Paris wants to share its Lutece platform with other cities to boost agility, cost savings and shared benefits.
Nejia Lanouar, CIO, City of Paris, says an open-source approach allows her team to not only throw up digital services much faster and save money but to also create a better connection between the municipality and Parisians.
The modular, open-source Lutece platform has been developed in-house by the City of Paris since around 2001, following a requirement to launch new websites quickly. Now, Lutece, described as “part operating system, part content management system,” powers over 200 digital city services in Paris with more than two million lines of code. These services include:
Around 35 per cent of Paris’ 1,000 IT applications are Lutece-driven and 15 per cent are based on other open-source software, with the remaining 50 per cent using proprietary systems. As applications are upgraded or new ones added, Lutece and open-source tools will be deployed as much as possible, Lanouar said, noting that this approach enables greater autonomy and agility for the City, as well as the ability to be more transparent and create a better user experience for the citizen.
For one thing, Lanouar said the open-source ethos means Paris is not beholden to vendors’ roadmaps, which are often “out of rhythm” with the City’s, while private-sector code can be something of an “industrial secret”.
Further, open-source systems support a “global vision” for digital services, she said, creating an increasingly one-stop shop for residents and allowing front-end interfaces and back-office systems to be better connected.
In future, this will allow Parisians to track all their interactions with the City via one dashboard. This will include not only city services but also, for instance, the status of issues they have reported via the Dans Ma Rue app.
“It was our mandate to have a CRM [customer relationship management] tool for Parisians," Lanouar commented. “Without this open-source tool, I don’t know how we could do this.”
Before the Dans Ma Rue app, residents would report issues such as graffiti by phone, email or in person. Reports would be analysed internally before being passed to the company contracted to clean. Progress would have to be chased and monitored manually. Now, the Dans Ma Rue application is connected with the software of the company who will clean the graffiti, automating the process end-to-end.
“It was our mandate to have a CRM tool for Parisians. Without this open-source tool, I don’t know how we could do this.”
Similarly, the participatory budget interface has been connected to the back-office systems, which analyse proposals and provide a response direct to the citizen-facing website.
“It can’t work disconnected from the ecosystem,” Lanouar said. Each budget cycle campaign is different, she noted. Because Lutece is open source, it can be adapted as required each year in a way that wouldn’t be as feasible with closed systems.
This year, for example, Paris agreed to make public transport free for children aged between four and eleven. The City was able to develop an application to support this within six months using Lutece.
Lanouar commented: “It enables us to be more agile.” Relying on proprietary solutions, it could have taken up to a year to agree and sign a contract, let alone develop and implement a system, she said.
Now, in partnership with Bloomberg Associates, Paris is working to help more cities in Europe and the United States adopt the system and similar processes to drive collective benefits.
Other cities can download Lutece from GitHub and personalise it to their needs. While they will need some internal resources – Paris has ten developers – or budget to work with external partners to customise, cities don’t need to pay a licence fee and they can re-use existing modules.
“You can avoid an important part of the costs," Lanouar said. The City of Paris has calculated that using Lutece saves it €3 million each year in maintenance.
Other cities can download Lutece from GitHub and personalise it to their needs.
Lyon, for instance, has developed a new application related to safety in buildings, which Paris now intends to reuse. The platform is also able to better manage heavy traffic thanks to core optimisations contributed by a French weather forecaster, which used Lutece to power applications that received up to one million visitors per day.
Lanouar’s message for other cities hoping to reap open-source rewards is to start with new initiatives, rather than become overfaced with unrealistic rip-and-replace thinking.
“When you have a new need, check if an open-source solution exists and has been developed by another city. Think about whether it could be a good thing to download it and compare it to other proprietary solutions," she said.
“And, when you want to change an application, as technology evolves, you can migrate progressively.
“That’s what we are doing in Paris with Lutece.”
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