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An unprecedented Public-Commons partnership for the French National Address Database

Guest - November 17, 2014 in Featured, OKFN France

This is a guest post, originally published in French on the Open Knowledge Foundation France blog image00

Nowadays, being able to place an address on a map is an essential information. In France, where addresses were still unavailable for reuse, the OpenStreetMap community decided to create its own National Address Database available as open data. The project rapidly gained attention from the government. This led to the signing last week of an unprecedented Public-Commons partnership  between the National Institute of Geographic and Forestry Information (IGN), Group La Poste, the new Chief Data Officer and the OpenStreetMap France community.

In August, before the partnership was signed, we met with Christian Quest, coordinator of the project for OpenStreetMap France. He explained the project and its implications to us.

Here is a summary of the interview, previously published in French on the Open Knowledge Foundation France blog.

Signature of the Public-Commons partnership for the National Address Database  Credit: Etalab, CC-BY

Signature of the Public-Commons partnership for the National Address Database Credit: Etalab, CC-BY

Why Did OpenStreetMap (OSM) France decided to create an Open National Address Database?  

The idea to create an Open National Address Database came about one year ago after discussions with the Association for Geographic Information in France (AFIGEO). An Address Register was the topic of many reports  however these reports can and went without any follow-up and there were more and more people asking for address data on OSM.  

Address data are indeed extremely useful. They can be used for itinerary calculations or more generally to localise any point with an address on a map. They are also essentials for emergency rescues – ambulances, fire-fighters and police forces are very interested in the initiative.  

These data are also helpful for the OSM project itself as they enrich the map and are used to improved the quality of the data. The creation of such a register, with so many entries, required a collaborative effort both to scale up and to be maintained. As such, the OSM-France community naturally took it over. However, there was also a technical opportunity; OSM-France had previously developed a tool to collect information from the french cadastre website, which enabled them to start the register with significant amount of information.

Was there no National Address Registry project in France already?  

It existed on papers and in slides but nobody ever saw the beginning of it. It is, nevertheless, a relatively old project, launched in 2002 following the publication of a report on addresses from the CNIG. This report is quite interesting and most of its points are still valid today, but not much has been done since then.

IGN and La Poste were tasked to create this National Address Register but their commercial interests (selling data) has so far blocked this 12-year old project. As a result, a French address datasets did exist but these datasets were created for specific purposes as opposed to the idea of creating a reference dataset for French addresses. For instance, La Poste uses three different addresses databases: for mail, for parcels, and for advertisements.  

Technically, how do you collect the data? Do you reuse existing datasets?  

We currently use three main data sources: OSM which gathers a bit more than two million addresses, the address datasets already available as open data (see list here) and, when necessary, the address data collected from the website of the cadastre.  We also use FANTOIR data from the DGFIP which contains a list of all streets names and lieux-dits known from the Tax Office. This dataset is also available as open data.  

These different sources are gathered in a common database. Then, we process the data to complete entries and remove duplications, and finally we package the whole thing for export. The aim is to provide harmonised content that brings together information from various sources, without redundancy. The process is run automatically every night with the exception of manual corrections that are done from OSM contributors. Data are then made available as csv files, shapefiles and in RDF format for semantic reuse. A csv version is published on github to enable everyone to follow the updates. We also produce an overlay map which allows contributors to improve the data more easily.  OSM is used in priority because it is the only source from which we can collaboratively edit the data. If we need to add missing addresses, or correct them, we use OSM tools.  

Is your aim to build the reference address dataset for the country?  

This is a tricky question. What is a reference dataset? When you have more and more public services using OSM data, does that mean you are in front of a reference dataset?

According to the definition of the French National Mapping Council (CNIG), a geographic reference must enable every reuser to georeference its own data. This definition does not consider any particular reuse. On the other hand, its aim is to enable as much information as possible to be linked to the geographic reference.  For the National Address Database to become a reference dataset, it is imperative that data is more exhaustive. Currently, there is data for 15 million reusable addresses (August 2014) of an estimated total of about 20 million. We have more in our cumulative database, but our export scripts ensure there is a minimum quality and coherency and release only after the necessary checks have been made. We are also working on the lieux-dits which are not address data point, but which are still used in many rural areas in France.  

