The shift of communities to free software, slow but inevitable?


Free software is no longer seen as an eccentricity but as a resource, sometimes cheaper than proprietary solutions, to regain digital independence.

Bulls, holidays and free software… There is no trace of Microsoft Word, Acrobat Reader or Google Chrome on the computers of the municipality of Arles (Bouches du Rhône). Here everything is stamped “open”, open, in a word, free, for software with publicly accessible source code, continuously updated by community of developers, often volunteers.

OpenCourrier, openRecensement, openCadastre… E-mail management, text editor, shared agenda, cemetery management: from the vote of a 2005 resolution that asked “Gaining independence from the commercial software sector”, more than thirty software (all listed on openMairie) were created in-house by the developers of the IT department of the city of Arles. Some, such as openElec – used to manage electoral lists – have been adopted by thousands of municipalities and translated into English and Spanish. A real success in the small “librarian” world.

However, in the Camargue, this tradition is about to end. In June 2020, a new majority is elected, led by Patrick de Carolis, mayor of the city (DVD). In early 2022, as part of the reorganization of services, the Director General of Services announces his decision to transfer all IT equipment to Microsoft’s Office software suite from 2And semester 2022, as reported by the magazine The Arlesiana. When asked about the reasons for this reversal, the municipality of Arles had not returned The world at the time of publication.

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“The free man has won”

The announcement of the Arles decision has cooled the staunchest supporters of free software in administrations. “It’s just an unfortunate accident, a whim that will pass to him. You know, the progress curve is never linear “smiles, however, the philosopher François Raynaud, former head of the computer science department of the city of Arles, about to retire. And to add, a little triumphant: “The free has won: almost all servers in the world run on Linux [un système d’exploitation « libre », alternatif à Windows]and most smartphones on Android, a Linux-based operating system. “

Quietly, several communities have supported this free software movement. Already in 2001, the city of Paris paved the way with Lutèce, a java web portal tool developed by the information systems and technologies department, adopted almost everywhere since, in particular by the technical teams of the cities of Lyon and Marseille or by those of the Météo- France. At different scales, cities such as Arles, but also Angoulême, Montreuil-sous-Bois, Grenoble and Montpellier have gradually begun to shift their IT resources to free solutions.

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