Just a couple weeks after a loud argument between RATP -a state-owned public transport operator, and CityMapper -a public transit navigation app, the CNNum calls out French parliamentarians in a press release, encouraging them to support open data on the occasion of the digital Republic draft bill led by Axelle Lemaire -Deputy Minister for Digital Affairs, and Emmanuel Macron -Minister of the Economy, Finances and Industry.
The French Digital Council (CNNum), is an independent advisory commission which was set up in April 2011.Its role is to issue independent opinions and recommendations on any question relating to the impact of digital technologies on economy and society. The Council’s thirty members come from across the digital spectrum and include researchers and activists. The Council organises public consultations at both local and national level and is in constant contact with France’s digital ecosystem, including elected officials, members of civil society, researchers, digital experts, entrepreneurs and professional organisations.
In this press release, the CNNum explains its fears, shedding light on the gap between some parts of the bill and France’s ambitions on open data, which, according to them, would have a direct impact on French innovation.
According to CNNum, open data should not be seen as a burden for public services, but as an opportunity and a long term investment for the society and the access to data must be simplified in order to keep up with innovation.
“The movement in favor of open data is a democratic and economic necessity. We cannot slow down France’s innovation capacity”, commented Mounir Mahjoubi, President of CNNum, Deputy CEO of BETC & Co-Founder of la Ruche Qui Dit Oui.
The aim of the council is to encourage parliamentarians to suggest the improvement of this text, focussing on two particular points:
First, the CNNum warns the government about the legal ways to skirt the obligation of open data, indeed, administrations have the faculty to evaluate the relevancy to open their data, depending on the solicitations that they get, this allows them to slow down the opening their data. This is particularly important regarding the fact that the relevancy of this data is subjective and innovation can come from unexpected uses of data. Also, public services should not prioritize competitive advantages rather than open data.
Secondly, they insist on the necessity to support administrations in the process of making their data public, when some details of the bill for a digital Republic tend to make this work harder by adding new obligations. Every administration which wants to make its data public needs to run a risks study. Also, databases structure need to be separated from the data itself before the diffusion, making the data less understandable for the tiers. These obligations act as a brake for administrations, implying a lot of work but also adding important costs for them.
“This data is a common patrimony. Citizens and entrepreneurs need to seize it in order to create more utility for everyone”, told Yann Bonnet, General Secretary of CNNum.
Amounts of data produced by each citizen and public services are constantly growing, the latter should not be the only ones to exploit the data they collect, even real-time data. This is not only about commercial use, it’s also about innovation and changing citizen’s daily life for the better, as Citymapper does. Between competitive advantage right, intellectual property issues, and legal ambiguity, the open data is a concept that seems hardly acceptable for some of the French institutions and public services. The solutions might be to educate administrations, but also citizens, and offer a well regulated, realistic bill to make it more understandable and less paradoxical for the different actors.