Open source, open data and public algorithms in France

The French public administration is opening up public data, algorithms and source codes.

Published on: 14/10/2021

The French public administration outlined the governmental programme for open source, open data and public algorithms.


On 27 September, the French Minister of Public Transformation and Service Amélie de Montchalin presented the 15 ministerial roadmaps on public data, algorithms and public source codes, which represents a milestone in the digital transformation strategy of the current French public administration. The same Ministry will monitor the implementation phase of all the roadmaps, and the Prime Minister will then evaluate the programme as a whole at the next inter-ministerial committee for public transformation.

This initiative has been supported by DINUM (Direction Interministérielle du Numérique, or Interministerial Digital Directorate) and stems from the Circular 6264/SG sent in April by the Prime Minister Jean Castex, who mandated the Ministry of Public Transformation and Public Service to open up public data, algorithms and source codes “for the benefit of users, researchers, innovators and citizens”. Additionally, the circular called for the designation of departmental data, algorithm and source code (AMDAC) administrators in every department - all nominated in May - who will supervise the implementation of the roadmaps and build an inter-ministerial network for information sharing.

Every roadmap lays down an action plan that goes from two up to three years, and  addresses the goals and challenges of public data, algorithms and source codes related policies, the governance to implement them as well as the action points to carry on. They are all based on an inter-ministerial framework for the administration of data, algorithms and source codes, to ensure consistency and standardisation across the ministries.

As of open source, the Interministerial Digital Directorate (DINUM) will lead this effort, which will revolve around the BlueHats community (another DINUM initiative to favour open source in the French public administration). In this area, one of the most relevant goals is to establish an Open Source Program Office (OSPO) within the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, in order to manage and coordinate open source projects for education. Moreover, the Ministry of Solidarity and Health will promote the contribution of its open source developers and the Ministry of Transformation and Public Service will publish the code of FranceConnect. This open source initiative will go hand-in-hand with an overall attention to human capital and tech skills development in the French public administration.

Furthermore, the roadmaps include actions on the provision of public data in an open format, which represents one of the milestones of this programme. Other than improving the use and quality of data that public administrations hold, the roadmaps include:

  1. simplifying the administrative procedures, by standardising data sharing across ministries;
  2. stimulating innovation and the creation of new services of both public and private interest;
  3. enhancing the effectiveness of evidence-based public policies through the use of open data;
  4. promoting transparency and accountability of public service;
  5. facilitating the work of researchers by easing their access to public data.

Finally, the ministries will address the field of public algorithms. Most of the roadmaps plan the establishment of an inventory for all the algorithms used by the specific ministry. In this, the Ministry of Public Transformation and Service mandated DINUM to support the implementation in providing technical tools and know-how concerning algorithms.