluntary basis by the professionals involved and including principles such as respect for public order and human dignity, and the protection of privacy, property, and consumers. establishment of legal and police cooperation. The French are also leading the discussions within European forums, such as the European Union.

The French government is also looking into the legal and fiscal aspects of the development of the new Internet services.

As regards support to the creation of multimedia program, on-line or off-line, funds from the National Cinema Center to support the creation of CD-ROM and CD-I have been doubled; 30 million francs will be available for the next two years. In addition the National Book Center will spend 1 million francs in 1996 to help publishers' investment costs related to multimedia projects; also a fund for multimedia investment for publishing companies should be created and allocated a 20 million franc budget.


Part IV - Access providers to on-line services and the Internet

On-line service providers with proprietary architecture

There are three major on-line service providers with proprietary architecture in France, which basically help their subscribers find their way in the huge amount of information available. As they also, on the other hand, limit the subscribers' investigations, they now all offer a bridge to the Internet. They also typically provide access to much more usenet groups than ISPs.

Internet Access Providers

A huge number of companies provide Internet access; at least 150 have signed a convention with NIC France - which manages the registrations- and are therefore allowed to create domains under the fr domain, while another 50 have not signed a convention and are therefore not allowed to create domains under the fr domain. For a complete list of service providers, see the NIC's web site.

Microsoft (MSN Microsoft Network - www.msn.com) decided to put its on-line service on the Internet instead of having a proprietary version. Part of the services are however only accessible to subscribers, such as commercial services, forums, databases.

France Telecom in May 1996 launched its own Internet access providers, wanadoo. In competing for customers, France Telecom should benefit from its brand name, its financial strength and its control over telephony infrastructure costs. The Minitel is now also available via the Internet.


Part V - Future perspectives

Liberalization of voice telephony

The government's recently announced plans to open up the long-distance telephone market should give France more effective competition in telecoms than most other large countries. The new system - to take effect from January 1 1998 - will allow customers to choose between long-distance operators, on a call-by-call basis, by the first digit in the recently introduced 10-digit telephone numbers. This should create strong competition in the long-distance market.

As regards local services, competition will center around the provision of high-quality mini-networks for high added-value user groups - predominantly business. France Telecom will be in a strong position through the fees it will charge for connecting these networks into its national network. As the French government is in the process of privatizing France Telecom industry observers worry that these fees, if they are not reduced, could have the effect of preserving an "effective monopoly" for France Telecom on local calls. However others point to the new telecommunications law passed last June which provides for the establishment of an independent regulatory body.

Growing usage

Although it is difficult to predict future usage figures, Dataquest Inc.expects Europe, by the end of 1996, to hold 20 percent of the world's active on-line population, or roughly 9.7 million people. Through a more widespread and balanced press coverage of the Internet, more initiation to the Internet through schools and universities, word-of-mouth, the number of Internet users in France should increase dramatically over the next five years. The greatest growth in Internet usage should, initially at least, be in the business-to-business segment, due to the low level of computer penetration. Set-top boxes or network computers could however help bypass the preliminary hurdle of having customers purchase an expensive computer. A company - DMC - has already announced its intention to offer a set-top box to be connected to a TV and a telephone line, which could cost 50FF/month and would come with an infrared keyboard and a credit card reader. Customers would have access to interactive TV programs, an on-line service and the Internet.

In addition in January 1997 France Telecom will launch "the Internet Kiosk", i.e. special telephone numbers which give access to the Internet using the France Telecom backbone telecommunications infrastructure. Service companies will obtain a number and a caller will pay for the use of the Internet by duration, instead of paying a monthly subscription fee. France Telecom will charge the amount on the telephone bill and will pay the service company a part of the money. Such a system should be attractive to people who do not use the Internet a lot. In addition it may encourage use of the Internet. On the other hand it will clearly take away customers from existing Internet Access Providers.

