The digital revolution is turning how we consume, work, communicate and learn upside-down. As well as being a driver of progress and fulfilment, it is also acting as a catalyst for new forms of inequality. Thirteen million French people today say they are cut off from digital technology, making little or no use of the internet and feeling they have difficulty using it. And yet 76% of French people say they are willing to adopt new technologies.
Digital inclusion is one of the key challenges of our time: it is crucial that as many people as possible be able to benefit from the opportunities it offers in terms of employment, education, purchasing power and social ties. The COVID-19 crisis further highlights how essential this is: digital technology has played a key role in enabling people to stay in touch with their environment, whether that means family and friends, work, school or the bank.
Already committed to this cause for several years, Crédit Agricole stepped up its commitment by becoming one of the very first signatories of the charter for digital inclusion proposed by the French Government in 2018, focusing on three priorities: identifying and supporting isolated and vulnerable groups; promoting digital literacy for all; and digital first aid training through the “Digital Pass”.
Overview of early initiatives implemented by Regional Banks
These initiatives come in a variety of forms: organising conferences, workshops and digital cafés; partnering with non-profits working for digital inclusion; and creating digital spaces open to the public where customers and non-customers alike can undertake a range of administrative procedures. They involve Crédit Agricole advisors trained in this new role, partners (non-profits, utilities, etc.) and volunteer directors.
The Franche-Comté Regional Bank opened the first citizen digital space in 2019, in partnership with the prefecture, with very positive results: 600 individuals received support at digital points inside two branches; of those helped by advisors, almost half were non-customers and 70% were aged between 30 and 50. The approach is to be rolled out to other branches of the Regional Bank.
The Normandie-Seine Regional Bank has been trialling a different approach, with sessions at the Thiberville branch every Thursday hosted by directors, pensioners and members of non-profit organisations covering a range of practical concerns (how to register a change of address for your vehicle registration document, how to print out a loan offer, etc.). This initiative is set to continue in 2020, no doubt with greater involvement from local non-profits.
The Brie Picardie Regional Bank has focused on helping older people make the digital transition, with 200 people – half of them non-customers – visiting the Friville-Escarbotin branch to attend workshops between November 2019 and January 2020. The initiative is set to resume once the public health crisis is over and the Regional Bank is also planning to offer more advanced workshops for entrepreneurs on e-commerce, e-reputation and IT security.
Other initiatives: Toulouse 31 has been working with La Mêlée, a non-profit with a long history of promoting digital technology in Occitanie; some Regional Banks, such as Lorraine and Pyrénées Gascogne, are holding digital cafés or workshops for their customers on prevention, cybersecurity and the use of Crédit Agricole’s digital tools.
Initiatives are also being run by Crédit Agricole’s “Points Passerelle”, notably in the Atlantique Vendée and Nord de France Regional Banks, such as running digital cafés for young people from the “second chance schools” network and donating tablet computers. Having already begun in 2019, some of these initiatives have picked up speed with the public health crisis.
In addition, through its Foundation, Nord de France has since 2019 been supporting a pilot with non-profit Emmaüs Connect and the Pôle Emploi job agency in Roubaix and Béthune to provide jobseekers with training in digital technology; on the back of its success with 400 beneficiaries in Roubaix, the non-profit is now in contact with the Group’s Points Passerelle.
In Anjou-Maine, each Point Passerelle has a dedicated space set aside for applicants who do not have access to equipment (computers and printers).
Meanwhile, the Languedoc Regional Bank kicked off its initiative at a professionally hosted conference attended by over 200 people at the beginning of 2020.
Crédit Agricole is also supporting local projects through the call for projects by the Crédit Agricole Solidarité et Développement Foundation. The Foundation has for the past year been partnering with non-profit Unis-Cité, notably to set up “digital corners” to help young people acquire digital skills that will help them access employment.
Inclusion also involves helping the unemployed back into work. With this in mind, three Regional Banks have opted to host the Microsoft Artificial Intelligence School powered by Simplon on their premises, hosting attendees on a work-study basis and providing them with access to their economic ecosystem. The school is aimed at jobseekers registered with the national employment agency (Pôle Emploi), providing them with free, intensive training in data and artificial intelligence.
This partnership makes it possible to offer job opportunities and foster new skills that are good for the local economy. The Pyrénées Gascogne and Atlantique Vendée Regional Banks welcomed their first intake in November 2019. In Rennes, the school opened its doors in June at Crédit Agricole’s d’Ille-et-Vilaine regional office.
Amundi, through its Amundi Finance et Solidarité fund, joined with other investors to support Simplon’s funding round. The funding raised, totalling €12 million, will enable Simplon to continue to grow and achieve its target of delivering training in digital jobs to 10,000 people a year by 2023.