RGI : François Fillon's gift to Microsoft
Paris, November 12th, 2009. Press release.
French Prime Minister François Fillon has eventually signed the order validating the last version of the General Interoperability Framework for public administrations and local governments1 ("Référentiel Général d'Interopérabilité", RGI in French). He thus records Free Software authors' and users' discrimination that April has been denouncing since May 2009. April accuses the French government of bowing before Microsoft's lobbying and of jeopardizing interoperability in public administrations.
The decree validating the General Interoperability Framework was published in the French "Journal Officiel" on the 11th of November 20092. It ratifies the 12th of May 2009 version3 which spreads confusion by recommending two rival standards for office documents4. April had already denounced5 a writing opposed to the goals of interoperability and accessibility of e-administration for all citizens.
"RGI as it is written maintains the confusion about office documents standards. It hands public administrations over to Microsoft's deceptions and dooms their data to be kept locked in proprietary formats" explained public affairs manager Alix Cazenave. "Far from promoting interoperability this duplicity will generate discrimination between citizens for the access to electronic administration."
In April's opinion, this record confirms that the French executive authority hardly pays attention to competition in the software market. "After the intervention of the President's people6 in favor of Microsoft's OOXML standardization, the fact that the Prime Minister ratifies this order confirms the support of the French executive authority to Microsoft's dominant position. We have just missed a historical opportunity to support openness and innovation in the software market" denounced Frédéric Couchet, executive director.
With this strategy, years of hard work for electronic administration are also called into question: "French and European civil servants have been working for interoperability in public administrations for several years. The French executive branch voluntarily sabotages this work to please Microsoft. Jeopardizing the future of electronic administration like this, and giving it away to the private sector is unworthy of a modern, sovereign state" deplored Benoît Sibaud, president of the board.
April keeps supporting interoperability and open standards in public administrations. April worries about this order prefiguring France's position about the European interoperability framework (EIF 2.0)7. April invites the members of the parliament attached to Free Software and interoperability to ask for a quick clarification of RGI, and of France's position about the European interoperability framework.
- 1. a framework of technical recommendations for digital uses in French administrations
- 2. Read the decree on Legifrance (FR)
- 3. See the page Presentation of the General Interoperability Framework (FR) and PDF version of the RGI (2.6Mb, FR)
- 4. The current document recommends the use of either Open Document format or OOXML format. DGME, French Directorate-General for State Modernisation, however admits that "no implementation of this standard currently exists". Therefore, regarding office software, RGI is only an indecisive means of postponing decisions. It practically amounts to favouring status-quo, and encourages the current trusting position of Microsoft's Office suite within public procurement.
- 5. See June 18th's press release entitled The government publishes a pro-Microsoft RGI.
- 6. The government had completely reversed its position during the normalization process of OOXML. After strongly opposing the ISO normalization of a second office file format, without documentation and implementation, the French government chose in extremis to abstain. The lobbying was widely denounced in this process seen by many as a strike from Microsoft to defend its monopoly. See the interview of Frédéric Couchet in Groklaw and our file on AFNOR's normalization commission on revisable document formats (FR).
- 7. Revision of the European Interoperability Framework. See among others the article from Computer World UK: EU Wants to Re-define “Closed” as “Nearly Open”