What is the state of open data in Europe? I wondered. To answer that question, I went to interview top open data expert, Jean-Marc Lazard, founder of Opendatasoft. Here are a few reflections derived from my reading of the state of play of European open data in 2019 published by the EU, which you can download here, together with Jean-Marc’s point of view.
The European Open Data State of the Art Report shows the evolution of this market towards maturity
In a 2019 report, the fifth in a series of annual studies that assess the maturity of open data in the EU Member States28 plus the European Free Trade Association (or “EFTA”) countries, the EU provides a snapshot of open data in Europe today. Here it is in a nutshell. You can find it in detail in the downloadable report below.
“After years of open data maturity acceleration, Europe has now entered a phase of consolidation “, the report says in its introduction. As Jean-Marc Lazard explains (read his interview below), open data is not new. Since the beginnings, considerable progress has been made.
The EU report “is an initiative of the European Commission, implemented with the support of a consortium led by Capgemini Invent, including Intrasoft International, Fraunhofer Fokus, con.terra, Sogeti, 52North, Time.Lex, the Lisbon Council and the University of Southampton”.
Here are the main conclusions from this report
- (1) From acceleration to consolidation
The rise in maturity has been steady since 2015. This phase of maturity is over, with Member States now having strong open data policies and advanced portals. The emphasis is now on impact and quality.
- (2) From quantity to quality
“Today, and more than ever before, there is an intensified focus on ensuring the value of data to the re-users, and this often means improving the quality of the data first.” A subject also widely addressed by Jean-Marc Lazard in his interview
- (3) Emphasis shifts from publication to impact
Fairly easy to understand, goes with maturity.
- (4) From open data to data sharing
“Beyond open data, governments are increasingly aware of the opportunities arising from data sharing in general.”
- (5) France among the leaders
“Ireland, Spain and France have maintained their leading position in Europe since last year”. Those three leading countries can also be found among the trend-setters.
Open data is now a mature landscape
It’s a movement that is now a few years old and may even have been considered a bit of a fad at one time, but it has now become a fundamental movement that has become structured.
We now see major technological players breaking down the technical barriers of data standards. Basically the data comes from proprietary IT systems, and these pieces of information are not reusable by everyone, because they are only accessible with special software or specific expertise.
The importance of open data licensing
Today it is agreed by all that data, and the value it will generate, later on, can only be reused once it has been standardised.
With open data, it is also a question of licensing. When we talk about reusing and opening up data, we need to inform users about what they can and cannot do with that data.
The Open data landscape is well structured
It’s a bit like in the early days of e-commerce, we didn’t know the business models in advance. Today we are beginning to see things more clearly and the situation has become much more transparent.
We have entered a form of maturity and industrialisation of the open data approach, which means that it is being adopted by both public and private players, who are using it to grow their business.
Bringing in evidence
And recently we have seen listed companies, namely some of our clients such as the Kering group, like Euler Hermes, which is a subsidiary of Allianz, the world leader of trade-related insurance solutions, opening up their data on a massive scale to prove to the market, both their investors and the influencers, that what they are doing, for example regarding the protection of the environment, is real and that it is not just words and pictures that the public often calls “greenwashing.”
France and the rest of the world
Data provide evidence. Data is part of everyday business life in the USA and England where, by default, the circulation of information has supported the creation of a very strong industry.
In France this is a bit more disruptive.
Many industries over there have been created in an extremely vertical and siloed manner sharing data with a limited number of players. France can boast having quite a few world leaders in the manufacturing and services industries, and even if they have very French practices locally, they are prone to open up and circulate data in the rest of the world.
It may have taken France a little while to understand this cultural aspect of data management, but France is doing more than just jumping on the bandwagon.
France innovates with a law
It’s a movement that came from the public sphere and it may seem natural. France also innovated in this sphere, because it passed a law called “digital republic act” (or Lemaire act) that really accelerated the pace of change.
Citymapper is the best-known application because it allows everyone to find their way around public transport and it would not exist without open data.
Mind you, open data does not mean “sharing everything with everyone without limits”. Open data required an open data strategy.
Because opening up your data, at least in part, means putting your know-how at the forefront. Through data, we express our know-how and this allows us to establish exclusive partnerships with the best schools in the world, which will help us to launch big data initiatives.
Open data conveys an image of innovation
Simply modernizing one’s internal tools is not going to be enough to make a business turn around and look innovative, because its competitors will do the same. It is this data-driven knowledge, which is both your property and that of your customers, by nurturing extremely large ecosystems, that will give you the chance to innovate faster than your competitors.
Every year there are tens of millions of additional API calls, but it’s hard to translate that into dollars.
In any case, we reckon that the volume of transactions of our clients on our pipes and platforms doubles every year.
We are only at the beginning of a movement because we are far from covering all the compartments of the economy, but the proof has been made that open data is one of the most powerful enablers of transformation.