Digital for all now

The Open Data movement: from civic engagement to driver of economic performance

Econocom 6 Mar 2015

Opening up access to public data addresses a multitude of major challenges. It is full of promise to boot, from transforming public operations to engaging individuals and, above all, stimulating economic activity. Some local authorities in France have been leading the open data vanguard since 2010, taking on the role of ‘digital makers’. A number of best practices have arisen from their experience which show just how much businesses have to gain.


Open data for all

The aim of the open data movement initiated by the public sector is to make available to everyone certain ‘key data’ about businesses and institutions. Every rung on the decision-making ladder is affected, from central government to regional and local authorities. The purpose of opening up access to transport data, for instance, is manifold: budget transparency, optimisation of public services and stimulation of the economy.


The town of Issy-les-Moulineaux, the small commune of Brocas and the entire Île-de-France region are therefore involved in the same process to catalogue, record, verify, sort and put online a whole host of data in machine-readable format. The upstream work regarding the online release of the data is crucial, as it determines how the information in these data sets is used.


Focus on function and reuse

According to Eric Legale, Managing Director of Issy Media (a semi-public company responsible for innovation and communication in Issy-les-Moulineaux),

“The provision of raw data does not meet the needs of the majority of citizens or businesses”.

If we look at experiences thus far, we can see that the ability to reuse data is vital if the process is to reach its full potential, in particular in the private sector. It requires a portal through which individuals and companies alike can view and use data. This can be done using an open API and, ideally, a data visualisation system.


When companies reveal everything they know about their customers

The UK Midata initiative launched in 2011 as part of the open data movement is particularly interesting, as it reverses the traditional roles of companies and individuals. Victor Fouqueray, head of the Île-de-France open data project, explained that,

“The twenty or so large companies involved in the programme make available to consumers the data they possess about them. The customer relationship is therefore turned on its head, and the information gives power back to the consumer”.

Initiatives such as these which are designed to connect companies and their customers allow both sides to make savings, thanks to the keener understanding of real needs. We are entering a new age of open data that goes beyond the public sphere. As companies open up and barriers fall down, performance and efficiency will increase. That’s the spirit of digital for all now!


Photo credit: Jer Thorp – Random Number Multiples – RGB (, licence CC BY 2.0)

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