As of January 2016, the French parliament is debating a bill set to define France’s goals and strategies in the digital sphere, named the “Digital Republic” Bill. Unfolded earlier last year by France’s Minister of State for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire, it pioneers new tools for open government. For the first time, an open consultation was used to co-construct the bill.
Launched by the Prime Minister at the end of 2014, a first six-month online consultation phase helped select the main topics to be covered by the text. The government then developed a draft bill, hosted on a dedicated platform, starting September 2015, allowing any user to amend the government’s text, show support for an article or a revision and engage in an open discussion with other citizens. By the end of the process, 21,130 contributors had registered and 150,000 votes had been casted on the 8,500 amendments, proposals and arguments.
The data produced by the consultation was released in open data on data.gouv.fr. The availability of this data facilitated the organization of a hackathon proposed by researchers, in order to better understand the dynamics of the consultation. This event, supported by Minister Lemaire and Etalab, brought together scientists, engineers, developers, lawyers and activists. Participants were able to analyze the evolution of the submissions and the engagement of various communities and interest groups (companies, associations and NGOs…), while others produced semantic analysis and visualizations.
The “Digital Republic” Bill includes strong progresses in the open data field. The Bill lays the foundation for openness by default of databases and administrative documents. It also creates the principle of a “public service” of data, recognizing that some data produced by the public sector may have a critical role in the economy and society, and should be granted some level of quality and availability. Echoing a discussion led among the OGP’s open data working group, the Bill also introduces the notion of “data of general interest” allowing the opening of data produced by public service delegatees in their mission.
With this legislation France is in line with the implementation of its national action plan, notably commitment 12, “Further expand the opening of legal resources and the collaboration with civil society on opening the law” and commitment 15, “Strengthen government policy on the opening and circulation of data”.