On April 3rd, 2017, Inria and UNESCO pledged their commitment to the preservation of the software heritage by signing a partnership around the Software Heritage project.
UNESCO and Inria signed an agreement at the Organization’s headquarters to contribute to the preservation of the technological and scientific knowledge contained in software. This includes promoting universal access to software source code.
The agreement was signed in the presence of the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, and Inria’s Chief Executive Officer, Antoine Petit.
“The role of digital or software in our societies has become considerable (…),” said François Hollande. There is no need to be afraid or fall into a form of deification of the tool itself or technology. We must not believe that this is the solution to all our problems. What is expected of us is to be able to control, to be able to transmit, is to be able to put these technologies, this information, these elements that become of the heritage at the service of the humanity. This is the meaning of the Inria-UNESCO convention, based on research, culture and education.”
“This partnership with Inria marks the strengthening of an international mobilization for the preservation and sharing of software heritage,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, welcoming the commitment at the highest level of France in this domain. The Director-General welcomed the new agreement, which “links two essential components of UNESCO’s work for cooperation and peace: heritage preservation on the one hand, innovation and research on the other.”
‘It is right to provide to each future citizen, no matter what is the country of origin and culture, the keys to understand the digital word in which he lives and for providing him with the capacity to make informed choices. Our partnership must help us to spread this idea and to make it shared by as many people as possible,” declared Antoine Petit.
This agreement between UNESCO and Inria aims to foster an international debate and actions in favor of a universal access to all digital documents, but also to preserve scientific and technical knowledge contained in software.
This cooperation will be based, in particular, on Software Heritage, a project initiated by Inria, whose objective is to collect, preserve and make accessible to all the source code of all available software. As a large part of scientific knowledge is produced by software or imbedded in software it is important to ensure that it is well archived and well preserved. Inria’s Software Heritage programme aims to build a universal and perennial archive of software accessible to future generations..
UNESCO encourages universal access to information and the preservation of knowledge. The Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage, adopted in 2003, recalls that digital documents include, among a wide range of electronic formats, texts, databases, images, audio-documents or Web pages. It calls on UNESCO’s Member States to select what should be preserved and protected for the digital heritage, which is threatened by the obsolescence of computer hardware and software, maintenance problems or the absence of protective legislation.
In 2015 UNESCO’s General Conference adopted a Recommendation concerning the Preservation of, Access to, Documentary Heritage, including Digital Heritage, especially encouraging Member States to protect their documentary heritage and the development and use of free software in the management of documentary heritage.
UNESCO also has the YouthMobile initiative, which has been launched in some 20 countries, to introduce young people, especially women, to the creation of mobile applications.
A debate on the role of software in accessing knowledge in the digital age, organized on 15 June at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), will mark the first stage of cooperation between UNESCO and Inria. An international conference on the preservation of and access to software source code will also be held in September on the occasion of the International Day of Universal Access to Knowledge.