“We cannot impose the use of smartphones on everyone”

Public services in France cannot expect everyone to use smartphones with internet access at all times, said the Defender of Rights.

Defender of the rights of France (Advocate of rights) is the head of an authority independent of the government, responsible for defending the higher interest of the population as well as combating conscious and unintentional discrimination.

The stream Advocate of rights It was Claire Hédon, who told France Inter yesterday (July 5) that: “We have to put the human back in the machine.”

The annual report of the Defender of Rights refers to “dysfunctions” and “difficulties” linked to the digitization of services, and Ms. Hédon specifies: “What worries me in the current situation is that these infringements of rights cause societal fractures.

“If we want to recreate social cohesion, it will be by respecting rights.

“It is not possible to impose smartphones with internet access on everyone,” she added, pointing out that one in five people in France do not have a computer or tablet.

“What users are currently being asked to do is adapt to public services, whereas it should be the opposite: public services must adapt to their users.”

In 2021, Ms. Hédon and her department received a record number of complaints, with 115,000 people contacted.

Ms Hédon called on public services to “maintain physical reception services”, considering that many people in France have difficulties with digital procedures.

It says: “the elderly, the disabled, the vulnerable, foreigners, prisoners and the youngest, because we always think that young people are very good on their smartphones, but it is not at all the case with housing allowances.

“We need to see people when there are difficulties.”

Mrs Hédon added that she considered the number of France Service offices insufficient, “because in these spaces, you do not have representatives of [all] different public services, and even they can struggle to manage people’s records.

Read more: What are France Services points and how can they help you?

There are around 2,000 France Service centers – formerly known as Maisons de Services au Public – spread across the country, offering assistance with administrative procedures by trained staff.

The government says everyone in the country is within 30 minutes of a France Service office.

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