Cour des comptes


Open Government Data - Are all exceptions to the principle of cost-free access and reuse legitimate? Read full summary in English

2013 report

The United Kingdom, a country seen, like the United States, as a pioneer in open public data, has estimated at £6.8bn (€7,9bn) the revenue in 2010 and 2011 generated for British society by open public data, of which £5bn (€5.8bn) is profit. As an example, a start-up has highlighted the existence of areas in which massive savings can be made by analysing prescriptions of patented drugs and the corresponding generics.
Such possibilities are not beyond reach for France, which is not only deemed to be among the pioneers but also one of the countries making the most rapid progress in this domain. This fact, endorsed by a number of observers, is true with regard to the G8, the European Union and a group of 23 countries with highly diverse profiles.
The Prime Minister has asked the general secretariat for government modernisation (Secrétariat General pour la Modernisation de l'Action Publique - SGMAP), in conjunction with the Minister with responsibility for the budget, to "assess the business models for all existing fee regimes applied to the use of public data, notably by auditing the relevant costs and revenue" and has entrusted to me the task of providing input for that assessment.
In order to address this issue, the commission has endeavoured to base its considerations on:
- the work done on a regular basis over the last twenty or so years by Government on issues relating to the dissemination of public data;
- intensive discussion with producers of public information, the views of all of whom have been heard and who have responded to a targeted questionnaire;
- international comparisons carried out extremely competently in record time by France's economic units in 36 countries;
- hearings of evidence from competent official authorities, comprising official bodies in France, at national or local level, abroad or in the European Union;
- hearings of evidence from the general public, Members of Parliament etc.

In the report page 4

- Following some doctrinal indecision, France seems to have finally opted for the principle of free-of-charge provision of its public information.

- Notwithstanding this, government has put or is keeping in place charges for data reuse on various grounds, with very limited legitimacy in some cases.

- Currently, some twenty official departments are authorized to apply or to maintain charges for the reuse of public information; however, a much smaller number of these account for most of the revenue generated.

- That revenue, a not insignificant portion of which comes from public-sector purchasers, is constantly being eroded.

- Firstly, fees for data reuse should not act as a barrier to reuse. Not only are such barriers incompatible with the policy laid down by Government but they also run the risk of limiting efforts to foster transparent, modernised Government and compromising economic development.

- This observation is not new. According to PAGSI (Programme d'Action Gouvernemental pour la Société de l'Information / Government action programme for the information society), "looking beyond essential public data, whose free distribution is enabled by the Internet, there is a wide range of data access to which constitutes one of the fundamental conditions for the development of industry and the information market in France258. "An independent public figure [should have been, at the time of writing] appointed to propose to official departments the basis for a clear doctrine on the scope and conditions for the charging of fees for the use of public data."

The risk cases visible on this page are collected and described by the e-Government Subgroup of the EUROSAI IT Working Group in contact with author Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI). In the same way, analytical assumptions and headings are chosen by the Subgroup. We encourage you to read the original texts by SAIs - to be found in the linked files.