Collectivities: 5 key steps to launch an open data approach

Dernière mise à jour : 28/10/2021

“Our country needs more openness” - this is the general observation that Éric Bothorel, in charge of the openness of public data in the government, raises. Although France is among the most advanced countries on the issue, the lead is minimal.

The open data approach is defined as complex by many local and regional authorities. We propose you to demystify this topic with 5 steps to start serenely.

5 etapes cles pour lancer votre démarche open data

Definition of open data

Open data is data to which access is completely public and free of rights, as well as exploitation and reuse.

Open data has a legal framework that defines what information that can or cannot be disseminated.

For local authorities, open data means publishing statistical, geographical, social, economic and financial information on their territories.

These data are a source of information for researchers, journalists, students and citizens. It thus paves the way for the creation of new services and promotes the transparency of public action.

Step 1: Launch the initiative and validate the process

To date (May 2021), only 594 local authorities have opened their data according to the results of the open data observatory. For local authorities, open data is a collective project where everyone has their own priorities. According to the Territorial Bank:

  • For elected officials, opening data allows one to better understand how the territory works in order to make better decisions.
  • The general management must check that the data is of good quality for the development of decision-making tools.
  • Technical services are called upon to manage skills and control data.
  • The departments in charge of public transport pay attention to travel flows.
  • The Data Protection Officer ensures compliance with the GDPR.
  • The IS (information system) department ensures the flow of data and strengthens the security of the system.
All stakeholders in the community involved in this change must be fully aware of the issues.

The stakes of open data: what’s the point?

The first step is to raise awareness and expose these issues to the various stakeholders in order to develop a common vision. The issues of open data in local authorities are as much economic as scientific, democratic and political as the Bothorel report points out.

  • Economic: open data and constant innovation. Thanks to the data collected and disseminated, public and private actors can develop better quality services in order to better meet citizens' expectations. For example, real-time data about public transportation make it possible to create carpooling services, facilitate access to parking spaces, provide information on traffic, etc.
  • Scientific: Open data is a source of knowledge. Data sharing allows easy access to information and quick processing of the data made available. The Covid19 crisis is a perfect example. More data sharing between research teams would have enabled better management and processing of Covid19.
  • Democratic: Open data and improved public services. For local governments, the transparency in public action makes it possible to build a relationship of trust with citizens. As such, data concerning the community management decisions must be communicated to the maximum. Open data promotes citizen initiatives such as actions that fight against isolation, that raise awareness on the energy and ecological transition, that promote artistic creativity or short circuits, etc.
  • Policy: Open data, trust and measurement. The valuation and transparency of data and services contribute to the improvement of the image of the territory, reduce tensions, reduce conspiracy and make it possible to measure the effects of the policy conducted.
  • Social: Open data and the improvement of services offered to the public by associations. The opening of data allows to propose new options for the optimization of the proposed services concerning housing, mobility and the environment.

What are the objectives of an open data project?

Now that the issues have been exposed, your collectivity’s open data approach must have a goal. Each community can have its own priorities and resources. The goal is to start smoothly and not get lost due to lack of experience.

You can follow progressive data opening objectives divided into 3 levels, such as those proposed by the Opendatalab guide:

  • Level 1: Improving the transparency and accountability of public action. Examples: data related to budget management and mayoral decisions.
  • Level 2: Service development and improvement. Examples: urban services data on water, waste and transport.
  • Level 3: Strengthening and personalizing the link between citizen and community. Examples: value daily data and services that create attractiveness for the territory.

What are the roles to be assigned to the actors?

For the success of an open data project, the actors involved are of paramount importance. Several forms of organization are possible depending on the community:

  • A data protection officer (mandatory)
  • A chief data officer
  • A data committee
  • A project manager
  • A contact person in the main departments

The Bothorel report recommends training teams to assimilate the rules to be followed, from data entry to publication.

Identifying the stakeholders creates a new function (if it does not already exist) within the local authority: the data function. It is this function that is in charge of the project and that validates the approach.

Note that the State supports local authorities in their open data approach with the Etalab mission dedicated to improving public service and public action through data. Open data is a project that mobilizes human and financial resources. To help local governments take the plunge, the Territorial Bank can provide funding if necessary.

