Owen Ambur - DOI - FWS
Nathan Baldwin - DISA
Mark Crawford – LMI
Jim Disbrow - DOE
Mike Douglass – SQSW (recording)
Ronnie Gerstein - GSA
Elaine Goheen - ED
Terry Gower - DLA
Dick Griffin – NPR/DOL
Michael Grimley – USN
Leo Gueriguian - EPA
Dan Jansen - NARA
Cliff Kottman - Open GIS
Mary Mitchell - GSA
Simon Nicholson - Sun
Bao Nguyen - USAF
Marion Royal - GSA
Jim Thorstad - USAF
Alan Kotok – DISA
John Paroda - Intercom
Tim Bolano - NIST
Johnny Young - GSA
Jan Wendler - GSA
Brand Niemann - EPA
Roy Morgan - NIST
Greg Portnoy - ISC
Terri Hobson – GSA
At 9:30 the chairs opened the meeting and invited any statements of specific interest from the approximately 23 attendees. Mr. Bolano referred to ongoing efforts on xml.gov. Ms. Gerstein encouraged the WG to take accessibility issues into account. Mr. Grimley identified another Navy center of XML interest. Dr. Kottman called attention to the geospatial markup language recommendation.
On October 11 FIRM and GSA will co-sponsor a symposium on GPEA & ASIS.
Recently Mr. Ambur met with Lisa Carnahan (NIST) who hopes to have the first-generation of xml.gov up within a couple of weeks. At this stage it will serve a reference (versus collaborative) function.
While Ms. Carnahan is organizing structure, Mr. Bolano is gathering content and would be interested in hearing about any Federal XML efforts (with point-of-contact, short description, etc.) Mr. Ambur has requested that xml.gov be more broadly publicized to solicit information about these activities; the next-generation xml.gov should provide a mechanism for registering and publicizing XML activities in the government. He recommends that the portal handle these processes.
NCLIS, the U.S. National Commission of Libraries and Information Science (at http://www.nclis.gov/) is conducting a broad study resulting from the proposed elimination of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) by the Department of Commerce (see http://www.nclis.gov/govt/assess/planout.html). Mr. Ambur is participating on Panel 2 (information sharing) where he sees an important role for XML but sees the present focus to be on bureaucratic issues whereas he would rather see commitment to a standards-based approach. Comments to this study are encouraged.
The RosettaNet Conference will be October 11-13 in San Francisco. The last date to reserve conference-rate rooms is September 25.
Dick Griffin provided an update on the Government Information Clearinghouse, a consortium of government and industry IT managers and developers bringing attention to specific interests and ”challenges”. The November meeting will discuss some of these interest areas; he encourages new members to attend. The Clearinghouse is “alive and well and moving forward …quietly”.
The W3C has put out a call for participation in XML protocol work and are looking at IBM’s SOAP submission as a baseline. Heavy ebXML participation is expected. The Digital Signatures XML specification is now out for comment. Mr. Crawford reported that the Schema WG has acknowledged that it didn’t meet the original projections (September) for issuing the next version of the specificiation.
Minutes of the last meeting
Mr. Royal referred the membership to the XML WG website for review.
Briefing by GSA: “XML Pilot Activities at GSA”
Mr. Young (GSA Creative and Emerging Technologies) briefed the membership on GSA’s Web Forms site where each of the form elements is XML tagged. This effort, begun about four years ago, is looking to the XML WG to help reconcile multiple XML vocabularies. Ms. Windler noted that GSA is increasingly considering accessibility issues and is putting together final requirements. Mr. Paroda (contractor to GSA) commented that the strategy is to use XML through-and-through to support using documents online.
This first implementation of a GSA website using XML gives the ability to tag specific information on a given form. No one has been able to use it yet but “things are changing”. At COMDEX, GSA will introduce a demonstration of XML-tag-driven voice synthesis. There are also implications for wireless applications.
Mr. Young stated that there are now 500 documents online. They see hits of 40,000-50,000 per month. The original vision is that one day there will be one universal website for government forms. “The technology is there -- and groups like this help.” GSA would like to set the framework for that universal website using XML. They will be providing accessibility features leveraging XML. A pilot is underway with SmartCard and PKI. A briefing package on the elements of need is being assembled with other agencies. “We’re ready today to do those things.” Ms. Wendler referred the audience to www.fillform.gsa.gov.
