Henri Verdier views the Open Data scene

H. Verdier is Director of Etalab, a special French government service reporting to the Prime Minister on questions related to Open Data. He graduated from Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS), was appointed Director General of Odile Jacob Multimedia and then Director of Innovation at Lagardère Active. He then created ‘Futur numérique’, a think tank at the Institut des Télécommunications. He was among the Founder members of the competitivity cluster Cap Digital which he chaired from 2008 to 2013. He has authored, inter alia “L’Age de la Multitude. Entreprendre et gouverner après la révolution [The Age of the Masses. Entrepreneurship and governance after the digital revolution] (Ed. A. Colin, Paris).

Henri Verdier views the Open Data scene

What are the challenges Etalab faces?

Etalab reports to the French Prime Minister and is an ad hoc but institutionalised team in charge of sharing on line public data. The mission reports via the Secretary General for the modernisation of pubic action. It accompanies the various administration sectors to open, develop and feed the national portal and to overview re-utilisation and innovation of public data downloaded or transferred.

As you see it, could information delivered by Etalab be a vector for innovation?

There are 3 dimensions to your questions and all 3 are very important. On one hand, public data can of course mask in-depth treasures that only become apparent when innovators use them. The lists of the laureates of the Dataconnexion completion (see insert), for example, show just how creative the innovators can be. On the other hand, and even if we do not speak too much about the trend, the administration in France is moving towards a real "open innovation" approach. In meeting these innovators the administration gains by examining and taking on board their talents and intuitions and thus progresses. The simple fact that for a large-scale structure, getting organised and being accountable and accept occasional criticism leads to organisation changes that enable the administration as a whole to fully entre the digital modern era.

Who today are the utilizers of the portal, and how do you see near future developments? serves the administration sectors directly. It is a national portal that enables access to 355 000 pieces of free, public, re-utilisable data, or as lists of state-owned property. The purpose is to be accountable to the public at large as to state operations with a higher level of transparency. We are also aware that here are a lot of start-ups that integrate public data into their products and services. A small community of journalists is being built up round the public data and we have a very active civilian follower community, that is very active, demanding ... We are currently working on a revamped site that will, we hope, interest an even larger fraction of the public; our aim is that open data will become part of the Nation's heritage.

What role could a University of technology play in the process and what interest would it find in participating?

In my opinion, the universities, like any other public institutions, should join in the process and have everything to win by doing so. It's a process that leads on to open innovation, open education, etc. I personally think that open data is going to require new skills, in computer science, data sciences, data display, etc., It will also require control of action oriented strategies, such as so-called 'data-driven strategies', 'behavioural politics', etc. A university such as UTC must prepare its students to enter this new era. That alone is a huge challenge...

Dataconnexions, the Open Data competitions Initiated in February 2012, the 'Data-connexions' Competitions reward noteworthy re-use of public, "open data". The common objective is to stimulate innovation, to encourage development of a digital economy in France and to aid the emergence of innovative projects that use public data as a strategy to create added value, to enrich existing services and applications. The first three editions rewarded and supported some twenty projects selected by a jury of digital and economic sector professionals (health services, housing, data display, politics, transportation, culture, publicity, tourism, etc.). The 4th edition, organised in collaboration with the Groupe La Poste focuses on "proximity services". Over and above the classic awards, for the best Public-at-large candidates, for private companies or public utility services, this edition includes a new category 'the local and territorial dimension. The competitions are open for the first time for international projects from other French-speaking countries. To participate in the competition, please register before Oct. 28, 2013

Did you know this?

France come 3rd ex æquo with Japan in terms of providing basic public statistics in an open data format. Thee rank, given by the British association Open Knowledge Foundation, covers the G8 countries and relies on 10 criteria: public transport time-tables, government budget, public expenditure, election results, national statistics, pollutant emission levels ... France obtained a mark of 46/60 compared with 51/60 for UK and 54/60 for the USA. More at :