France's Senate and National Assembly agree to make free software a priority for education. This Wednesday the National Assembly confirmed a proposal by the Senate, urging institutions of higher educations to prefer this type of solution. The plan still needs to be accepted by the government.
The past two months, France's senators have pressured the government to make free and open source software a priority in education. The government signalled that it is willing to nudge schools and universities towards free software and open document formats, but for the Upper House that is not enough. The Senate wants this type of software to be a requirement.
Last month the senators in vain tried adding free software to plans to reorganising state schools; this week the Senate included it in proposals for Higher Education and Research.
The first proposal was watered down by the government when it came up for discussion in the National Assembly. This time, the senators look to succeed, as their plan is now accepted by a joint Upper and Lower House committee. The proposal will be voted on next week.
April, a French free software advocacy group with over 4 000 members, is following the debates closely. In a statement this week, the group welcomed the senate's recognition of the importance of free software. "We hope that the government is not going to make any new attempt at reversing this encouragement."
The government is resisting the Senate's push for free software, alleging that it breaks European procurement rules. April says such a requirement is perfectly legal. "It was validated by the Conseil d'État (French administrative supreme court) in its decision of 30 September 2011. We urge the French government to publish a detailed legal analysis."
Earlier this month, Fleur Pellerin, Minister Delegate for Small and Medium Enterprises, reaffirmed the government's support for free and open source. In a speech, opening the Paris headquarters of the Mozilla Foundation, on 13 June, she called free software a crucial economic asset, helping to create jobs and challenging incumbent software firms to innovate.
According to a report by PC World, Pellerin considers free and open source a way to guarantee digital sovereignty. The web site adds that Pellerin also warns that it is not the only solution to be considered.