The French government has found an alternative to WhatsApp, Telegram or Slack for its internal communication network. The French government’s interministerial digital service created Tchap, an encrypted messaging service for public servants only to exchange confidential information. The main goals of the project are to ensure the security of the communication network and to improve the interoperability of the service between different administrations.
The Tchap project aims to improve information dissemination and ensure the security of the French government communication network. As applications like WhatsApp or Telegram pose security and digital sovereignty risks when installed on public devices, the French government decided to develop its own encrypted communication network for the exchange of confidential information. Moreover, Tchap.fr allows fully-encrypted exchanges coupled with temporary passwords. The app also ensures user ID control and administrators can suppress any account.
The French government’s digital services used the open source solutions Element and Matrix created by the privately-funded start-up New Vector to develop the app. The open-source software Riot gave the infrastructure of the newly developed communication network and the open-source software Matrix ensured the service interoperability, enabling it to function with any existing protocol. The Matrix communication protocol acts as a bridge between the messaging service and external tools such as IRC, XMPP, Slack, Gitter or Twitter. The choice of the Matrix open-source solution allows a better personalisation of the service and gives more possibilities for continuous development.
« Thanks to this new French solution, the Government shows its capacity to work in flexibility to meet its concrete needs while using open source tools and limiting development costs. The sharing of information in a secure way is essential to the work of the cabinets but also to a more fluid dialogue between the administration bodies», Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State to the Prime Minister for Digital.
The project came into reality in 2019 thanks to the collaboration of the French interministerial digital service (DINSIC – Direction Interministérielle du Numérique et du Système d’Information et de Communication de l’Etat), the New Vector start-up and Thales. Currently, up to 500 members of the French Ministry cabinets are using the service. If successful, the communication network could be extended to other administrative bodies as well as external partners. According to the DINSIC, other EU Member States such as the Netherlands have shown interest in the project.