Adopted on 7 November 2018, Paris, France
An eminent group of international experts met upon invitation of UNESCO and Inria on 6 and 7 November 2018 at UNESCO’s Headquarters to discuss software preservation. Indeed, it is increasingly becoming a significant means for capitalizing on the knowledge built over humankind’s recent history in order to foster innovation and advance our understanding of ourselves and of our environment.
In a world where digital technology has become for many an essential tool for social existence, communication, creation, sharing, and is increasingly indispensable for accessing public services, the role of software development is still largely underrated, as is the recognition of software source code as an intellectual effort and as the receptacle and expression of part of our knowledge.
That is why it is crucial to work towards preserving the technological and scientific knowledge embodied in software source code. This objective is at the core of the cooperation between UNESCO and Inria, which started in 2017, in line with UNESCO’s concept of inclusive knowledge societies based on four pillars: freedom of expression, universal access to information and knowledge, respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, and quality education for all.
The expert meeting provided a unique platform to engage with the eminent experts, practitioners, policymakers and activists representing different disciplinary and professional worlds. This includes communities engaged in the preservation, archiving, and dissemination of documentary heritage, particularly in the context of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme; the technical community, ranging from research to computer science education; and activists calling for an open and free environment for cultural expression and technological innovation.
Emerging from this meeting is the Paris Call, representing an important first step towards a coordinated response to the challenges that have been identified. These challenges include the importance of raising awareness among decision-makers, and the recognition of software creators as well as of the contribution of women and minorities to digital innovation and software. The Call goes further to argue for greater access to software source code in order to ensure that citizens, and young people in particular, are empowered with sufficient digital skills and literacy to fully participate in today’s digital society.
Accordingly, the annexed report highlights the importance of preserving software in general, and software source code in particular, as important levers for sustainable development.
These efforts, however, are just starting. It is our collective responsibility and we all must ensure that the knowledge accumulated – and constantly being generated – is not lost. This focus on preservation enables us all to embrace software source code as part of the heritage of our knowledge societies. The Paris Call thus becomes a strong basis to imagine and build new actions around the preservation of the code, and sustain Free and Open Source Software communities through the exchange of the knowledge now archived as part of the Software Heritage Initiative.
Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information