August 11 2014

Open Data in Agen, Aquitaine, France: Towards Greater Transparency

The Hôtel de Ville of Agen, FranceAgen’s city council has released their plans for a new mandate. We now have the opportunity to check what was done, and the consequences of the measures taken by the local government.

Open data is the subject of the 93rd, and latest, of Agen’s legal articles. The application of this concept is occasionally rather vague. However, the idea becomes clearer when Benjamin Ooghe-Tabanou, co-founder of regardscitoyens.org, explains that “It is the online spreading of public but not personal data, and therefore personal privacy is not affected.” Up to this point, all seems well. “But it must be made sure that the data is accessible to everyone, without any financial, technical, or legal discrimination.” And that is where things become complicated for local governments.

Efforts for Transparency

In Agen, the mission falls to Gautier Guignard, a city councillor in charge of digital technology. “For elected officials and local governments, everything should be transparent, and everything should be justified,” explains Guignard. “From this principle, open data can only be a positive thing, and it is up to us to make it as relevant as possible,” he adds. To do this, he called a meeting in June with the local municipal life committee, seated by opposition officials such as Emmanuel Eyssalet. Eyssalet was the first to approach the subject in his campaign platform. “I am waiting to see what is going to be done,” proclaimed this skeptic. “It will be one of the democratic issues of tomorrow, and it is important to do it correctly.”
There is one point upon which Guignard agrees: “When we look at cities who have started to use it, open data is applied in different ways.” The urban community of Rennes, a pioneer in the area, created an ergonomic site with several applications and infographics related to raw data. On the contrary, “Certain cities are making tablets that display a huge amount of figures, and this drowns out information,” says the councillor in charge of digital technology. “There are decisions to be made about what actions are relevant.”

A seminar on open data in Tours, France

Democratic Interest

The advantage of this kind of policy is that “there is no need to spend exorbitant sums since the government has set up a tool available for free,” explains Ooghe-Tabanou. “A point of interest in making information available is also that it is not up to the local government to do the work.” With collaborators from regardscitoyens.org, Ooghe-Tabanou has therefore created several sites entirely driven by public data. The first, nosdéputés.fr, provides a visualization in a matter of a few clicks about who is voting for what in the French National Assembly. The information was present on the internet, but difficult to access. Since the creation of the site in 2009, Ooghe-Tabanou has nonetheless noted a real interest for parliamentary processes among internet users. “We have a huge amount of people commenting on our work. On the local level the same could be done for city councils.”

This is exactly the kind of approach that could help Gautier Guignard in his work. “All of the resolutions are accessible, but we want to make things simpler. For example, in order to know what kinds of grants an organization has received, it is necessary to find the city council’s report and go through it until you find the information.” These questions will be tackled at the end of summer by the municipal life committee so that information held by the city “is not only free data,” says Eyssalet, but “open data.”

How can advocates make open data and its significance easily accessible and comprehensible to people who are unaware of its uses and possible relevance to their lives?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Marcus Khoury

Marcus Khoury is a recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in French & Francophone Studies. Aside from his native Michigan, Marcus has lived in several states, in addition to France and Chile. Owing to his experiences with a variety of cultures, languages, and environments, he has always been keenly interested in how the exchange of ideas between different cities, regions, and countries helps to shape both physical and cultural landscapes. His linguistic background, in addition to his interest in the diversity of international urban environments and experiences, has led Marcus to fill the position of French Language Translator at The Grid, where he will be translating and presenting French language material involving environmental design.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 11th, 2014 at 9:55 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Government/Politics, Marcus Khoury, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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