France: Open source for public authorities
In a guideline, France's Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has called on the country's public authorities at all levels to use open source software wherever possible. According to a report by Joinup, the European Commission's open source web site, the new guideline tells public organisations to "systematically review" alternatives to proprietary software when obtaining or developing new versions of applications.
Ayrault's guideline recommends that public administrations build up open source expertise and start pooling their resources, work with communities of open source developers, and commit code contributions to the projects. The Prime Minister said that French public administrations must make sure that they control their operating costs in the long term. If necessary, "the state must increase competition" by, for example, working on LibreOffice and PostgreSQL, he added.
Open source components are already in widespread use across public authorities in France: around 15% of the country's IT budget is being spent on services in connection with open source software, and this trend is rising. Patrice Bertrand, the chair of the Conseil National du Logiciel Libre (CNLL) French open source industry association, said that official pronouncements on free software are "rarely as clear and committed as this one".
France is not the only country with a trend towards free software: only this summer, Italy passed a law that obliges authorities to use open source products. Open source initiatives for public authorities also exist in Spain and in Iceland.