The French state has created a program called the “Entrepreneurs of General Interest” (Entrepreneurs d’Intérêt Général – EIG) to build a group of 11 digital experts drawn from civil society. Each of these specialists is recruited for 10 months to solve a specific problem in a particular administration through the use of data. Etalab has been tasked to manage the project, supported by the General Economic Council. The EIG programme is part of a wide-ranging strategy to modernise public administration and improve relationships between French citizens and the state.
- In 2012, the French Interministerial Committee for the Modernisation of the State (the Comité Interministériel pour la Modernisation de l’Action Publique – CIMAP) ordered French ministries to collect information on citizens’ needs so as to simplify administrative procedures.
- In 2013, the French President presented measures to enhance relationships between citizens, private companies and public administrations.
- In 2015, the State’s IT department (Direction interministérielle du numérique et du système d’information et de communication de l’État – DINSIC) started to host some internal startups, known as State Startups.
The Ministry of Economy has stated that the creation of the EIG programme has two goals:
- Developing open innovation within administrations: “to improve the knowledge of new resources by administrations and to accelerate the capacity for experimentation and modernisation of the state”.
- Encouraging citizen engagement in administrations: “to increase the openness of administrations to initiatives of general interest initiated by civil society, and implement these initiatives in public services.
Jean-Vincent Placé, Secretary of State in charge of State Reform and Simplification, said that the programme “helps to solve concrete problems for the administration, and thus to strengthen the public service”.
On June 9 2016, French President François Hollande publicly announced the Entrepreneurs of General Interest programme. “The state will launch a call for projects so that those who want to contribute through their own intervention, innovation and imagination to improving relations between citizens and stakeholders, can do so,” President Hollande said.
EIG is about “how we can bring in actors, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs of general interest so that they can improve, change and even transform relationships between citizens and public officials,” Hollande added. “Not just to change the mode of operation, but to provide additional services with the data.”
Address nine challenges established by eight administrations
The selected digital experts are to work on challenges established by eight administrations:
- French Development Agency (Agence Française pour le Développement – AFD): use satellite image recognition to track the progress of AFD-funded projects and ensure the proper use of funds.
- French National Library (Bibliothèque Nationale de France – BNF): build a platform for public administrations who specialise in cultural issues that allows them to work with scientists to co-produce data.
- Court of Auditors (Cour des Comptes): create a chatbot (an intelligent virtual assistant) to help citizens find data from the court’s reports.
- Ministry of Culture and Communications: use crowdsourcing to build a global database of French cultural heritage.
- The Ministry of the Interior created two challenges:
o Improve the quality of data in the national system for driving licences, merging this information with data from the RNIPP (Répertoire National d’Identification des Personnes Physiques – the national personal identification registry).
o Build a mapping system by merging accidental data and verbalisation data to help decision-making.
- Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research: create an application programming interface (API) to connect non-standardised data to existing repositories.
- Ministry of Health: use data from the national health data system (Système national des données de santé – SNDS) to design a care pathway system for the regional health agency in Occitania regionand identify departures from the standard pathway.
- Ministry of Economy and Finance: develop analytical models to help the Ministry receive money owed to it and prevent fiscal fraud.
11 winners chosen
The EIG experts chosen from civil society are hired by the state for ten months each. They receive a salary of EUR 2,500 or EUR 4,000 a month, depending on their experience.
According to Etalab, the French taskforce in charge of open data, 115 applications were submitted and reviewed by the agency, the administrations concerned, and the General Council of Economy, Industry, Energy and Technologies (CGEIET).
Statistics revealed that:
- 12% of the applicants were female;
- the average age was 33;
- the challenges set by the Court of Auditors and the Culture and Interior Ministries received the most of the applications.
From the 115 applications, 30 candidates were selected for interview by the EIG jury. 11 people were finally chosen to be the first Entrepreneurs of General Interest.
Frédéric Mazzella, President of Blablacar (a French car-sharing company) was the president of the EIG jury for the first round of appointments. The jury also included representatives of the eight administrations taking part in the program, plus start-up specialists and other experts.
According to gouvernement.fr, the selection criteria were based on candidates’:
- technical skills in data processing, data sciences, development, data scraping, agility, user experience, and image recognition;
- contributions to other projects of general interest;
- entrepreneurial skills; and
- availability for 10 months from January 2017.
Since January 2, 2017, the first group of EIG entrepreneurs have started working with their respective administrations.