Faced with the expansion of Gafam, free software is an essential approach to rethinking technology for the benefit of citizens.

Grandstand. On June 4, 5, 6, the City of Paris, MossLabs and OW2 are hosting a forum to discuss the future of collaboration between cities on free software. A pioneer in this field since 2002, the City of Paris has implemented a free software policy, now grouped under the aegis of the Lutèce platform, developed specifically for municipal administrations. Free for cities, they have access to hundreds of applications, which they can make available to their agents and citizens.

Cities, states, companies, associations… All these entities are today confronted with the importance of creating quality digital services, meeting new needs, respecting the personal data of users, and at a cost that can be supported, in particular for public power. An equation that is often difficult to implement!

Solutions

However, the solutions exist and among them: free software or open source which provide for the free distribution of the source code of the software with the possibility of studying it, modifying it and redistributing the modifications. This conception of software development is now used massively by all the major digital players who can reuse many bricks proposed in particular by major foundations such as Apache, Linux Foundation, Eclipse or OW2.

What has existed for a long time for system or infrastructure software is beginning to emerge for vertical applications and in particular for public services.

Read alsoCambridge Analytica, big data and big damage

For cities, it is first of all a significant economic gain. Rather than redeveloping, on the scale of sometimes very small territories, new technological solutions from scratch, free software allows communities to reuse software created by others, in order to acquire digital services at a lower cost. . As the Public Money Public Code campaign explains, aside from the financial aspect, it also makes sense that tax-funded software should be released under a free license. “If it’s public money, the code should also be public” and the platform will remain so after its creation.

Free software also allows the improvement of tools that are at the service of the common good. Thanks to communities of coders and partnerships between public actors, software is improved, as technological innovations are made, and adapted to the new needs of citizens. In Paris, several projects of this type are being developed, such as the PaLyNi chabot shared with the cities of Lyon and Nice on waste treatment, the drafting of public contracts shared today with the State or digital work spaces for colleges and high schools used by other French departments or regions.

Transparency

Cambridge Analytica, undermining of net neutrality, use of personal data by companies… the last few years have been marked by a climate of general mistrust on the part of citizens in the face of monopolies whose exponential extension seems out of control . Thanks to free software, cities are no longer hostages: they have the means to regain control of their digital services, without having to go through private operators, who control the data and are likely to increase their prices according to market developments. They can also more easily entrust these missions to local contractors.

But the question of free software is also that of transparency. In Paris, the code of citizen participation tools (participatory budget, public consultation platform, meeting of elected officials with lobbyists) is also public. Because these platforms and this information are for the common good. Using open source means empowering citizens to verify that they are indeed neutral and transparent. It is also to allow them to propose improvements according to their needs and their uses.

Digital sovereignty and independence

Is it well secured? You have to understand the concern of the territories in the face of this technological approach, which has existed for a long time but which has not always been used enough. If the community of developers is large enough, open source offers better security guarantees than closed code, but with much less proofreading. At the technical level but also at other levels: no risk of bankruptcy of a service provider, data leakage or overbilling!

Faced with the exponential expansion of Gafam, the weakness of European companies in major digital services and weak state legislation, free software is an essential approach for rethinking technology for the benefit of citizens and at the service of democratic control. they have to exercise.

That’s why, even though exciting initiatives already exist around the world, today we are calling on cities around the world to create an international free software community and together address the great challenges facing cities. of the world. As digital issues become more complex, cities must commit together in the right direction: that of digital sovereignty and independence, that of open data and free software.