The French government’s roadmap for developing open source to make it a vector of digital sovereignty and a guarantee of “democratic confidence” was presented by Public Transformation and Civil Service Minister Amélie de Montchalin on Wednesday (10 November). EURACTIV France reports.
Montchalin spoke at the closing of the first edition of the “Open Source Experience”, which took place from 9-10 November and brought together all players in the free software community in Paris.
“Open source contrasts with proprietary software in that the source code of applications is freely available to the public; it is developed in a collaborative and decentralised way, by a community, and relies on peer review. But more importantly, it is not owned, in the proprietary sense, by anyone,” Quentin Roland of LegalUP Consulting told EURACTIV.
With the vast majority of relations between citizens and state services now being digital, Montchalin believes a “culture of transparency” is necessary for “democratic trust”. It is also a matter of digital sovereignty, she added.
According to a European Commission study published in September, investment in open source software in 2018 generated a sum of €65-95 billion in revenue. According to the same report, France was crowned European champion of open source policies.
To help French administrations make greater use of such solutions, Montchalin announced the creation of a team within the Interministerial Digital Directorate (DINUM) responsible for the promotion and inter-ministerial coordination of this mission.
She also revealed the launch of the code.gouv.fr platform, which will inventory all source code published by public organisations.
The source code for ‘France Connect’, the digital identification system for government services used by more than 30 million French people, will be public ‘in the next few days’, Montchalin also announced, adding that she would do the same for the code determining income tax deducted at the source.
n his report, Bothorel recommended using more open source software because “infrastructures necessary for data are increasingly exposed to forms of software dependency” and that this therefore raises “a strategic autonomy issue”.
This vision is shared by Montchalin, who wants the state to retain “control over the solutions” it uses. She also stressed the importance of interoperability – the ability to work with other existing or future products or systems – and reversibility – the ability to resume using data or software in the event of migration to another solution.
“By using open source software, you give yourself much more autonomy than by using proprietary software and a fortiori proprietary cloud services that are hosted outside Europe,” Stéfane Fermigier, co-president of the Union of Free Software and Open Digital Businesses (CNLL), told EURACTIV.
However, it is not a “miracle solution”, he added, noting that this is because open source software does not always offer the same technical level as proprietary solutions, mainly because open source code makes it easier to discover security flaws, which can be exploited.
“However, this is an extremely interesting alternative for Europe, a third way between digital giants and local players; an opportunity to ensure independence through neutrality and decentralisation rather than conflict,” he also said.
According to Fermigier, however, “free software is also an opportunity to rethink a number of habits and reflexes,” particularly in the field of public procurement.
“It’s an opportunity to think about what we need, to use the best tools for our needs and not for marketing or expectations,” he added.