France and other sixteen Member States will work on a voluntary basis to create a European hub for digital commons as well as identify new financial and human resources to allocate to European open source projects.
On 7 February, during the Building Europe’s Digital Sovereignty conference, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian along with the Secretary of State of the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Clément Beaune and the Secretary of State in charge of Digital Transition and Electronic Communications Cédric O announced the establishment of a new task force on digital commons, the latter described by the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union as “non-rivalrous and non-exclusive digital resources defined by shared production, maintenance and governance”.
As overarching goals of such an initiative, the French Presidency strives to enhance European and international cooperation to ultimately scale up existing national digital commons and open source software projects, as well as to raise awareness and promote open technologies in the EU- and Member States-level public sector and start building a governance framework to support digital commons through human and financial resources.
The reasons behind this effort are linked to the benefits of open source and open technologies in general. In fact, openness is now seen by the French Presidency as one of the main tools for Europe to get digital strategic autonomy back by providing public administration and citizens with control over the data they contribute to create as well as ensuring independent audits of source codes, for the benefit of security. Overall, digital commons are largely considered valuable means to help building an open, global, neutral, secure and non-fragmented digital architecture.
“Open technologies are a fundamental way to promote European sovereignty, which is not meant to control the internet, but rather to be free within it. It does not relate to protectionism, but to strategic autonomy. Finally, it is especially a matter of non-rival sovereignty, because when we use or contribute or develop digital commons, we are more free and can help our neighbour” said apropos the initiative Henri Verdier, Ambassador for Digital Affairs at the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs during his introductory statements at the EU Open Source Policy Summit 2022.
Specifically, the current task force on digital commons will aim to:
- Identify and lay out potential EU financing sources as well as ways to raise additional funding for projects in the realm of open technologies;
- Discuss the possibility to launch a European incubator for digital commons, either virtual or physical; and
- Outline a governance framework alongside conceivable tools to guide and assist the Member States in national investments on digital commons.
Other than France, sixteen other Member States have agreed to join the task force on a voluntary basis, namely Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. The results of this effort will be presented during the 2022 Digital Assembly, which is one of the main events featured in the European digital calendar.