France has become the world’s first country to legislate for open data. A new law requires all government agencies in the country to release data publicly.

The Digital Republic Act came into force on 7 October. It requires “automatic dissemination of administrative documents by central and local government, and public and private legal entities having a public service mandate”, an explanatory memorandum said.

The act makes open government data the new “default”, said Axelle Lemaire (pictured), French Minister of State for Digital Affairs, at the Open Data Institute Summit this week.

Agencies are now required to automatically publish “databases and data whose publication has economic, social or environmental interest”, the memorandum said.

Government agencies will also have to publish open data on new public service concessions signed with companies. For example, data describing a contract for highway maintenance must now be published openly.

The act also sets out minimum quality standards for certain data produced for tax collection and public statistics. This will be a “new public service mandate” for the government, since the information is crucial for the economy and society.

Data must be anonymised before it is released. Any information in documents released by the government can be re-used free of charge.

Agencies will have six months to two years to make arrangements for the new mandate.

The development of the act involved a three-week online consultation process. Citizens were able to comment and suggest changes to the legislation before it was submitted to the Supreme Court and adopted by the Cabinet.

Image by Official Leweb PhotosCC BY 2.0