• Minitel was an
early telecom-munications net-work launched in
France in 1982,
a precursor to
Its users could
airline or train
as well as access
information ser-vices, databases
November + December 2010
harmonize practices and offer common guidance.
Such a bottom-up approach tends to slow down the
development of public policies.
A good example of idiosyncrasies of the status
quo in the matter concerns accessibility policies.
The European Council encouraged state members
to enact laws for accessibility of public websites at
all levels of government. Many member states such
as France, Germany, Portugal, and the U.K., among
many others, have created laws for the accessibility of digital content. In France it slowly began in
1999 with an internal recommendation based on
W3C/ WAI standards, stipulating that “people in
charge of websites should pay attention to provide
accessible content for all users, in particular for
impaired users.” This recommendation was voted
on February 11, 2005 (law number 2005-102 “for
equal rights and equal opportunities, participation
and citizenship of impaired people”). The content
of that law is vague: it says an e-government Web
portal should be accessible but it does not define
what is meant by website accessibility. In 2009
an official French standard of accessibility RGAA
(Référentiel général d’accessibilité pour les administrations) was published and imposed as a reference for
assessing the accessibility of e-government portals.
The application of accessibility RGAA recommendations may entitle a French website to have the label
ACCESSIWEB ( www.accessiweb.org), which is based
on W3C-WCAG recommendations but features
some adaptations required to deal with cultural
issues such as the French language. However, if the
website is expected to be used outside of France, it
should also apply for the label EURACERT (www.
euracert.org), which follows the European referential UWEM ( www.wabcluster.org). Currently, there is
an initiative aiming for the harmonization of accessibility labels and for promoting UWEM-EURACERT
so that it may ultimately reduce the cacophony
around accessibility standards in Europe.
A good aspect of the EU is that it promotes initiatives such as epractice.eu for sharing best practices
among member countries. EU public policies have
pushed the French government to accelerate the
adoption of information technologies in public
administration and discuss new regulations. For
example, the law HADOPI (law n° 2009-669 of June
12, 2009), which regulates the rights for creation
and dissemination of information on the Internet,
follows the European directive 2001/29/CE, published on May 22, 2001. The debate around HADOPI
was controversial in the French society as it questioned the privacy of Internet users, in particular
those downloading illegal content. Under social
pressure and the need to comply with EU directives,
the law was completed with a second law, known as
HADOPI 2, voted on September 21, 2009, finally settling this question into French legislation.