Jonathan Womer (OMB) was identified as responsible for the burden reduction process. Mr. Royal has a call into Mr. Collison (NPR) regarding the collection inventory and the collection budget, which is now provided through GSA instead of OMB.
Mr. Royal suggested working with GSA/C&ET to identify and address common elements and DTDs and to establish a common vocabulary for forms in response to GPEA. Mr. Young believes the forms inventory could be easily acquired from each of the agencies.
Ms. Wendler described how the successful e-grants program uses XML-tagged forms. SmartCard technology allows a user to securely fill-in the form on the web, to save the form as XML data, and to sign it. Eventually the process will reflect signed and encrypted status on the form itself and will support its transport to remote applications.
Mr. Royal’s office is developing a business model for the use of PKI on SmartCards. “Digital signatures aren’t ‘interesting’ but bring much to the table for e-government.“ The real question is “How do agencies take advantage of WebForms?”
Mr. Young replied that GSA’s Office of Smart Card Initiatives has contracts that facilitate working with C&ET. Software is available for downloading from the WebForms website. Mr. Disbrow mentioned that Government websites cannot appear to endorse any product or compel the purchase of a specific product. Mr. Royal offered that the GSA ACES Contract (Access Certificates for Electronic Services at http://ec.fed.gov/aces.htm) provides access to three vendors that could put certificates in the hands (i.e., browsers) of citizens at no cost to them. A fee for each transaction using the certificate would be charged to the agency.
Mr. Royal sees three ways to proceed with this agenda at GSA: the Office of SmartCard Initiatives, FTS/ACES, and C&ET
Mr. Young ultimately hopes to see form fields populated automatically by SmartCard input. However the C&ET staff assigned to this project are few so they’re concentrating on ”giving you the alternatives to achieve the best cost/benefit for any agency”.
The forms on the website are used extensively by the public, the military, veterans, contractors, job applicants, etc., all of whom might someday use SmartCards to exercise the technology.
Mr. Disbrow asked if the XML schema is going to be registered somewhere. Mr. Ambur replied that the XML WG is considering this. He has been trying to attract OMB's interest in focusing such a registry on the burden reduction process with respect to public-use forms. He has suggested that such a registry might be hosted at xml.gov but that the support of OMB and NPR would be required. Meanwhile, DOD has established an XML registry but still seems to be looking for a bureaucratic solution to divergent efforts, when a standards-based *system* is what is really needed. The desired approach would not use bureaucratic force but would provide a standards-based tool or service. GPEA provides a model. It requires agencies to give the public the opportunity to file information by electronic means, but it does not require citizens to use such means. However, the ability to provide information by electronic means will become the expectation and may drive funding decisions. For example, systems whose data elements are not registered in the system may be denied funding. Mr. Ambur referred to "the tragedy of the commons," whereby benefits are focused but costs are distributed. He suggested that the case for a standards-based approach can be made and, if such a case is well stated, the CIO Council would surely entertain it."
Mr. Crawford posed the question, “Where and when does one REALLY need a standard vocabulary.” He went on to suggest that it becomes a real issue in the B2B environment, where the need for common vocabularies is important. The government interacts with many communities. At last count there are over 450 separate XML vocabulary initiatives. But an organization can’t necessarily create its own vocabulary. Mr. Crawford summarized, “There is a need for a standard government vocabulary only for government-unique functions and that’s where you’ll need a repository/registry -- as a supplement to the commercial vocabularies.”
Mr. Ambur offered that public use forms are a good focus for the government-unique case.
Mr. Crawford suggested that when the XForms specification is completed it may need to be embraced with the transition. But it’s still early in the development. There is clearly a need to standardize on a standard vocabulary within agencies. In intra-agency operations, this will need to be coordinated where transactions are tied into an application or database.
Mr. Niemann discussed semantic challenges in the development and use of namespaces, noting the difficulties of standardizing naming conventions, and envisioned the search for a strategy to define core versus global elements. The XML WG could help with this. For example, FedStats (with NSF) is working on standardization. “We should bring such mark-up efforts to the table.”