Beyond the question of the reference dataset, you can also see the work of OSM as complementary to the one of public entities. IGN has a goal of homogeneity in the exhaustivity of its information. This is due to its mission of ensuring an equal treatment of territories. We do not have such a constraint. For OSM, the density of data on a territory depends largely on the density of contributors. This is why we can offer a level of details sometimes superior, in particular in the main cities, but this is also the reason why we are still missing data for some départements.

Finally, we think to be well prepared for the semantic web and we already publish our data in RDF format by using a W3C ontology closed to the European INSPIRE model for address description.  

The reached agreement includes a dual license framework. You can reuse the data for free under an ODbL license, or you can opt for a non-share-alike license but you have to pay a fee.  Is share-alike clause an obstacle for the private sector?  

I don't think so because the ODbL license does not prevent commercial reuse. It only requires to mention the source and to share any improvement of the data under the same license. For geographical data aiming at describing our land, this share-alike clause is essential to ensure that the common dataset is up to date. Lands change constantly, data improvements and updates must, therefore, be continuous, and the more people are contributing, the more efficient this process is.  

I see it as a win-win situation compared to the previous one where you had multiple address datasets, maintained in closed silos with none of which were of acceptable quality for a key register as it is difficult to stay up to date on your own.  

However, for some companies, share-alike is incompatible with their business model, and a double licensing scheme is a very good solution. Instead of taking part in improving and updating the data, they pay a fee which will be used to improve and update the data.  

And now, what is next for the National Address Database?  

We now need to put in place tools to facilitate contribution and data reuse. Concerning the contribution, we want to set-up a one-stop-shop application/API, separated from OSM contribution tool, to enable everyone to report errors, add corrections or upload data. This kind of tool would enable us to easily integrate partners into the project. On the reuse side, we should develop an API for geocoding and address autocompletion because not everybody will necessarily want to manipulate millions of addresses!  

As a last word, OSM is celebrating its ten years anniversary. What does that inspire you?  

First, the success and the power of OpenStreetMap lies in its community, much more than in its data. Our challenge is therefore to maintain and develop this community. This is what enables us to do projects such as the National Addresses Database, but also to be more reactive than traditional actors when it is needed, for instance with the current Ebola situation. Centralised and systematic approaches for cartography reached their limits. If we want better and more up to date map data, we will need to adopt a more decentralised way of doing things, with more contributors on the ground. Here’s to Ten More Years of the OpenStreetMap community!

   

All-star wrap-up of a month of Open Knowledge events all around the world – April 2014

Beatrice Martini - May 23, 2014 in Community Stories, Events, Featured, Meetups, OKF France, OKF Greece, OKF Italy, OKF Switzerland, OKFN France, Open Access, Open Data, Open Data Index, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

Last month we asked the Open knowledge community to start sharing more details about the events we all run, to discover how many people are rocking Open Knowledge events all around the world! The community has been great at responding the call and now we’re glad to feature some of the April events we got reports (and pictures and videos!) from.

The winners of the Apps4Greece award have been announced! Check out the winning apps, aiming to improve the functionality of cities, businesses, services and develop entrepreneurship and innovation.

Organised by Open Knowledge France after the Paris Open Government Conference (April 24-25) during which France announced it’s joining the Open Government Partnership – and gathering more the 50 people! Featuring Open Knowledge founder’s Rufus Pollock and discussions about the state of Open Data in France, Open Data Index, French version of School of Data Ecole des Données (congratulations!) and more.

  • Open Access Days in Egypt (Cairo, Egypt – April 27-28) Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 11.07.36 AM Open Knowledge Egypt, among many other organizations and researchers, participated in the 2-day event driven by the aim to promote open access to researchers in Egypt and the Middle East, and plant a seed for future initiatives.

