In September 2023, sixty people attended the Rudi Live Europe webinar dedicated to a discussion on data governance at the local level. The trigger of the debate is the publication of a research paper co-authored by Marion Glatron (Chief Data Officer, Rennes Metropole) and Simon Chignard (UIA expert) in Data and Policy, a Cambridge University Press review. In this paper, the authors analysed ten years of data collaborations between Rennes's public and private sectors, focusing on energy and culture. At the European level, the European strategy for data (European Commission, 2020) delivers a definition of data for the public good and considers different configurations of data sharing benefiting the development of a data-driven economy and public services. In this perspective, the Data Governance Act, the Data Act and the Implementing Regulation on high-value datasets aim to provide a horizontal framework for data governance and to facilitate their re-use.
At the national level, France has had a legal framework in place since 2015 to facilitate this data sharing. The Digital Republic Bill (2016) established the principle of open data by default for public administrations and companies operating under public service delegation (for example, in water, transport or waste management).
One of the findings of this research in Rennes is how data collaborations in each sector are mainly shaped by three factors: the market structure, the role of data and the power relations between one sector's actors and the local public authority. During the webinar, local actors from these sectors were first allowed to present the role and impact of data in their activity.
"We haven't seen a radical transformation fueled by data in our sector," explained Corinne Poulain, head of cultural equipment Les Champs Libres and formerly in charge of culture at Rennes Metropole. That is not to say that cultural actors are not dealing with an increasing volume of data, but rather that the role of data in this specific sector is not central. The opposite is true in the energy sector, according to Nicolas Joffreau, deputy head of Enedis Lab: "Data is transforming our activity and our relations with local public authorities". He also underlines the datafication of the energy sector as a consequence of the introduction of smart metering devices in households: "We used to collect energy consumption data twice a year, nowadays it can be up to 48 times a day".
How open data transformed the relationship with the local public authority
Both the energy and cultural sectors were first impacted by open data. In the cultural sectors, local actors (from the public and non-profit sectors) joined their efforts to contribute to the Rennes Metropole open data portal started in 2011. Celine Chanas, head of the Musee de Bretagne, also mentioned how the open data (and open content) approach contributed to a more significant online dissemination of their museum collections. In the energy sector, Enedis collaborated closely with Rennes Metropole and was a key partner of Rudi. That progressively contributed to changing the nature of the relations with the local public authority: "From 2015-2016, data started to be at the forefront of our discussions with Rennes Metropole. At the same time, our activity moved from a mere distribution network manager to a new function of energy data manager", explains Nicolas Viel (Enedis).
Five types of data collaborations
In their research, Marion Glatron and Simon Chignard identified five types of data collaborations:
- Open data, based on legal obligations or voluntary (open data by default is a legal obligation in France since 2018): Rennes was among the first cities in France to setup an open data platform in 2010,
- data sharing and provisioning ad hoc agreements between public and private sector actors: such as the agreement between Enedis and Rennes Metropole to get detailed energy consumption data,
- the co-construction of a common reference framework: the urban morphologic blocks (Ilots morphologiques urbains) project is a collaboration between the local agency in charge of urbanism (Audiar), Enedis and gas network operator GRDF. It aims to provide a detailed knowledge of energy consumption according to the characteristics of the buildings.
- the collaborative design of a data standard: in 2014, local cultural actors gathered to publish data on local cultural events in a coherent and interoperable way,
- The aggregation and distribution by a single actor of data from multiple sources: the regional newspaper Ouest-France, acting as a data intermediary in charge of collecting and distributing cultural events data to different websites and publications.
Local configurations and use cases
The testimonials also illustrated the importance of local configuration in framing the relationships between the local public authority and the different data producers. In the second part of the webinar, Antoine Courmont (researcher at the Gustave Eiffel University in Paris) stressed the specificities of this territory: "In Rennes, there's a strong political and strategic alignment when it comes to data". According to him, this also questions the potential for replication: "If each territory has its own specificity and local configuration, then how to replicate what works here to another place in France or Europe?". Courmont also stresses the diversity of data governance models: contrary to the original approach of open data as a governance model, there is no "one size fits all" approach when it comes to data collaboration at the local level. Justine Gangneux (project manager at Eurocities) is in charge of developing a multi-stakeholder governance scheme for the European project Data Spaces for Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities (DS4SSCC): "I see a convergence between your work in Rennes and what we want to achieve at the European level. Translating governance principles into local contexts and use cases is key". No surprise, then, that Rennes Urban Data Interface is listed among the best practices in the blueprint developed by DS4SSCC, alongside Amsterdam's Intelligent Data Exchange Alliance, Lisbon's LxDataLab, and Barcelona's DataCityLab.
Data collaborations at a local scale: Lessons learnt in Rennes (2010–2021), Simon Chignard and Marion Glatron, Data and Policy, volume 5, 2023
Multi-stakeholders governance scheme, Data Spaces for Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities, 2023
Quand la donnée arrive en ville, Antoine Courmont, Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 2021