On December 18, 2013, the French Prime Minister, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, the Secretary for Government Reform, Local Governments and Civil Service, Ms Marylise Lebranchu, and the Deputy Secretary for SMBs, Innovation and the Digital Economy, Ms Fleur Pellerin, have released a new version of France’s Open Data platform: data.gouv.fr.
The latest iteration of the platform, conceived and operated by Etalab, the Prime Minister’s taskforce for Open Government Data at SGMAP (the Secretariat General for State Modernization) and which was so far gathering data released by government alone, is now embracing a radical shift towards the social web by opening up to contributions and datasets released by everyone.
This new design was inspired by the many conversations that took place as part of the ‘CoDesign’ initiative conducted by Etalab this past spring. It is structured around three key requirements:
- Enabling users to easily access the most relevant data to answer their questions and solve their problems.
- Making it easy for any government data producer to release data in just a few clicks: the focus on the new site’s back-end aims at removing all remaining technical
complexities which could have acted as barriers to the publication of open data.
- Improving government data thanks to the contributions and interpretations of its reusers.
The platform becomes a new instrument for a community of producers and users of public interest data. They will gradually help improve data quality and share its applications, and shape the rules of engagement on the platform.
The new data.gouv.fr will still host data released by the departments and public authorities which choose to do so, such as – for instance – the detailed accounts of all political parties published by the National Commission for Campaign Accounts and Financing, or very soon all the decisions and findings of the Commission on Access to Administrative Documents (CADA).
It will also list the datasets released by institutions which have already developed their own open data portals by redirecting users directly to these sites. This new positioning already helped bring more than 50 local governments, as well as institutions such as the National Office for Water and Aquatic Areas (ONEMA), the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), etc. on the platform. It turns data.gouv.fr into a single access point for citizens researching public data sources.
Local governments that have already joined Data.gouv.fr (by Dec. 18, 2013)
Every dataset can now be improved by citizens, researchers, journalists, or by civil servants themselves… More than 450 examples of data reuse and interpretations are already listed on the platform and help give new meaning to government data. The ability to engage with innovators who will make use of the data – testing new technologies, new ideas or new points of view – is a key feature for the departments and public authorities which share their data on data.gouv.fr.
Examples of data resuse and interpretations listed on the new Data.gouv.fr
Governments do not have a monopoly on the production of public service data. The new data.gouv.fr was hence designed to host datasets produced by corporations, citizens or non-profits as well as government data. A clear visual indication helps distinguish between reference data published by public administrations certified as such by Etalab, and information released by individual contributors which are not certified.
This new modus operandi has already produced results and helped convene data producers onto data.gouv.fr from a variety of backgrounds – such as the Paris School of Economics, OpenStreetMap, OpenFoodFacts, NosDonnées.fr (by Regards Citoyens and the Open Knowledge Foundation) as well as the data released and referenced by startups such as DataPublica or OpenDataSoft.
Example of data released by OpenStreetMap on Data.gouv.fr
Thanks to these design decisions, the new data.gouv.fr now points to four times as much information as the previous version. To improve the search experience, Etalab consolidated isolated files into complete and continuous time series (for instance aggregating data into a single table or at the level of the largest available geographical area). Thus the 350,000 data sets of the previous version have now become 2,900 complete series. For comparison purposes, there is now a total of 13,000 data series on data.gouv.fr.
This concentration of data files in fewer data series, as well as the many social features helping users contribute to the platform (listing data visualizations, signaling the most useful files, etc.) will greatly simplify and enhance search, especially by promoting up the most useful results, the most reused series or the best quality data.
The entire project was lead using a ground-breaking methodology developed by Etalab and the French Office of the CIO (Direction Interministérielle des Systèmes d’Information et de Communication, or DISIC): a ‘Government startup’, enjoying a wide latitude in its strategic and technological choices and making the best use of open source solutions and cloud computing.
The investment required for this new platform will hence be entirely offset as early as 2014 by the savings it generates. Thus, France chose to start from the most widely used open source software for open data portals (the CKAN platform developed under the guidance of the Open Knowledge Foundation) and to give back to the community the code source of the ‘French Social CKAN’ on which data.gouv.fr is built – by releasing it on GitHub, which sparked widespread interest from the international Open Data community.
More than a data portal, data.gouv.fr is now the common platform of a community of Open Government Data producers and re-users. France opens an extremely innovative new chapter in the worldwide movement of Open Data, which aims at spurring empowerment and engagement of citizens in civic life, as well as more transparent and open
(Article original en Français : La Lettre du Coepia, décembre 2013)