More attractive content and services

The Minitel experience clearly proves that there is money to be made in on-line services, in particular if security is assured and the billing process is simplified. The Minitel's financial success seems to have relied on the fact that the entire system was controlled by France telecom, which made customers feel comfortable connecting to the system and using their credit cards. In addition France Telecom collected all the fees from the customer (who received a single bill) and was then responsible for redistributing the revenues to the different service providers. Name recognition and reputation should therefore play a major part in the widespread acceptance of on-line transactions. In addition it may be interesting to promote some kind of independent authority responsible for overseeing financial transactions over the Internet. As regards security issues, a consortium, involving two major French banks, Visa International and France Telecom and a card technology company is currently experimenting a global secure payments system by Internet.

The availability of quality content and varied services over the Internet will remain the main driver behind usage increase.

French companies have not yet realized the potential which the Internet represents. Indeed an IDC study shows that nearly half of them look at the web only as a means to improve image. German and British companies seem to see more advantages than purely image as nearly 70% of German enterprises see the web as enabling bigger reactivity to the market and only 3.5% mention image. For nearly 70 % of UK enterprises, the main advantages lie in economies of management and new market study. As French companies realize the Internet's larger opportunities, they will be encouraged to provide more and better content and services over the Internet. With French web sites they could attract customers among the 200 million French speakers worldwide. If they create multilingual sites, they could further broaden their target customer segments.

Statistics on the number of new domains registered in France show that the pace of creation has clearly taken off since the end of 1994. Whereas there were only around 250-300 domains in 1991, 4850 were registered in December 1996. Indeed as Euro-Marketing Associates declares, the number of English-only sites "should decrease to 40 to 50 percent by 2000, as the rest of the world normalizes their Web activity."

Advice to the government

So far the French government's initiatives seem to have been designed more to pre-empt the use of the Internet to ends which may be contrary to public order and security that to encourage the harmonious development of the Internet. Too much emphasis seems to have been put on regulating and monitoring the Internet, setting the rules and choosing the referee, even before people were encouraged to play. Although it is clearly important to regulate the Internet and prevent abuses leading to infringement of public law, security and order, the emphasis should equally be put on letting the more positive aspects of the Internet prevail. It is indeed crucial to encourage French companies and individuals to enter the Internet arena before it is too late and the best spots are taken. The government, opinion leaders, the press and the education system have a particular responsibility in this respect. Companies should also clearly take their responsibilities.

Towards a new approach to the promotion of the French language and culture

The French culture and language, if they are to survive and continue to thrive, need a change of policy away from defending them against the Anglo-saxon enemy to promoting them in themselves or possibly in the context of other languages and cultures. The community at large stands to benefit from cultural diversity, notably on the Internet as it becomes a key medium for communication, dissemination of new ideas, debates and education. The establishment of sites in French or sites promoting French culture would therefore be the best vehicle for the promotion of the French language and culture. France has such a rich cultural heritage and a rich language to serve as the raw materials for millions of sites. These sites however need to be high quality. The interactivity of the medium would also enable this French language and culture to really come alive.

One clear consequence is that the digitization of French culture needs to be encouraged. French culture needs to make it accessible through new multimedia tools (CD-ROM, Internet). It is thus necessary to transform the text, images and sounds into computerized data, and the easiest in the future is to do this where the text, images and sounds have been produced. The planned increase in government funding for such activities is therefore valuable, although probably highly insufficient, compared to the size of the project.

The work done by associations such as the ABU (Universal Bibliophile Association), which digitizes French and francophone literary texts which are now in the public domain in order to ensure their distribution for free should be acknowledged and supported The work started by the Ministry of Culture to digitize museum artworks should be continued. However contemporary culture also needs to be encouraged and access to library documents provided, such as the documents from the French National Library.

In addition to digitizing French cultural works and creating web sites in the language of Moliere, one needs to multiply the number of languages in which the information can be accessed in order to really promote the French culture to those who do not - yet - speak French. Once they appreciate French culture, who knows, they may want to speak the language too and read French literary texts in their original version for example. Support could be given to help develop new and improved translation programs which would both be useful to translate from French and into French.


Conclusion

This paper was a preliminary attempt to understand the current low level of Internet usage in France and the likely developments of the Internet in the future. More thorough analysis would be beneficial on many of the issues which are only briefly discussed in the paper. It is however clear that although the French have been slow adopters of the Internet, developments seem to be speeding up now, as both businesses and individuals start realizing the opportunities offered by the Internet.