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OW2 Co-signs Op-ed Article Endorsing MP Bothorel's Report.

January 18, 2021


OW2 CEO Cedric Thomas co-sign op-ed in Le Monde with Stefane Fermigier and Prof. Roberto Di Cosmo in support of MP Eric Bothorel's recommendation to set up a specialized open source bureau for the French administration. 

English translation of the pre-print version of op-ed published in Le Monde on January 17, 2021
Check out the French text with list of all co-signatories here.
This version published under CC-BY-ND 4.0 Creative Commons licence. 

A digital sovereignty issue, open source software warrants a real public strategy.

On January 1, 2022, with the presidential election campaign in full swing, and as the country takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union for six months, France will be keen to foster cooperation between the member states. Each minister will be expected to set out their own ambitious programmes. To be in tune with history, France will have to promote cooperation between member states in the digital field and rise to the challenges by placing the values of openness, transparency, inclusiveness and autonomy in open source software at the heart of its digital strategy. To achieve this, we are calling for the creation within the government administration of a "free software bureau" reporting to the Prime Minister and with the necessary resources and drive to engage with the free software ecosystem, its communities and companies. In this, we support one of the strong recommendations in Member of Parliament Eric Bothorel’s report relative to public policy on data, algorithms and source codes made public on December 23, 2020.

Free software (also known as open source software, i.e. covered by licenses guaranteeing the rights to use, study, modify and redistribute it freely) and open data are two major challenges of the modern digital world public administrations are becoming increasingly aware of. In November 2020, the European Commission published its strategy for Open Source software. It clearly emphasizes openness as a driver of innovation, digital autonomy and respect for citizens and users. The Commission notes that open source enables entire organizations to easily "connect seamlessly across organizational silos and borders" to improve the efficiency of their processes. For the Commission, the effects of the open source paradigm go beyond software to "define a vision for fostering and harnessing the transformative, innovative and collaborative power of open source, its principles and development practices". More recently, in December 2020, the European Council called in its Berlin Declaration to "promote the development, sharing and reuse of open source standards, solutions and specifications across borders". Finally, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s appointing of open source specialist David Recordon to Chief Technology Officer at the White House is another sign of the interest that Open Source software represents for public administrations.

In terms of digital sovereignty, the key role of Open Source software as a means to regain economic independence from non-EU players and safeguard skilled jobs within the Union is widely recognized. Already in 2018, the General Secretariat for Defense and National Security (SGDSN) recommended "an industrial strategy based on open source, [which,] provided it is part of a well-considered commercial approach, can enable French and European manufacturers to gain market share where they are currently absent, and thereby enable France and the European Union to regain sovereignty". In November 2020, the European Commission pointed out that "the open source model has an impact on Europe's digital autonomy. It will probably give Europe a chance to create and maintain its own independent digital approach to the digital giants in the cloud and allow it to keep control of its processes, information and technology." In this context, by also rightly observing that free software and open data are major enablers of innovation, digital sovereignty and the transformation of public action, the Bothorel report marks a crucial milestone for the French administration.

France’s government has everything to gain by giving itself the means to implement a determined policy of digital openness, especially since the country has no shortage of assets, so much so that is recognized as a European leader in the use of Open Source technologies. With hundreds of SMEs, a number major companies and recognized associations representing more than 50,000 jobs, a dynamic industry has developed over the last 20 years to meet the needs of businesses and public administrations. But there is more. The government’s policy on Open Source software is itself already enshrined in law. Article 16 of the Digital Republic Act put forward by Axelle Lemaire in 2016 requires that "[the administrations concerned] encourage the use of free software and open formats when developing, purchasing or using all or part of [their] information systems," to "preserve their control, durability and independence."

The Bothorel report goes further, calling on us to enforce this legislative framework by creating a lean and transversal administrative entity specialized in open source. In this sense, alignment with the vision, strategy and pillars for action of the European Commission, currently setting up its own open source program office, would come at the right time. With less than a year to go before the rotating presidency of the European Union, it is urgent that France should give itself the resources it needs to secure the experience, maturity and legitimacy required in the digital arena to be in a position to incorporate into the institutional landscape a strong policy in favor of Open Source that other countries will expect of it, and whose absence would penalise our ecosystem.

Signed by:
    • Roberto Di Cosmo, Director Software Heritage, Professor of Software Engineering, Inria and Université de Paris
    • Stefane Fermigier, Free Software entrepreneur, Co-President CNLL (Conseil National du Logiciel Libre)
    • Cedric Thomas, Economist, CEO OW2 Open Source Organisation 

Co-signed by:
    • Updated listist of all endorses here.