France's Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, signed a guideline favouring the use of free and open source software by the country's public administrations, last Wednesday. Switching to this type of software lowers costs, increases flexibility and increases competition in the IT market, the Prime Minister writes in his introduction to the policy.
Public organisations are told to make "a systematic review of free alternatives when doing development and major revisions of applications."
"This is alsmost the coming-out of the government on free software. Free software already has a special place in the services of the state, but the official pronouncements were rarely as clear and committed as this one", Patrice Bertrand, chair of the French Free Software Council, a group representing many free software firms, writes in a statement.
In a comment on the new policy, Alexandre Zapolsky, CEO of the French open source IT service provider Linagora, on the firm's web site writes that the French government has "chosen for free software, supporting an industry of the future, job creation, growth and competitiveness."
Commit to upstream
The guideline outlines the benefits of free and open source software. Using this type of software is often less expensive, does away with unneeded changes, ensures long-term support, facilitates experiments and adaptation to scale and removes constraints to the use of software solutions and facilitates sharing and reuse.
The guideline recommends that public administrations build-up open source expertise and start pooling their resources, work with communities of open source developers and commit contributions of code to the projects. "The establishment of a network of experts allows gathering all needed government expertise." For examples of how to organise such networks, the guideline points to the existing Ministerial working groups on open source office suites (MimO) and on databases (MimDB).
According to the document, French public administrations must make sure they control their operating cost and maintenance costs in the long-term. "To this end, the state must increase competition in areas ruled by internationally recognized actors. The work done on LibreOffice and Postgresql here is essential."
The guideline was written by a working group led by the department of interministerial information systems and communication and by the department of information systems of the Ministry of Culture.