I spent time in France last week, and it’s clear to me that the French tech scene is at an inflection point. The time to invest in France’s future is now. And with more startups than any other European country at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, and a strong infrastructure in place, France is primed to embrace the latest technology transition: digitization of everything.

Digitization, which harnesses the power of what we call the Internet of Everything at Cisco — the connection of people, process, data and things — will change everything from the way we work to how we serve citizens, and teach our young people.

I believe that France will lead in this new era of country digitization. The French government truly understands the economic and societal benefits digitization will bring. Last week, I met with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and together we announced an ambitious partnership, pledging to transform France into a digital republic. By creating a connected ecosystem, there is tremendous opportunity to fuel economic growth, create jobs, foster innovation — even improve energy use.

Cisco will power this initiative through the network. France has a strong traditional infrastructure in place — roads, water lines, buildings, even parking spaces — and the country is now committing to build out their digital infrastructure, which will help increase productivity, create jobs, and improve the lives of citizens. Cybersecurity will also be enhanced for the country and its businesses and citizens, and the results for France could be dramatic.

With our Networking Academy program, Cisco plans to train an incremental 200,000 students and create 1,500 additional academies over the next three years, so French entrepreneurs have the necessary skills to drive the digitization process.

A key ingredient to France’s success will also be the entrepreneurial spirit and technical talent needed for digitization. Our first step is to ensure the proper training initiatives are in place to achieve this – providing a $100 million investment that will include training and infrastructure support to transform France into a digital republic.

Digitization has the potential to revolutionize France as we know it today. This transformation will contribute to France’s overall global competitiveness by supporting job growth, education, cybersecurity, innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives in France. It’s also expected to lead to a boost in France’s Gross Domestic Product by 1-2 percent. This is a chance for France to innovate based on French values — egalitarian peer-to peer Internet architecture — one that creates new digital freedoms and significant socio-economic growth.

If countries get ahead of this technology transition, like France, it could change the global agenda. This new phase of the Internet will bring many opportunities to revolutionize the world as we know it, as long as leaders are ready to embrace it. Cisco is excited to help France lead.

(Editor’s note: This originally ran on CNN.com last week. Slight edits have been made to make it current. Original piece and video can be seen here.)


John Chambers

No Longer with Cisco