Geographic Information in France

By Gérard Liesenfelt , Association Française pour l'Information Géographique ( AFIGéO )

Abstract :

           In France two organisations cover the domain of geographic information :

           These two organisations are working in close co-operation , which ensures the consistency of the French policy in geographic information . They arrange workshops , manage technical and economical studies , are representing the French community in the different international bodies ( Eurogi , CEN/TC287 , ISO/TC211 , etc. ) .


           The title of this presentation " Geographic Information in France " is ambitious . It would be more exact to write " the organisation of geographic information in France " . But this would be long and would not sound very well . I intend to speak about the two organisations which cover in France the field of geographic information and which are working closely together . These are :

           In the continuation of the presentation the acronyms CNIG and AFIGéO will only be used .

           I will discourse at first on CNIG : its purpose , its actions , its membership . But it will be quickly understood why the main point will refer to AFIGéO . The following points will be successively touched :

           What is CNIG ?
           CNIG is a consultative official body which has been created in 1985 to promote the development of geographic information in France . CNIG gives its opinion on the national policy and on the drafts of new laws or decrees , delivers recommendations to improve the technics , develops standards ( EDIGéO ) , coordinates the annual government's programmes for production and distribution , analyses the needs of users , encourages research and development .
           To perform this wide task CNIG sets up commissions and working groups according to the needs of professional people and to questions of the moment in the field of geographic information . Among these commissions there can be mentioned : large-scale topographic information , economy , toponymy , professions , geographic research .
           CNIG is in charge too of the national representation to international conferences or meetings relating to geographic information .

           Who is a member of CNIG ?
           The President is designated by a decree signed by the Prime Minister . The 33 other members are :

           The conclusion of this listing is : the members of CNIG are coming from public sector , they build only a consultative body and they have no money to do anything .

           This explains the creation of AFIGéO
to attract the private sector ,
           to collect funds ,
           to have the legal personality .

           A comparison of the two organisation charts shows that CNIG and AFIGéO can work closely coordinated . In fact they have the same President ( Jean Berthier ) and the same Secretary General ( Jean-Claude Lummaux ) . Of course AFIGéO has a Board of Directors , with vice-presidents , a treasurer and members , who are volunteers ( not designated people ) .
           Essentially AFIGéO supports CNIG .

           What are the operating aspects ?

from Ministry of Equipment : 3 engineers , including the Secretary General , and 2 half-time employees ,
from IGN ( which is under Ministry of Equipment supervision ) : 2 secretaries ,
from Ministry of Budget : 1 half-time employee .
from fees paid by our members ( there are four levels : individuals , small companies , other companies , sponsors ) ,
from government grants ( which are part supports to special purposes ) ,
from participations of members to the realisation of specific studies or actions .

           These material points being clarified , what is the purpose of AFIGéO ? It is
           to favour the development of geographic information in France to the advantage of all public and private actors ,
           to broaden to all professionals and users the thoughts of CNIG , so that the technical progress will be better taken into account in the public policies .
           AFIGéO denies itself any activity which could put it in competition with its members .

           Practically , what kind of actions are conducted by AFIGéO ? Four categories can be distinguished : organisation of events , management of studies , development of international relations , increasing in competitiveness of the French actors . Hereafter some precisions will allow to understand better each of these points .

           AFIGéO organises symposiums , scientific and technical workshops , exhibitions and conferences to favour exchanges between public and private actors in the sector . Every year there are at least two main events :
           In April a one-day joint session CNIG/AFIGéO during MARI-show in Paris ( in 1998 the theme has been " Geographic information in information society " ) ,
           In June a two-days symposium , being held in one of the major cities in France and dedicated to the state-of-the-art in advanced domains ( in 1998 the title was " Internet and geographic information " ) .

           AFIGéO provides the management of technical and economical studies which are intended to develop the use of geographic information . They are realised by specialised consulting firms or by AFIGéO itself with the voluntary participation of some of its members through working groups . In 1998 an academic study on training has been directly paid by the Ministry of Environment through DATAR ( Délégation a l'Aménagement du Territoire et a l'Action Régionale = office for national and regional development ) , but led by AFIGéO .
           As examples of our work , hereafter are mentioned the titles of some studies realised since 1996 :

           AFIGéO pushes to the development of international relations and represents the French community particularly at the European level . It contributes to scientific and technical exchanges between France and foreign countries . AFIGéO is a part of French representation in the international bodies in the sector ( CEN , ISO , ... ) . And of course AFIGéO represents France within Eurogi and its Executive Committee .

           AFIGéO tries to increase the competitiveness of the French actors . It participates to actions enhancing the value of French know-how in export business . A special interest group is being created within AFIGéO to facilitate the access of industry to international market - particularly the access of small companies - .

           In the field of geographic information's standardisation AFIGéO participates to the international organisations . During several years AFIGéO supplied the President and financed the office of Secretary of CEN/TC287 . And AFIGéO represents France in ISO/TC211 .
           Concerning the standards , the inquiry is ongoing for formal approval of EDIGéO , the French national standard . At least two of the European provisional Standards ( metadata and quality ) will be used again in France .

           With regard to geographic information's metadata systems , what is the present state ? AFIGéO manages the directory of national databases . A national profile of the European metadata standard is under development . The existing system will evolve in accordance with the national profile . At the different territorial levels ( regions , departments , municipalities ) the users are creating local systems compliant with the national profile .
           In the future , things will run towards the setting up of a hierarchical system , the directory of national databases ( AFIGéO ) being at the central level , more specific informations being available at the regional level . It exists a strong dynamics at the local level , but not still an on-line system for data exchange .

           What are AFIGéO's views for the immediate future ?
           At the present time a working group is thinking about training and some members of Parliament are acting to promote the development of geographic information . AFIGéO intends especially to draw up the present state of research ( as a result of the " White Paper " ) to redefine the " mission of general interest " . This last task could be done by CNIG/AFIGéO with a mandate of the government , or by members of Parliament working closely with CNIG/AFIGéO .
           In any case AFIGéO will continue to work closely with Eurogi towards their common objectives . That is sure .