The city of Nancy is France’s best example of public services that encourage the use of free, open and collaborative digital technology. The city was awarded the status of Territoire Numérique Libre niveau 5 (“digital free territory 5” – the highest level) during a ceremony at the Congrès des Maires de France, which took place in Paris on 20 November.
Nancy, with about 104,000 inhabitants, is the first public service to be ranked at this level. The Territoire Numérique Libre event has been organised four times since 2016. It ranks public services on their involvement and initiatives in interoperability and accessibility, their use of free and open source software, sharing of open data, communication and outreach, and strategy.
The award is boosting the city, says Romain Pierronnet, city councillor and an advocate of the use of free software in public services. "It requires our constant attention to make sure our digital choices are consistent," he told the European Commission's Open Source Observatory (OSOR). "This is not only about technological solutions. It also involves management and change management."
“Nancy recognises the value of free software for public services,” says Etienne Gonnu, public affairs officer at April, France’s main free software advocacy organisation, and one of the jury members. Speaking to OSOR, Mr Gonnu explained that the city is a fine example of how to introduce public service employees to free software. “The city focuses these discussion on the needs of their citizens and employees, and then shows how free software is the perfect fit.”
Using this approach, the city has managed to increase the use of free software in all parts of its IT infrastructure, Mr Gonnu says. His impression is that Nancy promotes the use of free software on its desktop workstations by actively involving the staff: “It seems the staff are encouraged to become active users – a core value of free software.”
The city often reaches out to the free software community, organising meetings such as ‘Libre sur la place’. These meeting bring together local politicians, public service employees, citizens and representatives of free software communities.
France’s public services are focusing increasingly on the importance of free and open source software, Pascal Kuczynski, director of Adullact - the organisation behind the Territoire Numérique Libre award - told CIO, an IT trade publication. “The quality of the submissions has increase greatly, even as our criteria were getting more demanding,” the publication quotes him as saying. He says this indicates the growing maturity of the communities involved in these processes.