The youngest member of Frances new government is a self-taught digital guru from a poor immigrant household. He talks about how his Arab name harmed his CV, working in a call centre and how he foiled the cyber attack that threatened En Marches election hopes
At a crowded marketplace in the shadow of towerblocks in north-eastern Paris, shoppers gather to take selfies with a smiling, slightly shy, young man in a business suit. Mounir! A photo with my grandmother! screams one young lady, pushing forward an old lady in north African dress for a hug. My daughter needs work experience, what do you indicate? asked a parent from the 10 th floor of a high-rise, proud of the first child in the family to go to university.
Mounir Mahjoubi, 33, is the youngest are part of Frances new government and part of Emmanuel Macrons inner circle. He is the computer brains and digital campaigner whose online strategy helped the independent centrist Macron secure a decisive presidential election wins in May, and who worked to stem a vast hacking assault that reached the final days of the campaign. He is now being held up as one of the faces of the Macron landslide a newcomer to parliamentary politics well-placed to win a seat in the final round of National Assembly elections on Sunday, when the presidents new centrist motion, La Rpublique En Marche, is on course to win one of the biggest majorities in the modern French state.
Mahjoubi was born to Moroccan parents in the east of Paris. Prepare to see new faces in parliament, he has regularly said on the campaign trail. France, which has a large population with Algerian, Moroccan or Tunisian roots, currently has fewer than a handful of MPs from that background in parliament. He is stand in Pariss northern 19 th arrondissement, a mix of ethnically diverse working-class neighborhoods and rapid gentrification, where he has lived for two years. He topped the first-round vote last weekend, knocking out the Socialist party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadlis who had held the seat for 20 years, and now faces a run-off against the hard-left movement, France Unbowed.
In voters minds, Mahjoubi is still best-known for digital damage-limitation.
Hours before the presidential election, he battled what Macrons campaign called a massive and coordinated hacking assault that cybersecurity research firms indicated might be the work of a Russian-affiliated group. Tens of thousands of internal emails and other documents were released online after months of attempts to hack into email accounts and systems. Mahjoubi claimed to have restriction the impact by setting traps of false email accounts for the hackers, saying only mundane messages such as jokes or suppliers invoices had been stolen.
Days afterward, he was appointed Frances junior minister for digital affairs, in charge of the new governments internet strategy, from net safety to digital startups.
Every recent French government has had a minister for digital affairs. But none of them was a self-taught geek from a poor immigrant family who as a child trekked across Paris to use free computers in museum foyers, and says the most formative years of their own lives were those spent as a teenage bellow centre technician helping fix people problems with their internet connects. He is the first minister for digital affairs who, when he found his Arab-sounding name put employers off his CV, instead became a startup entrepreneur, rising to head the countrys digital advisory body and championing inclusive internet access for all, spurred on by his mothers difficulty in using the internet and inability to volume an appointed online.
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