Amplify proximity thanks to digital superpowers

by bold-lichterman

The Internet has changed our lives by gradually establishing itself in our daily lives, by opening borders and reducing distances. We order a device in Hong Kong and sneakers in London. We share with his family his most beautiful moments of travel. We consult his doctor. We take a course at an American university at a distance. We discuss among peers from one end of the world to the other.

Digital has given us super powers!

And yet we continue to read very strong points of view that oppose digital and proximity. Digital would have dehumanized us. It would isolate us from each other, promote our individualities, multiply our egos and our neuroses… while our everyday lives show us the opposite.

We have never exchanged so much, shared our rants and our favorites, traded, debated … And you will observe, like me, that those who carry these ideas often reason on the scale of two worlds: the physical and the digital. It is as if a spatio-temporal border had settled. Some even say “to the pleasure of seeing you IRL” (cf -In Real Life) whereas in real life precisely, we no longer differentiate between physical and digital because everything is being recomposed around us, of our needs, our expectations, our desires. A few years ago we were talking about Phygital. The word is not very pretty, but it makes sense. The best of both worlds that is one.

So, yes, I am convinced that digital technology amplifies the effects of human proximity and that we could do much better still.

Let’s take a few examples that you will complete in your comments

It is not digital technology that locks us in; these are our lives with precise schedules and let’s face it our lack of empathy and solidarity. We don’t know our neighbors well. We are not making enough use of local resources. We help each other too little. And yet, we have never had so much need of proximity, human relations and the smile of the florist of our district to fight against the gloom.

Good thing: digital can help us do that too!

For example, due to a lack of time and information, we do not make enough use of our convenience store, which nevertheless conceals unexpected treasures. After the wave of hypermarkets on the outskirts of cities in the 1960s, our small traders cash in on e-commerce by being devoid of operational and pragmatic responses, while their arguments are enormous (proximity, human size, quality, listening and service, etc.). They just lack the means to come to us, to make their added value better known, to exist more regularly in our lives by investing in the right channels of customer relations with advice and adapted tools.

From Nextdoor to Bon Coin, connection initiatives based on trust

Major players such as La Poste or Orange pro, the consular bodies representing them and a few start-ups have understood this well by offering to support them in the field to appropriate digital technology, but it is not easy. This requires time, acculturation and personalized advice on the ground to everyone. You have noticed it when your pastry baker starts to use Facebook diligently and brings you added value (his new cakes, behind the scenes of the bakery, recipes to make at home), you immediately feel closer to him and no longer hesitate to pass his door with enthusiasm and curiosity. Another “field” is very favorable to the benefits of digital technology. That of the neighborhood, of the neighborhood spirit that has nourished social ties for centuries. Since Peuplade, which I am sure you remember, lots of initiatives have emerged. They are all based on Trust, this essential cement for our society.

Let’s talk about Nextdoor which is certainly the most famous of all. Established in France for a year, Nextdoor allows through its application to connect the inhabitants of the same district. It now has 6,300 active neighborhoods and intends to develop by relying on partnerships with local communities.

Some applications are more vertical and focus on the loan of equipment or small services such as AlloVoisins or Voisins Solidaires. Without forgetting the Smiile platform which mixes the functionalities of Facebook, Boncoin and Blablacar. Each user is co-opted by a neighbor. Again and again, trust at the heart of an increasingly collaborative economy!

Finally, when we talk about proximity amplified by digital technology, we obviously also think of local communities and the often missed rendezvous with digital technology, even though their role could be so driving and unifying.

I am thinking of neighborhood communities but also of a whole host of other opportunities that they could create to facilitate better living and good living in the city. I remember the participatory neighborhood democracy projects that I supported in the 90s. What fabulous potential digital technology could bring to this exercise!

Many local authorities have taken up the subject from an IT angle and there was much to be done to deliver simpler administrative services (civil status, school life, etc.). They must go further by being catalysts for meetings for citizens and facilitators for economic players established in their city. You choose your home according to your neighborhood, your city, the infrastructure it offers (especially when you have children). But a city is not only a mayor and a city council who deliberate on investments in sports facilities. They must become places of more emotional life, sometimes even more identity. Another beautiful chapter of transformation to write …

Also to listen on this subject: an edition of the podcast #BonjourPPC in which I had the pleasure of participating.

The contributor:


After having been Director of Digital Customer Experience and Communication at Groupe La Poste, Isabelle Cambreleng has since 2017 been Director of Digital Marketing Communication / support for customer and employee transformation / e-health at BewellConnect / Visiomed Group.