Several Recommendations from the National Council on Digital Technology That Should Be Ratified in the Digital Bill

Paris, June 22nd, 2015, press release

On June 18th, 2015, the French governement revealed its digital strategy. On this occasion, the Conseil National du Numérique (National Digital Council) also submitted its report "Digital Ambition". The latter presents, among its proposals, the recommendation of giving priority to free software in public procurement, a priority that April encourages the government to write into the future bill.

The "Digital Ambition"1 report contains 70 proposals, some of which are particularly interesting from April's point of view. For instance, priority to free software in public procurement, the lowering of technical and contractual barriers for interoperability and the reinforcement of the right to reverse engineer software are grouped under the "opening and maintaining gateways between competing large ecosystems" label (page 69).

Likewise, an important place is given to commons and to the promotion of collaborative practices and reciprocity. Included also was a reminder not to infringe on the principle of preliminary recourse to a judiciary authority for Web site blocking; the importance of creating a clear and effective system for protecting whistle-blowers; the deployment of data-encryption practices (with systematic use of free software for the teaching of communications encryption in schools); the by-default opening of public data; interoperability in education, etc.

On the basis of this report, the French government presented its digital strategy2, which aims, in the words of Prime Minister Manuel Valls, "to make France a digital republic". This strategy is set up in 14 themes, amongst which the free distribution and publication of research data, the implementation of the digital plan for education, the confirmation in the law of the principle of public data access and reuse, in a free way and at no fee, the inclusion in the law of a clear definition of net neutrality.

The space given to free software in this strategy is too modest. The "active promotion of free licenses" is quoted in the press kit but seems to concern only research results. In a page of the Web site dedicated to the strategy it states, "The government will give special attention to open sourced development and so promote the development and use of free software, a field in which France is one of the most active countries in the world. Thus, on some markets very largely dominated by some software editors, this evolution could help the European industry to reclaim its leadership positions" and on another page it is written that "the use of free software will be encouraged by following the logic of the September 19th, 2002 memorandum". However, no specific action has been announced. Other recommendations from the Conseil National du Numérique, though deserving of consideration, are not mentioned (the promotion of encryption, the judge's role in Web site blocking, reverse engineering, etc.).

"Free software is the digital embodiment of our republican motto, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". We ask the government to follow the Conseil National du Numérique's recommendation regarding the priority to free software should be given in public procurement," stated Frédéric Couchet, April's Executive Director.

"When the government talks about 'some markets very largely dominated by some software editors", a first concrete step would be to stop turning a blind eye to "Open Bar"-type contracts with Microsoft," added Frédéric Couchet.

In the end, the government strategy shows little that is new and, as the intelligence bill is about to be definitively voted on by Parliament, April is still concerned about policies the government plans actually to pursue.

April calls the government to take into account the propositions put forward here and asks that it give to free software all the space it deserves in the digital bill that Axelle Lemaire, Deputy Minister in Charge of Digital Issues, is going to be presenting.

  • 1. The complete report (in French), as well as a summary(in French) are available on the Conseil National du Numérique website. This report contains 398 pages and 70 propositions, grouped in 4 parts (loyalty and freedom in a common digital space; toward a new conception of public action: openness, innovation, participation; improve French growth : toward an innovation economy; solidarity, justice, emancipation : issues in a digital society.
  • 2. A 28 pages press kit as well as a The digital republic in actions web page are available on the government website.