The French government was among the first in Europe to consider setting up a national Free Software policy. The first proposals are dated 1999. Since then, several ministries, including Ministries of Defence, Culture, Economy, moved to Free Software operating systems.
In 2007, a guide of using Free Software in public administrations was published. Open Standards are used in e-government systems at the national, regional and local level.
Also, France has a public procurement law which includes the definition of Open Standards but does not provide them with mandatory or preferable status.
On September 19 2012, the newly appointed French government published a circular on Free Software in public administration. The document aims at giving guidelines and recommendations to public bodies related to their use of Free Software, it . It highlights the advantages of Free Software in term of competition, technological sovereignty and cost control. It also stresses the importance of sharing knowledge and skills in the digital society. The document promotes public contribution to Free Software project and regular contact with Free Software communities. The policy created several working groups -on desktop applications, data bases, server OS and virtualisation systems- and a "kernel team" to favour interoperability, promote good practices and manage public contribution to Free Software projects.
On June 25 2013, a law concerning the “Policy and planning for the rebuilding of the school of the Republic ” was voted by the French Parliament. Its article 10 concerning e-learning states that procurement for e-learning services has to “consider Free Software and open format offers, if any”.
On July 9 2013 the prioritisation of Free Software was voted by the French parliament for the first time. It concerns learning resources used by French Higher Education public service. Article L. 123-4-1 states that
"The Public Service for Higher Education provides digital services and educational resources to its users." "Free software is used on a priority basis."
In the early 2016, the French National Assembly approved a first draft law for a Digital Republic, which encourages (rather than prioritising) the use of Free Software by the country's public administrations. The draft Digital Law does consider source code of software developed by or for public administrations to be public information, which should be made available on request.
In 2016, Paris’ administrative court (“tribunal administratif de Paris”) concluded that the software source code written by and for public authorities can be considered as an administrative document and can be freely accessed. As a result of the case, France has officially opened the source code of the fiscal calculator used by the French fiscal administration to calculate the income taxes of individuals in France.
Later in the same year, the aforementioned "Digital Republic" Law came into force. Under the law, source code considered as administrative document and released electronically must be made available in an open standard format that can be easily reused and processed. Nevertheless, April expresses its concerns: first, it considers the newly-added restriction for the access to the administrative documents, based on threats for the security of the government disproportionate; second, the law does not establish the use of Free Software in public administrations, but only "encourages" certain government departments to consider Free Software and Open Standards when developing, purchasing and using software.
Nevertheless, Free Software has been integrated into policy-making activity in both the Ministry for Ecological Transition in Solidarity and Cohesion of Territories (since June 2018), and the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (since May 2018).