We’re so looking forward to hearing everything about your upcoming events! Some juicy ones in the pipeline:

So, what you’re waiting for? It’s time to share your stories for next months’ global roundup! Please submit your blogposts about your May events to the Community Tumblr (details about how/where here) by June 4 in order to be featured in our all-star monthly wrap-up to be published in June on the main Open Knowledge blog and channels! Thank you! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Announcing: the Open Knowledge Foundation in France

OKFN France - November 22, 2012 in Featured, Meetups, News, OKFN France, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups

The following guest post was co-authored by Samuel Goëta, Primavera De Filippi, Peter T Schiøler, Kat Borlongan, and Pierre Chrzanowski.

Early morning by Pierre Metivier – CC BY-NC

Following the first ever Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki earlier this year, we, a group of Open Knowledge enthusiasts in France, have decided to start a national chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN).

France already has a vibrant community of Open Knowledge advocates and associations such as La FING, Libertic and Regards Citoyens, actively promoting the use and reuse of Open Data among other Open Knowledge principles.

By establishing the OKFN in France, we aim to reinforce and broaden the current national Open Knowledge community by acting as a focal point for OKFN activities in France, as well as to help promote French initiatives in the international OKFN community.

We are therefore delighted to announce the creation of the incubating National Group OKFN France with an initial meeting (12/12/12) at the collaborative innovative tech environment of La Cantine in Paris.

So let’s have a quick look at the French Open Knowledge environment…

Open Government Data

The French government launched its national Open Government Data initiative one year ago. The Etalab team behind data.gouv.fr did a pretty good job, opening some key public datasets such as national statistical data, national budget, and election results under the French Open Licence, and establishing Dataconnexions – a community of practice for innovation to support sustainable projects. Transport data is also becoming available, thanks to intiatitives from the national and Parisian train operators. But work definitely isn’t finished yet, and a few days ago, the new government announced Etalab would be merged into a new general secretariat for the modernisation of public administration.

The government reassured the public that it will continue its mission to provide free access to open government data, and that it will publish a new roadmap by the end of the year. But it also conceded some key datasets were still missing and that there was not enough reuse of open data. According to the Open Data Census, datasets such as Government spending, National postcode, Legislation, Company Register and National Map data are still unavailable. And France is still not a member of the Open Government Partnership Initiative, the multilateral initiative launched in 2011 with the aim of improving transparency and increasing citizen participation in national governance.

We plan to work with all Open Government Data stakeholders to show the value of open data reuse and promote open data standards.

Open Access

France has been a strong player in the Open Access movement, being the first country and having the first university (University of Lyon) to sign the Berlin Declaration. According to the UNESCO, there are currently 70 Open Access repositories in France, most of which are institutional. The most famous of these repositories is HAL.

The national research strategy is developed by the Ministry of Higher Education and is funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR). ANR requires all publications from research that is fully or partially funded by them to be deposited in OA archives “at the earliest possible opportunity”.

But all is not perfect. The Institute for Technical and Scientific Information, whose mission is to facilitate scientific publication diffusion, has recently been criticized for selling articles published in the public domain by their authors. In a statement, they’ve subsequently reaffirmed support for Open Access, but have failed to clearly explain their practices in regards to Open Access principles.

OKFN France will continue to work with the scientific community to promote Open Access standards, principles and tools.

Open Culture

The idea of the digital commons is gradually gaining ground in the French cultural sector. The French national library (BNF) was a pioneer in this field, openly releasing parts of its bibliographic database since 2011. Today, an increasing number of cultural institutions are following, and opening up their data. Last year, the OKFN and Wikimedia France ran a series of workshops in Paris bringing together a large number of actors committed to building an open cultural commons, as part of the OpenGLAM initiative. More workshops are planned for the coming year.

We’re also planning to help build and develop on the recently released Public Domain Calculators, an endeavour which will be greatly aided by the new dataset being developed aspart of the semanticpedia.org project. We want to help ensure that French cultural heritage is fully accessible to the world.

That’s all for now! We will of course keep you updated on French initiatives on the OKFN blog and on our French-language website, which will be launched very soon. For now you can follow us on Twitter at @okfnfr or say hello on our new discussion list. And we hope to see you at our meet up on December 12th!

Finally, we leave the last word to one of our prominent contemporary philosopher and open knowledge enthusiast, Michel Serres:

“Knowledge makes us happy, Knowledge makes us free”

“Le savoir rend heureux, le savoir rend libre”

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