The comparative work by the european Open Source Observatory is really important - not just the data but the way it brings us together.
The french public sector context regarding FLOSS
- The 2016 law for a digital republic encourages the administration to use free software.
- This is not a formal priority like in Italy.
- The current doctrine is to use free software where it suits best (a "pragmatical" approach, as expressed by the head of DINUM.)
What we currently have and do
- We have catalog of recommended free software for the public sector: sill.etalab.gouv.fr
- As of 2020-04-23, we have a list of 3697 public sector repositories : code.etalab.gouv.fr
- The DINUM publishes a newsletter on open source (#BlueHats gazette).
- In 2018, the DINUM started a larger movement : the BlueHats community and recently organized an open source sprint.
- The DINUM set up a partnership with Adullact in january. Adullact's mission is to help cities and small public agencies to adopt open source solutions - they will also promote the open source tools that are developed by the whole public sector.
- The DGFiP is coordinating the relaunch of a the free software maintenance market for the public sector (we learned from our mistakes).
- The DINUM (with other administrative bodies) is rewriting the procurement template for buying open source in the public sector (here again, trying to learn from our mistakes).
Open source during the Covid-19 crisis: resilience, agility, infrastructure
- An informal observation: not innovation first, but community first.
- We have a large community of developers around the DINUM, now very engaged into proposing various open source solutions spontaneously.
- In the higher education and research sector, there is a new mailing list to gather volunteers who want to help deploy servers for jitsi, etc.
- Tchap has doubled its number of users and the crisis helped accelerating the generalization of the access (e.g. now fireworkers can use it.)
- The civil society organized itself to help teachers accomplish their mission distantly: www.continuitepedagogique.org
- In general: the current situation blurs the boundaries between the administration and the civil efforts, and open source helps as a common "cultural" background and as a common way of doing things.
- All of this if very much in line with the idea behind the #bluehats movement, identifying hackers of public interest.
A story: Framasoft and the ministry of education / higher education
- Framasoft is a french NGO promoting the use of free software in every sectors and providing online services to help people avoid GAFAM services.
- Four years ago, they had discussions with the ministry of education but this led nowhere (Framasoft was quite upset that their volunteers lost time discussing non-conclusive collaboration opportunities.)
- At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, the ministry of higher education asked public agents to use Framasoft services... forgetting that Framasoft, while doing an amazing job, is only a small NGO with limited resources.
- Framasoft replied with "teachers, please don't use our tools, ask your administration to deploy their own tools instead."
- This raised awareness about the fact that services, even "gratis" services, always come with a cost and that open source is a mean to decentralize services and/or should be perceived as such.