Open and Circulate Data (FR0018)
Action Plan: France, First Action Plan, 2015-2017
Action Plan Cycle: 2015
Lead Institution: Ministry of State for State Reform and Simplification attached to the Prime Minister; Ministry of State for the Digital Sector, attached to the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector
Support Institution(s): NA
Policy AreasAccess to Information, Land Rights & Spatial Planning, Legislation & Regulation, Open Data, Public Service Delivery
France, its government and its local and regional authorities are strongly committed to opening and sharing public data. This essential policy is both a driver of democratic vitality, a strategy for aiding economic and social innovation and a real lever for government modernization.
CONTEXT & AIM
The Government already shares numerous data pertaining at the core of the democratic, economic and social life: access to law, public statistics, transparency of public expenditure, meteorological data, geographical data, land-registry data, etc.
According to the OECD, France is now in the second rank of countries that have made most progress in matters of open data.
The Government has committed to a strong policy on data that favors the modernization of democratic practices and strengthens opportunities for innovation amongst public and private players.
Stakes and challenges relating to the opening of public data have now gone beyond the first stages of implementation (founding of the Etalab mission and the portal data.gouv.fr, creation of the function of Chief Data Officer...): public action should now be focused on building a right to public data, as world economies and governmental practices are evolving ever more rapidly thanks to the digital revolution.
These open data policies can also be extended to local and regional authorities: numerous local authorities, pioneers in the open data movement since 2008, willingly committed to opening and sharing public data. Some thirty of them came together in 2013 within the Open
Data France Association26, in order to support actors engaged in open data and encourage the promotion of this policy. Work will continue on the opening of data of general interest: public actors currently covered by the scope of the CADA Bill of July 17th 1978 are not the only ones to hold data useful to society or the economy. The report 27 presented by Francis Jutand as part of the themed debate on transport data highlighted the extent of information of general interest, defined as "produced in the context of services to the public, for which opening is considered of general interest, because it enables the implementation of new public services". The information on activities of general interest or with strong externalities could be made available as open data, while respecting legal secrecy, principles of free competition, protection of personal data and private life. It is also to be noted that in September 2014, the Prime Minister established the function of Chief Data Officer at the national level. The State itself must learn to best use the data it possesses, in order to open data of high quality in the most relevant formats, define the forthcoming data which should be opened or produced, judiciously use this data to support decision-making and the public debate, treat the protection of privacy and the various legal secrets with the seriousness it deserves, and keep the promise of an improvement in the efficiency of public action through opening public data, The Chief Data Officer must therefore oversee the quality of data produced by the State, define then gradually organize governance of the data, and initiate in the administrations a genuine ability to design and disseminate data-driven public policies as well as to use data in public policy assessments.
• Continue the opening of data that have a strong economic and social impact, particularly "pivotal data"
• Strengthen open data in local and regional authorities: Enshrine in law the obligation to publish the public information of local authorities of more than 3,500 inhabitants (including municipalities and public institutions for inter-municipal cooperation)
• Enshrine in law the principles of default opening of public data (with closure being exceptional) and its unrestricted and cost-free reuse
• Improve the opportunity study on the opening of " general interest data”
IRM End of Term Status Summary
1. Continue the opening of data that have a strong economic and social impact, particularly 'pivotal data'
2. Strengthen open data in local and regional authorities: Enshrine in law the obligation to publish the public information of local authorities of more than 3,500 inhabitants (including municipalities and public institutions for inter-municipal cooperation)
3. Enshrine in law the principles of default opening of public data (with closure being exceptional) and its unrestricted and cost-free reuse
4. Improve the opportunity study on the opening of 'general interest data”
Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text please see France's national action plan: https://bit.ly/2MTYhsR.
Responsible Institutions: Ministry of State for State Reform and Simplification attached to the Prime Minister; Ministry of State for the Digital Sector, attached to the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector
Supporting Institution(s): N/A
Start Date: Not Specified
End Date: Not Specified
This commitment aimed to create a legal framework to implement an open data policy. It seeks to do so by entrenching the principles of proactive data disclosure in law, as well as ensuring access to data is free and unrestricted. This commitment is a precondition to the implementation of other commitments in the action plan, such as Commitment 1 regarding the opening of budget data at the local level. Before this action plan, there was no government-wide policy for defaulting to open data and, in turn, no obligation for publishing government-held data. This commitment creates formal, time-bound requirements to bridge the critical stage between passing a law and its successful implementation.
This commitment was substantially implemented by the midterm. Its milestones were implemented to varying degrees. For example, during the first year of implementation, no pivotal data were opened and steps toward completion were not yet taken. However, a milestone concerning opening local data was completed through the adoption of the NOTRe Law in August 2015, which requires public institutions for inter-municipal cooperation, local and regional authorities (with more than 3,500 residents) to make public information available in open data format. Similarly, the default opening of public data was ensured by the adoption of the Digital Republic Law in October 2016. Lastly, the midterm assessment considered that only limited advancements were made regarding studying the opening of general interest data.
End of Term: Substantial
This commitment is still considered as substantially implemented by the end-of term assessment. The government self-assessment also codes all the milestones as substantially completed. Adoption of the Digital Republic Law in 2016 was a significant development to improve access to information, but implementation of the law has not started.
Pivotal data has started to be opened. Etalab defines “pivotal data” as synonymous to reference data and mentioned the public service of data and the nine reference datasets that have been opened (see Commitment 11).[Note122: Members of the Etalab team, interview with IRM researcher, 23 Oct. 2017.] An example of progress is the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) opening SIRENE, which is a directory of French companies and establishments that is critical for monitoring beneficial ownership in France.
