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Open and Circulate Data (FR0018)



Action Plan: France, First Action Plan, 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive


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 Areas

Access to Information, Land Rights & Spatial Planning, Legislation & Regulation, Open Data, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

IRM Report: France End-of-Term Report 2015-2017, France Mid-Term Progress Report 2015-2017

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i



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.

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, 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

15. Strengthen Government policy on the opening and circulation of data

Commitment Text:


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:

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

Commitment Aim

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.


Midterm: Substantial

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, (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),] 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),] 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.]

Carried Forward?

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 (; 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.


  1. Transparency of Public Services

    FR0030, 2018, E-Government

  2. Transparency of Public Procurement

    FR0031, 2018, Access to Information

  3. Transparency of Development Aid

    FR0032, 2018, Access to Information

  4. Expand Open Data

    FR0033, 2018, Access to Information

  5. Improved Data Policies and Administration

    FR0034, 2018, Access to Information

  6. Transparency of Public Algorithms

    FR0035, 2018, E-Government

  7. Open Data at Sub-National Level

    FR0036, 2018, Access to Information

  8. State AI Lab

    FR0037, 2018, Automated Decision-Making

  9. Administrative Capacity-Building

    FR0038, 2018, Capacity Building

  10. Public Service Incubators

    FR0039, 2018, Capacity Building

  11. Streamline Data Flows

    FR0040, 2018, Access to Information

  12. Open Etat Forum

    FR0041, 2018, E-Government

  13. Online Procedures Dashboard

    FR0042, 2018, E-Government

  14. Govtech Summit

    FR0043, 2018, Capacity Building

  15. Improve Public Consultation Mechanisms

    FR0044, 2018, E-Government

  16. International Transparency and Citizen Participation

    FR0045, 2018, Aid

  17. Public Pariticipation in Sustainable Development

    FR0046, 2018, Access to Information

  18. Open Science

    FR0047, 2018, Access to Information

  19. Citizen Involvement in Cour Des Comptes

    FR0048, 2018, Access to Information

  20. Transparency of Interest Representatives

    FR0049, 2018, Access to Information

  21. Access to Information on Public Officials

    FR0050, 2018, Access to Information

  22. Open Regional and Local Authorities' Data

    FR0001, 2015, Access to Information

  23. Publish Municipal Council Decisions and Reports Online

    FR0002, 2015, E-Government

  24. Publish Building Permits in Open Data Format

    FR0003, 2015, Access to Information

  25. Starred commitment Increase Transparency in Public Procurement

    FR0004, 2015, Access to Information

  26. Improve Transparency in International Development Aid

    FR0005, 2015, Access to Information

  27. Open Access to Public Policy Evaluations

    FR0006, 2015, E-Government

  28. Involve Citizens in Cour Des Comptes Work

    FR0007, 2015, Access to Information

  29. Access to Public Officials Transparency Obligations

    FR0008, 2015, Access to Information

  30. Starred commitment Beneficial Ownership

    FR0009, 2015, Anti-Corruption

  31. Transparency in Extractive Industries

    FR0010, 2015, Anti-Corruption

  32. Transparency in International Trade Commercial Negotiations

    FR0011, 2015, Access to Information

  33. Fix My Neighborhood

    FR0012, 2015, E-Government

  34. Digital Fix-It

    FR0013, 2015, Access to Information

  35. Co-Produce Data Infrastructure with Civil Society

    FR0014, 2015, Access to Information

  36. Starred commitment Open Legal Resources

    FR0015, 2015, Access to Information

  37. Reform Participatory Mechanisms

    FR0016, 2015, Public Participation

  38. Mediation and Justice

    FR0017, 2015, Access to Justice

  39. Starred commitment Open and Circulate Data

    FR0018, 2015, Access to Information

  40. Open Calculation Models and Simulators

    FR0019, 2015, Access to Information

  41. Open Platform for Government Resources

    FR0020, 2015, E-Government

  42. Improve Public Services Through E-Government and User Interaction

    FR0021, 2015, E-Government

  43. Empower Civil Society to Support Schools

    FR0022, 2015, E-Government

  44. Diversify Recruitment Within Public Institutions

    FR0023, 2015, Capacity Building

  45. Culture Change

    FR0024, 2015, Capacity Building

  46. Spread Public Innovation

    FR0025, 2015, Capacity Building

  47. Starred commitment Protect Against Conflicts of Interest

    FR0026, 2015, Anti-Corruption

  48. Civil Society & Transparency in COP21 Conference Planning

    FR0027, 2015, Environment and Climate

  49. Open Data and Climate/Sustainable Development

    FR0028, 2015, Access to Information

  50. Collaborate with Civil Society on Climate and Sustainable Development

    FR0029, 2015, Environment and Climate

Open Government Partnership