Mr. Douglass asked “Where in the government is XML ‘happening’?” Mr. Crawford suggested the best bet is to track what’s happening in the private realm.
Briefing on ebXML “The global standard for e-business”
Mr. Nicholson, who is leading outreach efforts for ebXML, provided (with Mr. Kotok) an overview and “incitement to participate” in the initiative.
ebXML was described, in part, as a remedy for legacy limitations on e-business, e.g., isolation in large organizations, high-cost of entry and expense to maintain, difficulty in exchanging messages outside industry boundaries, narrow initiatives to translate EDI verbatim to XML, the challenge of consensus, and the lack of a core infrastructure. But the demand for an e-business infrastructure solution will be very, very large.
ebXML is a worldwide project to standardize the exchange of e-business data using an XML-based infrastructure with broad support from industry, OASIS, and UN/CEFACT. The first meeting was in November 1999.
“ebXML enables anyone, anywhere to do business with anyone else over the Internet”, engendering a global electronic market where companies can find each other and do business using off-the-shelf purchased business applications.
ebXML is focused on addressing the needs of small-to-medium-sized enterprises as well as markets in transition, on facilitating global trade, on lowering the cost and complexity of e-business, on complementing and extending current EC/EDI mechanisms, on engaging new trading partners, and on converging current and emerging XML efforts.
Participation is free & open to anyone on an individual basis (versus corporate).
UN/CEFACT has put other XML initiatives on hold until ebXML delivers.
The framework uses BPM, UML, and XML. Models are to be stored and registered globally. Trading partners register their particular business process paths through the models. Business messages are expressed in XML, business processes are defined in UML and expressed in XML, the business services interface is expressed in XML, and a transport/packaging and routing layer moves the XML data.
Demonstrations of ebXML components have been growing in number with each succeeding meeting. The next is in Tokyo in November.
ebXML will not build products and will stay horizontally focused.
“It’s real and coming fast. Specifications are now in the deliverable phase”. ebXML is open and vendor-neutral. The reference website is www.ebxml.org. Mr. Nicholson will send the presentation to Mr. Royal.
In response to the question of whether there might be an ebXML process model for DOD to retain its unified acquisition topology, Mr. Crawford suggested there may be similar models in industry where ebXML will be leveraged in that way. In fact the bulk of the ebXML business process effort remains undone.
Nothing in ebXML should preclude DOD from creating a “super registry-and-repository” (R&R) with “sub-R&Rs”. Perhaps xml.gov could serve as that R&R for all government agencies -- if agencies wanted that. The specification is very flexible and could support both common and local (stand-alone) R&Rs. Mr. Nicholson stated that NATO has a similar challenge and needs the registries to talk with each other.
With regard to concern about translation of divergent XML vocabularies for e-business, Mr. Crawford believes that when ebXML is fully defined the gateways or translators will be built by industry.
How does this compete with BizTalk? Mr. Nicholson stated, “There will be several initiatives, some vendor-backed, of course, but ebXML is UN-backed.” Mr. Crawford added, “There are many obstacles to interoperability with XML (framework) variants. ebXML does have the problem of a lack of participation by Microsoft. Efforts are being made to get some level of commitment from them. Ms. Brady emphasized that BizTalk can’t be ignored. Meanwhile, there is a continuing appeal by NIST for verticals not to proliferate local standards.
Mr. Crawford stressed that the ebXML framework goes way beyond commerce. There is some US Government involvement in several aspects of ebXML via the Federal Commons, NIST, and DOD. Ms. Brady added that there is apparently no competing framework equivalent in scale and scope.
Several suggestions followed the presentation.
Mr. Niemann and Mr Crawford stressed that the XML WG ought to get involved in the ebXML effort, which needs greater participation especially from the government.
Mr Crawford suggested that the WG should ask the CIO Council to participate and should review the ebXML specs as they are released.
Mr. Ambur pointed to SBA as a good candidate agency to get involved.
Mr Niemann suggested a whitepaper (exploring the impact of ebXML on government e-commerce?) be developed.
Mr. Royal suggested that the XML WG develop a liaison to each of the ebXML functional groups.
Mr. Ambur and Mr. Royal stated that they will work on a strategy with regard to ebXML.
Next meeting will be October 18.