How administrations and civil society worked together to open COVID-19 data: the case of France
The Coronavirus crisis is simultaneously mobilising public administrations and numerous civil society actors in the world, as well as the academic community and the press, around data collecting, cleaning, verification and editorial. There has been a tremendous need for accurate data from the very beginning of the epidemic, for public information and transparency needs as well as for the crisis management itself.
This article tells the story of how health administrations, the government and civil society worked together to open the COVID-19 data in France at the beginning of the epidemic.
Collecting and publishing health data at the national level
The challenge of aggregation
For administrations, such as the French Ministry of Health and the French public health agency (Santé publique France), as well as local health agencies, the challenge has been to collect and aggregate large amounts of data from different sources (such as hospitals, public retirement homes as well as town doctors and clinics) and formats.
If national information systems already existed, it was, however, necessary to adapt them to carry out a specific follow-up of patients with COVID-19. On top of that, it is important to consider that the different stakeholders of the health sector (hospital services, emergency call services, etc.) rely on information systems that are specific to their profession. These systems offer different data collection methods and often different data structures.
The exercise was made all the more difficult by the fact that those data had to be collected and updated on a national scale in a particularly short time.
Measure the spread of the epidemic and the state of the health care system
French authorities together with the civil society carried out a considerable amount of work in collecting and aggregating data in order to provide a vision of the situation at the regional and departmental level. Thanks to the export and consolidation of data from various information systems, Santé Publique France has been publishing data on the public data platform data.gouv.fr. They include :
Data on the number of confirmed cases:
- Confirmed cases: cumulative number of COVID-19 cases confirmed with a positive test.
Hospital status data:
- Hospitalisations: number of patients currently hospitalised for COVID-19.
- Returns home: cumulative number of patients who were hospitalised for COVID-19 and returned home due to improved health status.
- Intensive care: number of patients currently in intensive care or resuscitation.
Data on deaths due to COVID-19
- Cumulation of deaths: Cumulation of deaths recorded in hospital and in EPHAD and EMS.
- Hospital deaths: cumulative number of inpatient deaths for COVID-19 since March 1, 2020.
- Confirmed cases in retirement home and nursing home: number of cases confirmed by PCR test in retirement home and nursing home.
- Deaths in retirement home and nursing home
Etalab worked directly with Santé Publique France and the Ministry of Solidarity and Health notably on the documentation of the data to facilitate its re-use, but also on the implementation of an automated data provision protocol.
Santé Publique France organisation’s page on data.gouv.fr
In order to facilitate data discoverability Etalab also display an inventory of the most important datasets concerning the pandemic.
Making data easier to understand for all citizens
In order to facilitate the handling and understanding of the data published on www.data.gouv.fr, Etalab has developed various dashboards.
The epidemic monitoring dashboard
In order to continue the efforts undertaken by civil society in the scope of the "OpenCOVID19 " initiative, Etalab worked developed a dashboard to centralise and visualise all official data related to the COVID-19 epidemic.
The government’s Communication and Information Service (SIG) partnered with the project so that all citizens could access information. The dashboard has been made available through the French government’s website on March 28, 2020.
The dashboard published on gouvernement.fr
The financial support to business dashboard
Based on data provided by the economic and financial ministries, Etalab also developed a dashboard to consult and visualise the different types of financial support granted by the state to companies.
The dashboard for monitoring financial support to businesses in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.
The impact of COVID-19 data on the national portal usage and reusers community
The work provided to open up data related to the coronavirus epidemic has had a significant impact on the re-users’ community.
Indeed, in March and April 2020 data.gouv.fr has reached its absolute traffic record (1.2 million visits in March and as many in April), demonstrating the usefulness of open data in times of crisis, but also the mobilisation of the community of producers and re-users: the number of re-use submitted on the platform has increased to around 50 reuses submitted in March and 107 in April, most of which were based on French Public Health data relating to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Ressources (in French)
See the dashboards
See the COVID-19 data inventory on data.gouv.fr
See Santé Publique France data
See data from the Ministry of Solidarity and Health
See the reuse catalog on data.gouv.fr