Open Data: open the public data and value them

Dernière mise à jour : 28/10/2021

For several years in France, open data has become increasingly democratic. In 2019, France is ranked second in the OECD open data index, outranked by South Korea.

Even today, the stakes of open data are not always well understood. This is one of the missions of general interest that the government has set itself with the Etalab mission to support public services in opening up their data.

Open data ouvrir les données publiques


Definition: What is open data?

Open data can be defined as data that is completely free to access and use. In most cases, open data comes primarily from the government and public sectors. This is digital public information that is considered to be a public good.

Open data must be fully accessible, provided under conditions that allow reuse and redistribution, and must not have discriminatory restrictions on use.

Open data therefore revolves around several major concepts: availability, use, sharing, and contribution.


Why go into open data?

If open data is so popular in the public sector, it is because it makes it possible to value the actions of the territory and to bring more transparency to the citizens. Open data also improves services to users and promotes the creation of new services. With these strengths, open public data strengthens the link between collectivities and citizens. Do not hesitate to consult our article for local authorities: how to use open data?


Which licenses to choose?

Open data is encouraged to be shared under a license. In terms of public utility, in order to avoid a heterogeneity of too many licenses, 2 types of licenses are retained and advised by the platform data.gouv.fr:

  • Open license: it is an open and royalty-free license. It allows the reproduction, redistribution, adaptation and commercial exploitation of the data. A mention of paternity (the source) is required to use it.
  • The ODBL license: almost similar to the open license, it differs on the data sharing which must be done under the same conditions as the license terms and to keep the database open. By complying with these conditions, you can exploit a dataset for commercial purposes.

Where to publish the data?

In France, you have 3 opportunities to share and disseminate your open data:

  • On the national portal data.gouv.fr
  • On your website by creating a dedicated space
  • On an internet platform managed with other communities in your area

Open data: obligations for local authorities

When we talk about sharing, disseminating or using public data, there are necessarily restrictions and regulations to follow.


Who is covered by opening obligations?

Local and regional authorities with more than 3500 inhabitants and at least 50 full-time staff are required to open their data. In the same way as State administrations or any other entity governed by public or private law exercising a public service mission.


Obligations related to online publication

The RCAP (Code of Relations between the Public and the Administration) defines the general framework. In this sense, it requires the publication of the following administrative documents:

  • 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 which are not meant to be publicly released
  • Data whose publication is of economic, social, health or environmental interest.

Obligations related to content

In order to be shared with the general public, the content of an administrative record must meet 2 criteria:

1) The document must be communicable to any person. Documents covered by the provisions of Articles L. 312-1-2, subparagraphs 1, L. 311-5 and L. 311-6 of the CRPA are not eligible.

Therefore, documents that infringe on the following are not eligible:

  • the secrecy of the deliberations of the Government and the responsible executive authorities
  • the secrecy of national defence
  • the conduct of France’s foreign policy
  • State security, public safety, personal safety or the security of administrative information systems
  • currency and public credit
  • the conduct of proceedings before the courts or of operations
  • research and prevention
  • privacy, medical and business secrecy
  • to a natural person on a value and behavioral judgment

2) The document must not be of a personal nature. Data that violate privacy cannot be disclosed and are not publishable.

Private data are considered, for example:

  • Date of birth and age
  • Personal details
  • Financial situation and assets
  • Political affiliation
  • Religious beliefs

However, these data can be used by removing all forms of identification through anonymization. It is a processing process that makes it impossible to re-identify natural or legal persons.

However, the release can take place without anonymization if it meets 1 of the following 3 conditions:

  • A statutory provision to the contrary authorizes the publication
  • Interested parties have agreed
  • Administrative documents listed by RCAP

Online diffusion methods in compliance with the GDPR

Personal data authorised for broadcast must comply with the principles of the GDPR:

  • Information for data subjects: The information must be communicated at the time of initial data collection and at the time of diffusion. Note that the information must be transparent, understandable, simple and accessible in accordance with Article 12 of the GDPR.
  • The right of opposition of data subjects: the data disseminated in open data may be the object of opposition by data subjects.
  • Data accuracy: Data released online must be accurate at release, but must also remain accurate by updating data regularly.

Reuse of data disseminated in compliance with the GDPR

To reuse a database, the reuser will be subject to GDPR standards and will have to meet 8 conditions:

  • Be legal
  • Pursue an explicit and legitimate purpose
  • Focus on relevant and proportionate data.
  • Focus on updated data
  • Be transparent
  • Respect for human rights
  • Respect the principle of data retention limitation
  • Ensure data security

Select, standardize and normalize data

The government-led Etalab mission has published a guide on the deployment and opening of public data to prioritize.

The mandatory data to open in order to start an open data policy are:

  • 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 in the framework of public service missions.
  • Data whose publication is of general interest

OpenData France recommends prioritizing the opening of the following data:

  • Marital status (birth, marriage, death)
  • Budget
  • Mayor’s deliberations and decisions
  • Grants
  • National Address and Wired Track Base

Also according to OpenData France, the recommended data to open are:

  • Public procurement and building permits
  • Agenda
  • Election Results
  • Municipal real estate heritage, infrastructure
  • LPP (Local Planning Plan)
  • Urban services: water, waste, transport

Public data must be standardized to ensure interoperability between systems. Interoperability is built on the standardization and normalization of data and represents one of the challenges of open data.

There’s a huge amount of data sets out there. That is great!

On the other hand, these datasets often lack homogeneity. In 2020, the Territorial Open Data Observatory found that 15,572 datasets were published on 180 different portals. This has led to a heterogeneity in formats and therefore a loss in interoperability.

Each dataset must be machine-readable and therefore must not use non-proprietary formats. Be sure to improve data quality within your information system. Optimize data entry to avoid duplication between services and consolidate information to ensure reliability and completeness.


Value and communicate data

Data for whom? It is a simple and essential question. You must keep in mind that the opening of your data will be aimed at citizens, future citizens, tourists and organizations in your territory. Of course, having the right data is good, but it must be understood quickly and simply.

Thus, the presentation of your data must be of quality. To do this, value them using the principles of data visualization (or dataviz).

Data visualization is a way to make data intelligible for everyone by transforming raw data into a visual representation: mapping, bar charts, camembert, histogram, etc. This is a great way to communicate effectively!

Attention, however, not all data are conducive to be transformed into everything and anything. In dataviz, there are common sense rules to follow.Do not hesitate to consult our article on the subject.


Open data: example of valuation of public data on USA energy analysis

Dataset integrated with Powerslide. Click on the map, it’s interactive!


Supply and update data

Open data is a real gold mine to boost a territory. When the data is reliable and exhaustive, it allows to develop quality services and to provide legitimate and valuable information.

Regular monitoring and updating of public data is important. This reduces the risk of poor quality data and ensures that it reflects reality.


At the end of the day,

Open data contributes to the development of the territory through the publication of public data put at the service of all. It is a thoughtful approach that requires enough resources and knowledge to develop a strategy. This is an opportunity not to pass up.

If you want to go further, feel free to test Powerslide for free. Our solution to help you create beautiful interactive presentations simply and quickly.