Step 2: Identify the data to be opened

The RCAP (Code of Relations between the Public and the Administration) defines the general framework for the opening of standard administrative data to be published:

  • Documents produced or received by the administration in the framework of a public service mission
  • Documents communicating the application of RCAP procedures
  • Documents that appear in the Public Information Repository
  • Databases produced or received that are not publicly released
  • Data whose publication is of economic, social, health or environmental interest.

The data you must prioritize and those that are recommended by Opendata France, we talk about this in another article here.

These are standard opening data that must be tailored to your goals. The more you open, the more you progress!

WARNING: There are restrictions on the sharing of public data, particularly regarding compliance with the GDPR. Also, some administrative documents cannot be disseminated if they are covered by the protection of legal secrecy or contain personal data.

For more details on the legislation, see our article on open data: open public data and value it.

Step 3: Define the Data Availability Strategy

Once the data to be opened has been carefully chosen, the question now is: how to make the data usable and tangible?

To do this, you need to transform the data you have into a standardized and normalized form to meet interoperability requirements. Interoperability is the ease with which systems can share and collect data among themselves.

To guarantee the quality of the data, the publisher must certify the source and provide metadata to contextualize the data.

When publishing data, you must make technical choices. Open data is encouraged to be disseminated through licensing. For communities, 2 choices are possible. Which one to choose according to your needs, open license or ODbL license?

  1. The open license is as its name implies an open, free and open license. It grants the right to reproduce, redistribute, adapt and exploit data even for commercial purposes. Note that there is an obligation to mention authorship, in other words, the source of the data.
  2. The ODbL license is the same as the previous license, free, open, free and it also requires mention of paternity. However, to share a dataset created from another dataset licensed under the ODbL, you must offer this dataset under the same terms of the license. Commercial use of your data set is permitted after compliance with its terms and conditions.

After having identified and adapted the data to be published, retained a license, it is finally a question of choosing the platform. On which you will disseminate your data sets or/and APIs?

  • On the national portal
  • On your website by creating a dedicated space
  • On an internet platform managed with other communities in your territory

Once all these questions have been addressed and answered, the implementation of the approach can be launched and the first datasets released.

Step 4: Evolve community processes

In the ecosystem of your community, 3 processes concerning the production, publication and exploitation of data must be put in place in order to initiate actions.

Production process: this involves defining the structure of the dataset, formalizing it by providing contextual information (metadata), choosing between a dataset or an API, consolidating the dataset in several formats and choosing the relevant license.

Publication process: this involves filling in the description form of the dataset, verifying that the files are downloadable, making the dataset known to interested potential.

Valuation process: this involves using data visualisation in order to highlight the raw data in a visual form (graph, mapping, etc.). The principle is to make the datasets intelligible and understandable to all. It is also necessary at this stage to continue to make known the datasets, their reuse and to value the results obtained.

These 3 processes integrate all the activity of the community because all the services are concerned by the open data approach such as the service of transport, employment, education, housing, health, etc.

To ensure the smooth operation of these processes:

  • Eliminate double input into your information system and consolidate information
  • Unify your information system to break down the silo operation of your services

At the start of the project, a dedicated team will manage the process and little by little with the experience, it is possible to make each department independent in the production and publication of the datasets.

Step 5: Animate the open data ecosystem

Open data is a project with high added value over the long term. It requires regular maintenance to maintain and amplify the expected results.

Once the data has been published and exploited, it is strongly recommended that means be put in place to identify and monitor downloads and the use made of them. You will be able to measure the impacts of your dataset and perfect your communication.

Generate a community of actors to give more weight to your open data approach:

  • Organize hackathons (event where developers meet to do collaborative computer programming) bringing together public actors, citizens, associations and companies around a collective project.
  • Identify and raise awareness of local actors who can use the data in order to remove the barriers to data opening and promote co-creation.

To conclude,

An open data project, like any other project, requires an action plan in order to achieve the objectives set. The approach follows logical and essential steps for the success of your project because many factors are to be taken into consideration and must be considered.

With Powerslide you will be able to do interactive dashboards with you open data. Now it is your turn !