Open Source Government: France beats Italy 4-0!

SYSTEM@TIC PARIS-REGION, a competitiveness cluster aimed at developing the local economy and enterprises’ competitiveness, using partnership and training to produce and deliver enabling innovations, just run its third internal convention. Among the five thematic groups, since October 2007 has been included a technology-oriented working group on open source (Logiciel Libre).

ParisParis, capital du logiciel libre by Koninho

Roberto Di Cosmo, professor at the university of Paris-Diderot and president of the Logiciel Libre working group, invited me to join the event to learn more about what is going on in the Paris area in the free software arena.

Francois Bancilhon, Mandriva’s CEO, is the vice-president of the open source thematic group, while in the council are sitting representatives from big firms like Cap Gemini, Bull, C-S, along with people from INRIA, university Pierre et Marie Curie and Nuxeo.

Roberto explains that the goal of this group is to help structure the open source ecosystem in the Paris area by federating research laboratories, SMEs and big firms through R&D projects, partially supported by public funding in the standard scheme of competitivenes clusters.

The state played a key role, by providing a framework, the competitiveness cluster, and the funding necessary to catalyze the interest of the actors. On the other side, this framework has been put at work in the particularly fertile ground of the Paris area, that hosts 50% of the ITC R&D of France, with a significant presence of Open Source ISV, a large number of research centers and Universities with IT laboratories, that have a long tradition of contributing to Free Software, and an exceptionally high concentration if IT expenditures.

Roberto, how System@tic allocates resources to the projects?

A distinguishing feature of the R&D projects in a competitiveness cluster, is that they must bring together at least two industrial partners and a research laboratory. In the case of our group, resources are allocated in the following manner: 59% SMEs, 26% laboratories, 15% big firms. The projects go through a rigorous evaluation process, first inside the group, then at the level of the cluster, and then in the services of the ministry of Industry, the region, and the departments of the Paris area.

During the first year public investments sum up to less than five millions euro, less than half of the how much has been allocated for open source software by the Italian budget law last year, this year and next one. Italy is investing more money actually, but it is still unclear how such investments will eventually benefit the IT Italian ecosystem, though.

Italy is still missing a clear strategy about how to foster the Italian open source ecosystem through training, education, research and outreach, while France apparently has found its own path for developing it.

Dominique Vernay, Systematic president, during his opening speech congratulated the Open Source group for the speed with which it has started 4 high quality R&D projects, integrating quickly in the Systematic infrastructure.

Marc Lipinski – vice president of the Conseil Régional de l’Ile de France for higher education, research and innovation – gave a particular importance to the role of this group while addressing the over 400 delegates present in the room, stressing its creation as one of the most significant events in the last year for Systematic.

During coffee-breaks I spoke with few French open source actors, among others Cedric Thomas (OW2), Ludovic Dubost (Xwiki), Stéfane Fermiger (Nuxeo), Daniel Schaefer (Kalis), but also with open source customers, like Denis Teyssou (AFP) or Marie Buhot-Launay (Paris Region Economic Development Agency), inward investment adviser for ISV companies wanting to invest in the Paris area.

People had a very positive feeling with regard to the approved open source projects, and looking at projects like scribo is easy to share their thoughts.

SCRIBO – Semi-automatic and Collaborative Retrieval of Information Based on Ontologies – aims at algorithms and collaborative free software for the automatic extraction of knowledge from texts and images, and for the semi-automatic annotation of digital documents. SCRIBO has a total budget of 4.3M? and is partially funded by the French administration. It brings 9 participants together: AFP, CEA LIST, INRIA, LRDE (Epita), Mandriva, Nuxeo, Proxem, Tagmatica and XWiki.

Italy beat France on a soccer field, but on the open source ground we have a lot to learn from them.

Technorati Tags: France, Italy, Open Source Government, ecosystems, DominiqueVernay, RobertoDCosmo, MarcLipinski, FrancoisBancilhon, Scribo, System@tic