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GIS and Open Data in France


Art. 3 - by Thomas Portier - Depth France

On one hand, the world of geographic information and services consists of GIS services of local authorities and public institutions using geodata from a wide number of data producers. 


Within the framework of the European INSPIRE Directive, the geodata are to be organized into catalogs and disseminated in a coordinated and harmonized way through a network of platforms comprising the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI). 


In France, see for example: Metadata is generated by the data producers according to the ISO 19115 standard (adopted by INSPIRE) and stored according to the ISO 19139 standard. 


This is then exposed on the Internet through the OGC CSW protocol (Catalog Service for the Web) that allows the national Geocatalog , managed by BRGM, to consolidate all the local metadata via a standard harvesting system. 


The data are exposed as raw files and as standardized OGC services WMS (Web Map Service) and WFS (Web Feature Service).

On the other hand, the world of Open Data includes information and communication services of public authorities and large, formerly public, companies. 


These organizations offer portals to share data (not only geographical data) through raw file downloads and non-standardized API, where often the output format is JSON. 


These portals are largely harvested by the national Open Data Catalog


Since the beginning of 2015, following an event initiated by AFIGEO under the incentive of the Etalab mission (a service established in 2011 for creating a national portal for open public data in France), a gateway has been developed to enable publishing metadata tagged as "open" from the SDI into the national Open Data Catalog. 


To facilitate the use of data by non-GIS developers, this gateway also converts data released in GML (Geography Markup Language) format into GeoJSON format via the WFS services of the SDI.


From the above analysis on SDI it is clear that the GIS community:

- must offer more popular data formats (GeoJSON, KML) if they want their data to be reused in the world of Open Data, and

- must implement API access to their data by providing services directly reusable in third party applications.


Indeed, this is the mission of the French beneficiaries - BRGM, Depth France, AFIGEO, CNRS and Alkante who have committed their participation within the ENERGIC-OD project, co-financed by the European Union.

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