For several months, OSP and the Senate teams have been working hand in hand to launch a new service: the official petitions.senat.frplatform
This platform allows citizens to submit petitions and/or sign them online, in a secure way thanks to an advanced FranceConnect integration. This democratic innovation uses the free and open source Decidim technology, and in particular the "Initiatives" module, which allows citizens the right of interpellation.
Used by the Barcelona City Council for several years, this is the first time it has been deployed in France, and also for the first time in a European Union Parliament.
A major democratic innovation for our institutions
Decidim's Petitions module is deployed for the first time on a national scale, making the Senate the first Parliament of the European Union to contribute to the development of this digital common good.
This system is reminiscent of the petition.parliament. uk platform that was successfully set up by the British Parliament: the collection of several million signatures made it possible to bring 73 citizens' petitions before parliamentarians in the UK.
These two initiatives demonstrate the growing willingness of parliamentary institutions to open up to citizens by offering them the ability to put issues on the legislative agenda.
After the mixed results of the Grand Débat, it is interesting to see that national consultation exercises that were previously purely consultative are now gradually giving way to methods that leave more room for manoeuvre for citizens - we are thinking, for example, of the Citizens' Climate Convention and its participatory platform Decidim, also set up by OSP.
These are important new advances for civic tech in terms of impact and we are delighted that they are being made on Decidim. Each time, the choice of this free software was made taking into account the ethical rules that govern it and its exemplary nature in terms of personal data protection. The CNIL recently highlighted the qualities of the software in its Cahier Innovation et Prospective sur les Civic Tech(see our article here).
Indeed, free and open source are the best guarantees of transparency for a digital platform. The source code is accessible and makes it possible to know all the internal workings of the platform. These same properties allow the software to be taken over, installed and modified by other institutions or communities. Thus, the investment that the Senate has made in the software will benefit all other organisations that want to use Decidim, whether at the parliamentary or local level. For example, the City of Barcelona has developed this module to allow citizens to enter the City Council and place items on its agenda.
An important technical innovation
Open Source Politics, in collaboration with FranceConnect and the Senate, was therefore able to take the existing software and adapt it to this new context.
The challenges posed by the Senate petition platform were significant:
- ensure that the depositors and signatories are natural persons of full age and registered in the INSEE national identification register;
- guarantee the anonymity of the signatories;
- Ensure that each person signs only one signature per petition.
To do this, we used a brand new feature of FranceConnect that allows us to meet all these constraints. FranceConnect is an identification and authentication system for individuals proposed by the State to secure access to online public services, via the identifiers of the tax authorities or health insurance, for example.
Petitions.senat.fr is thus the first site to use France Connect authentication anonymously! On each petition, by clicking on the "Sign" button, the user creates an anonymous account via FranceConnect. The only information retrieved is the identification key, a unique and anonymous identification key provided by FranceConnect. No other data is retrieved after signing a petition.
Secondly, the Senate needed to devise its rules for handling petitions. In this respect, a petition can be
- on the creation of a Senate monitoring mission;
- or on the inclusion of a legislative text on the Senate's agenda.
Before being examined by the Conference of Presidents, proposals must pass two admissibility checks:
- A first technical admissibility check before publication (French language, non-discriminatory fonts, etc);
- A substantive review for petitions that reach a minimum of 100,000 signatures within a 6-month period.
During all these successive stages, the platform allows the evolution of petitions to be followed by all Internet users. Decidim makes it possible to document all the steps and makes the process understandable and accessible for both the petitioners and the signatories.
First figures and impressions
After only 2 weeks of activity, there are 31 petitions, and more than 6000 signatures! A successful launch that deserves to be known by the general public.
The first signs of massive adoption are felt with a petition aiming at "Drawing up a balance sheet of the Euro and evaluating its effects on French society" totalling nearly 4000 signatures in only 10 days!
This use case of Decidim by OSP with the contributory platform of the Climate Citizens' Convention shows the appetite of institutions to strengthen interactions with citizens through digital means. It validates once again Decidim as a reference software for democratic innovation in Europe and Open Source Politics as a trusted provider for large-scale projects.
Citizens, get your petitions in! This is your chance to contribute to the parliamentary agenda.