European e-government Action Plan all about interoperability

Yesterday, the European Commission released its European eGovernment Action Plan for 2011-2015. The plan includes measures on providing deeper user empowerment, enhancing the Internal Market, more efficiency and effectiveness of public administrations, and putting in place pre-conditions for developing e-government.

The Good

- Defines interoperability very clearly. Calls interoperability "a pre-condition for cross-border eGovernment services" (a very strong formulation) and says interoperability "is supported by open specifications".

- Uses the terminology "open specifications" which, let's face it, is pretty close to "open standards" which is the term the rest of the world would use.

- Confirms that Member States are fully committed to the political priorities of the Malmö Declaration (which was all about open standards) including the very strong action: by 2013: All Member States will have incorporated the political priorities of the Malmö Declaration in their national strategies.

Such tight Action Plan integration between Commission and Member State priorities has seldom been attempted before, particularly not in a field where European legal competence is virtually non-existent. What we see now, is the subtle force of soft power rather than the rough force of regulation. In this case, it is the Member States who want Europe to take the lead. Very refreshing!

Some quotes that show the commitment to interoperability and open specifications:

"The emergence of innovative technologies such as "service-oriented architectures" (SOA), or "clouds" of services,  together with more open specifications which allow for greater sharing, re-use and interoperability reinforce the ability of ICT to play a key role in this quest for effficiency in the public sector." (p.4)

"Interoperability is supported through open specifications" (p.13)

2.4.1. Open Specifications and Interoperability (p.13 has a whole section dedicated to this important topic. Open specifications and interoperability are nearly 100% interrelated):

"Interoperability is the ability of systems and machines to exchange, process and correctly interpret information. It is more than just a technical challenge, as it also involves legal, organisational and semantic aspects of handling  data" (p.13)

"standards and  open platforms offer opportunities for more cost-effective use of resources and delivery of services" (p.13).

The Bad

Shies away from defining open standards, or even open specifications, the EU's preferred term for the key enabler of interoperability.

Verdict

90/100, a very respectable score.

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Trond Undheim, Ph.D, Director of Standards Strategy and Policy at the Oracle Corporation, speaker, entrepreneur, blogger, and author, is one of the world’s leading experts on technology and society. LinkedIn profile

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