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FR: Minister of Digital Economy speaks out on open source software and open formats

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In an opening speech to the fourth edition of Open World Forum (22-24 September 2011, Paris), the French Minister for Industry, Energy and the Digital Economy Eric Besson acknowledged the "decisive contribution" of open source software (OSS) to the Digital Revolution. On this occasion he presented the government's policy approach to OSS and open formats, an IT magazine reported.

"Open source software facilitates technology transfer and the implementation of open standards, and it continues to spread. The Government also identified [OSS] as a strategic policy element," the Minister told the audience. He reminded them of several projects in which the government has been investing, in fields such as interactive TV, portability between cloud platforms, embedded software and the opening up of public data via the Data.gouv.fr portal (whose beta version is foreseen to be available at the end of 2011). 

Mr Besson cited, furthermore, free software that is used by citizens on a daily basis, in particular: OpenOffice, Firefox and VLC media player ("the best multimedia application worldwide to read multimedia content resulting from the work of [a renowned French engineering school]," he pointed out).

About the relationship between open source and proprietary software, the Minister praised the idea of their differences and complementarities; he outlined that he welcomes their co-existence and the open competition between the two types of software, as a means to ensure constant product quality improvement for both. 

Mr Besson nevertheless expressed that it is important that open formats are adopted as these ensure interoperability and competition. Given that interoperability and portability are core elements of the government's calls for tenders for the creation of clouds, the role of open source software is expected to be an influential one.

The Minister said that the action of adopting open formats goes hand in hand with that of making data open. This double opening up serves both citizens and companies, which are able to create useful services at less cost, he stressed.

Reacting to the Minister's speech, the French advocacy organisation for free software and open standards APRIL published a press release stating that the competition between open source and proprietary software is inevitably distorted, as in the case of calls for tender requiring specific software or the prohibition of bundled hardware/software which has not happened yet. 

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