November 16, 2011
Guest post by André SANTINI, Former French Minister, Member of Parliament and Mayor of Issy-les-Moulineaux
The Global Cities Dialogue on Information Society is, as you probably know, an international association with a clear objective: to stimulate initiatives which facilitate the development of the digital society in cities.
Our goal is to share our experiences and dialogue with other organizations, such as the Global Business Dialogue, Eurocities or this Global Forum. And I would like to thank the President of the Global Forum, Sylviane Toporkoff, for giving me the opportunity to share with you our reflections on open innovation.
Created twelve years ago in Helsinki, the Global Cities Dialogue was the first international initiative based on the mayors’ commitment to work together for an equal access to the information society. With my colleagues, we are working at the present on three big topics: Green IT, digital solidarity and e-Government.
In France, the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux has been committed for a long time in building a local information society which is innovative, open to all, offering a large number of electronic services.
From online registration on the electoral rolls to internet voting, passing by the mobile payment of the parking, the lending of e-books, the access to applications for smartphone, or the many administrative procedures available online, our population benefits of a large offer of electronic services.
This explains why almost ninety percent of our population is connected to the internet and why many high-tech companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Huawei or Bull, have joined my city. A city which counts more jobs than inhabitants, a unique phenomenon in France.
As European Living Lab, Issy-les-Moulineaux is transforming into a true smart city, with the project “Issy Grid”, the first “smart Grid” district in France, our participation in the European project EPIC to create a “European platform for intelligent cities”, and our contribution to the European project CITADEL, which will allow the development of new public mobile services thanks to the open data.
We have carried out a study on open data among the members of the Global Cities Dialogue. And I am happy to communicate its results to you for the first time.
To give a wider visibility to the public data means to enable the population to be better informed but also to stimulate innovation from innovative companies.
But Open Data is a new subject for the local authorities. We have surveyed eighty city members of the Global Cities Dialogue, from every continent and of different sizes. Less than ten significant examples were identified. This means that there are still a lot of questions around this issue.
The Digital Revolution has made of Internet an incredible source of information. Moreover, the rapid expansion of smartphones will increase our need to have quick answers to our questions. And, in consequence, it will increase the demand to publish a maximum of information and data, including those held by the public sector.
The Wikileaks polemic is a perfect example of the antagonism existing between the partisans of total transparency and those who consider that our society needs to keep some information secret.
In fact, the debate is not new, as the access to administrative documents was regulated well before the development of the Internet.
First lesson learnt from our study: Open data is a subject which interests mostly the specialists and there is a certain utopian enthusiasm around it.
In the cities which have embraced the Open Data, the opening of the public data is a result either of a strong political drive or the request of NGOs.
But political will is not enough. Cities have to launch calls for applications in order to stimulate the development of applications.
One of the best known examples is the one of Helsinki, in Finland. Thanks to an annual competition, several new services have seen the day, like for example Tax tree, which develops a new way of presenting the budget.
We also work, in Issy-les-Moulineaux, on the opening of data. The tourist and cultural data will be concerned on a first time. We are currently studying the possibility of using the national platform which will be launched next December and we will start discussions with the innovative companies in our city to identify the data to be published first.
It is also interesting to understand why most of the cities still do not adhere to the Open Data movement.
According to the results of the GCD study, Open Data is a process with an important impact on the organization of the local services. Open data raises legal issues (privacy, intellectual property), technical issues (format, platform), and organizational issues (decision-making, implementation).
Other obstacles are the real definition of Open Data, its business model and the coexistence of several licences. For example, Helsinki, Bordeaux and Barcelona have developed their own licences, each of them answering to different recommendations.
At the European level, new recommendations for a European licence for public sector data will be published in next January.
The number of Open Data platforms can also become an obstacle. In the United States, the coexistence of more than two thousand public platforms is criticized. The data users are often lost. This is very important because it could be an obstacle to transparency, one of the major goals of the Open Data movement.
In an attempt to solve the problem common portals are being developed, like the Spanish Basque Country’s one, of the city of Bilbao, which has the ambition to gather all the public sector data of the region. Same ambition in Helsinki where a common portal offers access to data about the Finnish capital and other towns.
In conclusion, the study, which is available for download on the Global Cities Dialogue website, shows that the Open Data movement is indeed developing, but in a scattered manner.
We need to move step by step, but, if the Open Data movement is not generalized yet, it has already allowed the online publication of a great amount of information. Several applications have been created which help improve our everyday life.
The next step which needs to be taken is to convince the local elected representatives. But first it is necessary to clarify the legal framework, to adopt technical standards, to continue the efforts to coordinate and animate the ecosystem, to analyse the experiences undertaken and to encourage the adoption of common portals.
Finally, this subject covers domains that go way beyond technical, legal or economic aspects.
It is a social debate, which relies on the idea that knowledge sharing will ensure human advancement.