Collectivities: how to use open data?

Dernière mise à jour : 28/10/2021

The challenges of Open Data for a collectivity are many. Indeed, whether it is for the general management, the technical services, the transport and mobility departments or the data protection officer, all departments are concerned.

More than just nested data, Open Data offers communities the opportunity to access an infinite amount of data. The goal is to be part of an innovation logic for your territory.

Nowadays, it is very easy to get lost in this data jungle. Here is how to use open data for your collectivity and make it a great ally!

Comment utiliser Open Data ?

What is open data?

Before we get to the heart of the matter, you need to know what it really is. Open Data, is royalty-free data available online that anyone can use, share and contribute. These three terms are the very roots of Open Data, where public information is considered a public good.

In France, some local authorities such as Rennes and Paris started an open data approach in 2010. At the national level, the government created the Etalab mission in February 2011 and launched the portal in December of the same year. This portal is dedicated to Open Data projects that serve everyone.

To use and make available Open Data, the data must be licensed. There are 2 types of licences applicable to public information with different specificities:

  • Open License: This is an open, free and open source license that allows you to reuse information. The re-use of information allows the reproduction, redistribution, adaptation and commercial exploitation of the data. This licence requires a mandatory mention of authorship (that is, of the source) in order to ensure the transparency of the data.
  • The ODBL (Open DataBase Licence): This licence is almost similar to the open licence, except that sharing must be done under the same conditions. That is, if you use a custom version of a dataset, or produce a creation from it, you must also offer this dataset under the terms of the ODbL licence. By complying with these conditions, you may exploit a dataset from this licence for commercial purposes.

Define your strategy and set your goals

In order to avoid going off in all directions, you must establish your strategy. It must be built around your objectives. Here are 3 different (and complementary) levels of goals for your organization:

  1. Transparency and accountability of public action: The main purpose of open data is to ensure transparency and clarity of public action. For citizens it is a pledge of confidence in their elected officials. Thanks to shared information on their decision-making, their implementation, their budget use, etc. citizens better understand public actions.
  2. Development and improvement of services: The openness of data contributes to the dynamics of activity on the territory. It facilitates innovation within companies seeking to develop new goods and services. It also makes it possible to give more space to citizen initiatives that reclaim public data. For associations, it helps to find new resources to improve the services they offer.
  3. Strengthening and personalizing the link between citizens and collectivities: The attractiveness of the territory develops thanks to the transparency of services related to daily activities. Moreover, in order to allow a better exchange between the communities and the various audiences, listening and co-creation approaches with civil society can be considered.

Your goals can be progressive and focused on one element at a time. Now that you know why you are going to open your data, it will be easier to build your strategy. According to Bothorel's report, many stakeholders do not understand the value of making Open Data. To overcome this, start by involving your agents in the process and training your teams. The purpose of the training is to make everyone involved in your project understand the issues and how open data works.

Identify data to open

The law for a Digital Republic provides for data to be open “by default”. Namely:

  • Administrative documents that you have shared with applicants
  • The inventory of administrative documents that you produce as part of your public service missions
  • Databases produced and received as part of your public service missions. These databases must be updated regularly
  • Data whose publication is of economic, social, health or environmental interest.

Please note that administrative documents containing legal and personal secrets are not eligible for release, with a few exceptions.

According to OpenData France, the priority data you need to open are:

  • Marital status
  • The budget
  • Deliberations and decisions of the mayor
  • The grants
  • National and wired channel address base

It is recommended to also open the data of:

  • Public contracts and building permits,
  • Your calendar,
  • Election results,
  • Municipal real estate assets including infrastructure,
  • The local urban masterplan.
  • Urban services: water, waste and transport

Your data must be reliable and of high quality to ensure the credibility of your community.

Transform your data

Your data is extracted from your business applications in most cases and is not directly usable. You must prepare them in order to guarantee a quick understanding by your users.

Thus, you have to transform your raw data. Dataviz or data visualization is the art of transforming data into a visual medium, such as histograms, maps, diagrams, etc... The aim is to illustrate the data and make it easier to assimilate.

Your datasets should be easily reusable, that is, of high quality and usable by an automated processing system. It should not necessarily require human intervention in the first place.

As for the publication of your data, it depends on each community. You can choose to publish on your website, on an open data portal with other local authorities, or deposit on the national portal: Your choice must be made according to your strategy!

Manage your Open Data approach

An open data approach does not stop with the publication of data. Animating an Open Data approach requires good communication at all scales. It is necessary to be able to identify and raise awareness of the actors who can use and promote the approach.

Internally, you need to raise awareness of the issues surrounding Open Data, demonstrate its interest and encourage stakeholders to use open data in their daily lives.

You must also make the process known externally, by mobilizing stakeholders to ensure that the data made available are used and by ensuring that the benefits obtained are known and valued.

At the same time, you can move the process towards modernizing public action. You can do this by creating a dynamic of internal innovation and by reflecting on the contribution and citizen involvement through data. Nothing prevents you from sharing your experience with other local authorities. Or you can participate in hackathons. These are events where several specialists gather around a collaborative project and thematic meetings on specific topics.

To conclude,

It is quite easy to get lost in an open data strategy if you don’t have the necessary prerequisites and knowledge. Open data for your community is a political lever for key issues related to the environment, mobility, ecological/energy transition, citizen relations, housing and urban planning.

It is therefore an important decision-making tool that allows you to diagnose each of these areas and make better decisions. All this while guaranteeing transparency to your citizens.

To build your Open Data project, you need tools! Discover Powerslide, the simplest data visualisation tool !