The European Commission issued, on 13 February 2006, a communication on interoperability for pan-European eGovernment services (COM (2006) 45 final). The communication calls upon Member States to collaborate so that interoperability is realized at European level.
Although much progress has been made on eGovernment at all levels of public administration in Europe, the Commission is now paying attention to the development of the cross-border dimension of eGovernment. In its communication, the Commission argues for closer collaboration between administrations from different Member States to support the emergence of better services for European citizens and businesses and a more efficient implementation of EU policies.
This Communication is built on the statement that heaps of paper still have to be piled up when setting up a company, paying taxes, transferring social insurance rights, participating in procurement activities or even getting married in another Member State.
One of the major challenges of eGovernment is the multiplicity of government layers in the EU at the national, regional and local levels. To overcome problems arising from this variety, interoperability in eGovernment requires that information can be exchanged at each layer and that administrations approach each other for services that are being delivered at another level. The Commission identifies a lack of interoperability at three different levels:
- Interoperability of administrative processes (called organisational interoperability) for “life-time events” (birth, marriage, social security, etc.) and “business-events” (setting up a company, paying taxes, participating in procurement activities, etc);
- Understanding each others information (called semantic interoperability): systems must “understand” each other’s language. For example, birth certificates are rather standardised documents but they look very different from country to country;
- Technical interoperability: computers must be able to “talk” to each other. This is the interoperability level that is normally tackled via standardisation.
The goal of this communication is to call upon the Member States as well as ICT oriented industries to collaborate to make this interoperability happen. Although Member States are responsible for the interoperability of their own systems, the Commission wants to work with the Member States to set priorities, publish policy documents/guidelines and technical recommendations to encourage standardisation. More concrete steps will be developed following the eGovernment action plan (part of the i2010 initiative) that will be introduced in the coming months.
Note that IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens) is launching the third edition of its yearly Open Source Software (OSS) workshop, which will take place on 11th April 2006 in Prague. The IDABC OSS workshop is organised besides the Czech LinuxExpo 2006, with the support of the Ministry of Informatics of the Czech Republic (MICR). The workshop, dedicated to representatives of the European public sector, OSS competence centres and policymakers, will focus on concrete aspects of cross-border collaboration between public administrations.
The workshop will concentrate on the following aspects:
- The legal context: how to handle licences and patent problems when producing customized software for administrations,
- How to procure OSS: presentation and discussions on the basis of the recently published Dutch OSOSS guidelines,
- Models for cross-border collaboration: an IDABC project investigates one possible model in the context of a common eProcurement platform,
- Platform for collaboration: the IDABC OSS Repository will be presented and requirements will be collected and analysed.
For more information:
IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services):