Edmond Baranes: Under the digital spotlight

At the forefront of the digital revolution, Edmond Baranes has been working on the economics of telecoms services for three decades. The Professor of Economics at the University of Montpellier was elected Dean of the Faculty of Economics in 2024.

When Edmond Baranes began his thesis at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne on the economics of telecoms networks and services in the early 1990s, he could not have foreseen that his subject would undergo major upheavals. The professor of economics at the University of Montpellier had a front-row seat to a landscape turned upside down by the arrival of the Internet, then restructured around global economic giants such as Google and Microsoft. " I've always been surprised by the speed of change in this sector, by the responsiveness of the players involved, and by the extent to which new services have been appropriated by users. Today, with generative AI, I have the impression that things are speeding up even more ", stresses the researcher.

"Very muscular relations

He works on digital markets, whose transformations have " generated multiple questions of economic analysis ". He has seen France Télécom turn Orange, the opening up to competition, the golden age of telecom operators, and then the expansion of digital content providers - the GAFAMs, now known as MAMAA (Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, Apple and Alphabet). The economist studies the relationships between operators and suppliers, which have become asymmetrical in the face of the new digital giants. " By basing their business model on data, providers need more and more bandwidth; it's up to operators to follow suit and invest accordingly in networks, with no guarantee of a return on investment. I've taken part in exchanges in Brussels, where I've witnessed some very tough relations", stresses Edmond Baranes, who also witnesses the lobbying of these private players: "Today, they weigh on the functioning of markets and on national and European policies to an unprecedented degree ".

Edmond Baranes arrived in Montpellier in 2001, having previously held a professorship at the Université d'Artois, where he developed a second area of research in energy economics. Today, he is also interested in digital energy consumption. The data economy is in fact one of the causes of the digital industry's energy appetite, since processing increasingly massive amounts of data requires the multiplication of processors and data centers, whose activity drives up the sector's energy consumption. " And the rise of AI is further accelerating this ecological footprint ", stresses the researcher at Montpellier Recherche en Economie (MRE), adding "at the same time, AI can contribute to the ecological transition".

Data business models

For the past two years, Edmond Baranes has been developing a third specialty, on the economic models of data, particularly geolocalized data, as Chairman of the "Economic Models" commission of the Comité national de l'information géolocalisée (Cnig), reporting to the Minister for Sustainable Development. Since June 3, 2024, he has also assumed his role as Dean of the Faculty of Economics. Freshly elected, the man who has already been vice-dean since 2019 alongside François Mirabel acknowledges that the task is not so new. This new 5-year mandate " will be a continuation of my previous work, in particular on socio-economic partnerships for professional training ", he explains. Work-study has already been introduced for the start of the 2023 academic year in two master's courses, "Digital Economy" and "Energy Economy".

The aim is to increase the number of courses open to sandwich courses, particularly from the third year of the bachelor's degree. " This professionalization from the bachelor's level onwards is a demand that has been voiced in particular by the professional development councils, where some students wish to enter the job market as early as bac+3. In discussions with socio-economic partners, they also see an interest in hiring young economists who are well-versed in data processing and mastery of digital tools, capable of carrying out analysis on investment projects, for example. " All that remains for Edmond Baranes is to get all his colleagues on board, some of whom may be reluctant to take on board the complexities of managing these dual career paths. The internationalization of courses is also one of the key priorities of his commitment to the Faculty of Economics, and he intends to make it a priority to consider setting up double degrees with the support of the University of Montpellier's strategic partners " to offer our students an international academic and professional perspective ", he concludes.