Article 6 of the Digital Republic Law requires that administrations – except legal persons with less than 50 agents or employees[Note123: See decree n° 2016-1922 issued 28 December 2016.] – publish online data having an economic, social, sanitary or environmental interest, with the exception of information that concerns procedural secrets, economic and financial information, or commercial and industrial strategies if the service is subject to competition. The Digital Republic Law's second section concerns the requirement to publish public interest data relating to concession contracts (Article 17) – extending open data requirements to private contractors, the energy industry (Article 23), to judicial decisions (Articles 20 and 21), and to state's property (Article 24).
Article 6 of the Digital Republic Law also addresses local governments. It abrogates the provisions of Article 106 of the NOTRe Law and imposes the ‘default open data' rule to local governments of more than 3,500 residents. Decree n° 2016-1922, issued 28 December 2016, specifies the law's implementation. Commitment 1 of this national action plan seeks to implement this Decree. Stakeholders from civil society note that the ‘default open data' rule is not respected in practice because local government, with the exception of several bigger cities, do not have the financial and technical capacity to implement the new law.[Note124: Member of Open Source Politics, personal communication with IRM researcher, 31 Oct. 2017.] As indicated in the evaluation of Commitment 1, a support pilot mission was launched by the government in nine local governments to help them implement the new law and open the necessary data. The execution of the project was delegated to OpenData France. The project was ongoing when this report was written (October 2017) and the conclusions of the pilot experimentation should be presented in December 2017.[Note125: Opendatafrance, Le planning, https://bourgogne.gitbooks.io/presentation-opendatalocale/content/le-planning.html (accessed 2 Oct. 2017).]
The ‘default open data' rule does not seem to be fully implemented in the central government either. All administrations with more than 50 staff are required to open certain data: all documents communicated following a Freedom of Information request (by April 2017); all documents listed as public information (by October 2017); their databases (by October 2018); all data of particular economic, social, sanitary or environmental interest (by October 2018); and the rules that define the algorithms that guide individual decisions (by October 2018).[Note126: Xavier Berne, Mais que faut-il pour que l'État se mette à la transparence ? (NextImpact, 30 Oct. 2017), https://www.nextinpact.com/news/105503-mais-que-faut-il-pour-que-letat-se-mette-a-transparence.htm.] Journalist Xavier Berne tested the implementation of the new law by comparing documents requested by citizens to CADA, the Commission d'accès aux documents administratifs. The documents requested by citizens should be published online per the new law, and the websites of the relevant ministries, but Berne found that very few of these documents had been posted online.[Note127: Xavier Berne, On a testé les premiers pas de l'Open Data « par défaut » (NextImpact, 20 Sept. 2017), https://www.nextinpact.com/news/105213-on-a-teste-premiers-pas-lopen-data-par-defaut.htm.] Officials interviewed by the journalist point to the absence of sanctions to explain the low level of implementation. Berne states a lack of knowledge and awareness among public officials is another factor that explains the low level of implementation.[Note128: Ibid.] Additionally, he finds that Etalab, responsible for implementation of this commitment, had limited financial and human resources to devote to the commitment activities.[Note129: Id.]
Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Marginal
As outlined in the midterm IRM report, prior to this action plan, there was no government-wide policy of open data by default and therefore no obligation to publish government-held data. Developments made by the government under this commitment, and the adoption of the Digital Republic Law in particular, are a step forward for government openness regarding access to information. However, the Digital Republic Law still needs to be fully implemented; therefore, the commitment's scope and scale remain limited and has only contributed marginally to open government. The potential of full implementation remains transformative.
The Digital Republic Law entrenches in law the principle of default open data, which is a significant change in government practice. It contains clauses on the opening of public information in central and local governments as well as public interest data produced by private contractors. Although these are important improvements to increase access to information and government openness, the legislation still includes a number of exceptions concerning strategic information. In addition, it remains unclear how the government will support local entities in their efforts to open data. Indeed, interviews with stakeholders reveal that the new by default clause is not respected and that both national administrations and local governments experience financial, technical, and cultural difficulties in implementing the new law. Stakeholders identified significant cultural obstacles to the implementation of the Digital Republic Law, including a general lack of awareness of the benefits of open data and government within the government and civil society, therefore leaving a small community of interested parties.[Note130: Member of Open Source Politics, personal communication with IRM researcher, 31 Oct. 2017; Former member of the Prime Minister's cabinet, personal communication with IRM researcher, 6 Nov. 2017.] Bloom, an ocean protection association, shared the obstacles they met when trying to access information on the attribution of European fishing subsidies in France: (i) the poor governance of data leading to a diluted responsibility for managing and sharing data; (ii) the poor quality of the data received, which reduces its usability; and (iii) the absence of visibility of public data, making it difficult to know what data is available and can be requested, and from whom. The last point was shared by other stakeholders as well.[Note131: Member of Bloom, personal communication with IRM researcher, 2 Nov. 2017; Former member of the Prime Minister's cabinet, personal communication with IRM researcher, 6 Nov. 2017.]
This commitment was carried over to the next action plan. In the new action plan, the focus is on opening new datasets; on improving the open data platform (data.gouv.fr); on assisting the government agencies and local governments to open their data and fostering dialogue with public officials; on designating specialised data administrators in Ministries; and on evaluating the impact of the efforts undertaken so far to open data.