The Minister of Public Sector Transformation and the Civil Service of France, Amélie de Montchalin announced a new action plan for open source software in the public sector at the closing of the Paris Open Source Experience conference on 10 November. It sets up an Open Source Program Office within the public administration that will be responsible for implementing the plan and managing the state’s involvement in open source.
The goals are as follows: to increase awareness and use of free software and digital commons in the administration, to develop and support the opening of source code in the public sector, and to rely on free and open source software to strengthen the attractiveness of the public service as an employer to digital talent, in particular by promoting public contributions to the projects and communities concerned.
The implementation will be led by a new “open source software expertise center” set up in the Etalab which is a part of the interministerial digital department DINUM. It is a part of a trend of setting up open source offices in governments that can be observed throughout the public administrations in Europe. The expertise center will be supported by other initiatives of the government such as projects within the TECH.GOUV programme aimed at accelerating digital transformation of the public service. Activities within the plan and their progress will be published on a new, dedicated site: https://communs.numerique.gouv.fr/.
The minister announced several actions to be rolled out as a part of the plan: funding of 30 million euros from the stimulus package have been released to finance open source solutions for local authorities; publication of source code of the digital identity aggregator FranceConnect; the launch of the site code.gouv.fr (available in English) giving access to code and repositories published by public administration and containing over 9,000 repositories in December 2021 from over 100 organisations; and the launch of the program in which engineering students will contribute for six months to the design of open source software used by the administration. Moreover, the network of open source developers within the public sector will be supported more.
The action plan is a follow-up of the Prime Minister’s data Circular from April 2021 and the report from MP Éric Bothorel on public policy on data, algorithms and source code published in December 2020. All these developments point to digital sovereignty, transparency and trust as crucial parts for the country's digital policy. France will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in January 2022.
The Paris Open Source Experience conference gathered hundreds of participants in its two days and hosted dozens of sessions on topics related to open source software and artificial intelligence, open data, cloud services, research, smart manufacturing, and several other themes relevant to open source and different industries. It was aimed at bringing industry representatives to discuss how to leverage open source, but also included discussions on open source policies and exchanges with policymakers.
The full action plan is available on the government's site on digital matters here.