- Bibliographic Information
- Overview of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF)
- Semantic Interoperability
- IDA Architecture Guidelines
- The EC Definition of "Open Standards" in the EIF
- Summary of European Interoperability Framework Recommendations
- About IDA
- About IDABC
- Principal References
The European Commission's Interchange of Data Between Administrations (IDA) released a Final Version 1.0 of its European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European E-Government Services, approved by the Telematics Between Administrations Committee (TAC) Steering Committee. Publication of the EIF document follows a ten-month period of review and feedback by Members States, industry representatives, and stakeholders within the institutions.
IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) is "a Community Programme managed by the European Commission's Enterprise Directorate General. IDA supports the implementation of EU legislation, from internal market regulations to consumer and health policies, by facilitating the exchange of information between public administrations across Europe through the use of information technology."
The European Interoperability Framework document "provides recommendations and defines generic standards with regard to organizational, semantic, and technical aspects of interoperability, offering a comprehensive set of principles for European cooperation in eGovernment. EIF augments regional and national interoperability programs: "national administrations have developed or are in the process of developing Governmental Interoperability Frameworks for efficient communication between themselves as well as with citizens and businesses; IDA is complementing this work by adding the pan-European dimension."
The European Interoperability Framework "supports the European Union's strategy of providing user-centred eGovernment services by facilitating, at a pan-European level, the interoperability of services and systems between public administrations, as well as between administrations and the public (citizens, businesses). It is an action of the eEurope 2005 Action Plan, under the eGovernment heading."
The EIF document considers "interoperability" in three dimensions, and categorizes the seventeen Recommendations according to this taxonomy: organizational interoperability, semantic interoperability, and technical interoperability. The "semantic" Recommendation 9 identifies XML as playing a key role in formalizing definitions for exchange of data elements: "Initiatives at pan-European level [designed] to develop common semantics on the basis of XML should be performed in a coordinated way and should consider cooperation with the existing standardisation bodies. In particular, the XML vocabularies should be developed whilst taking into account the agreed core/specific eGovernment data elements. Specific European schemas and definitions should be made available to all pan-European stakeholders through common infrastructures."
Basic principles for ICT interoperablity are sketched in Recommendation 2: "The following principles, of a general nature, should be considered for any eGovernment services to be set up at a pan-European level: Accessibility; Multilingualism; Security; Privacy; Subsidiarity; Use of Open Standards; Assess the Benefits of Open Source Software; Use of Multilateral Solutions."
The European Interoperability Framework Recommendations are scoped for applicability and validity in two ways. First, the approved document is aimed at policy, and does not set out a legal basis for standardization. Second, the EIF "focuses on supplementing, rather than replacing, national interoperability guidance by adding the pan-European dimension. In order to operate at pan-European level, a Member State administration must therefore already have a national interoperability framework or equivalent technical strategy for the delivery of eGovernment services in place. However, the recommendations and guidelines of the Framework and related documents, such as the IDABC Architecture Guidelines, are mandatory for pan-European projects carried out in the context of IDABC programme."
The European Interoperability Framework "has been prepared by the Commission in collaboration with a group of experts from the Member States. A draft version was first published on the IDA website in January 2004 asking all interested parties to comment on the document. During the following months, IDA received more than twenty (20) comments on the draft document from reviewers. Issues "related to the governance of and compliance to the document and the definition of open standards outlined in the draft" received most attention in the review; "both points were slightly revised after consultation with the Member States and industry stakeholders."
European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European E-Government Services. Produced by IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) Community Programme. Version 1.0. Final Version, approved by the Telematics Between Administrations Committee (TAC), IDA's high-level steering committee. November 2004. Copyright (c) 2004 European Communities. 26 pages. Disclaimer: "Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on its behalf is responsible for the use that might be made of the information contained in this document." [source PDF from IDA]
IDA Architecture Guidelines for Trans-European Telematics Networks for Administrations. By Enterprise DG, Interchange of Data between Administrations Programme. Brussels, June 2002.
- Part 1: General Guidance. Version 6.1. 48 pages. "These Guidelines describe an architecture agreed upon by the IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations: a European Community Programme) community that enables trans-European networks to interoperate, and thus allowing Public Administrations in Europe to interchange data."
- Part 2: Technical Handbook. Version 6.1. 56 pages. "Chapter 2 contains reference technical specifications for candidate technology (i.e., either generic services or, when available, common tools) to meet the requirements. Chapter 3 contains a number of Best Practice Examples of projects that have implemented components of the architecture covered by these guidelines."
- Part 3: Glossary of Terms. Version 6.1. 20 pages.
EIF Objectives: The objectives of the European Interoperability Framework are:
- To support the European Union's strategy of providing user-centred eServices by facilitating the interoperability of services and systems between public administrations, as well as between administrations and the public (citizens and enterprises), at a pan-European level
- To supplement national interoperability frameworks in areas that cannot be adequately addressed by a purely national approach
- To help achieve interoperability both within and across different policy areas, notably in the context of the IDABC programme and any other relevant Community programmes and initiatives.
Scope and Interaction Types: In the most general form of interoperability, the following three interaction types that cover most of the current trans-border eGovernment services are defined:
- Direct interaction between citizens or enterprises of one particular Member State with administrations of other Member States and/or European institutions
- The exchange of data between administrations of different Member States in order to resolve cases that citizens or enterprises may raise with the administration of their own country
- The exchange of data between various EU Institutions/Agencies or between an EU Institution/Agency and one or more administrations of Member States
Dimensions of Interoperability: Three aspects of interoperability are considered:
- Organizational interoperability. This aspect of interoperability is concerned with defining business goals, modelling business processes and bringing about the collaboration of administrations that wish to exchange information and may have different internal structures and processes. Moreover, organizational interoperability aims at addressing the requirements of the user community by making services available, easily identifiable, accessible and useroriented.
- Semantic interoperability. This aspect of interoperability is concerned with ensuring that the precise meaning of exchanged information is understandable by any other application that was not initially developed for this purpose. Semantic interoperability enables systems to combine received information with other information resources and to process it in a meaningful manner. Semantic interoperability is therefore a prerequisite for the front-end multilingual delivery of services to the user.
- Technical interoperability. This aspect of interoperability covers the technical issues of linking computer systems and services. It includes key aspects such as open interfaces, interconnection services, data integration and middleware, data presentation and exchange, accessibility and security services.
How it Works: "During the last eGovernment conference held at Como (Italy) on 7-8 July 2003 under the Italian Presidency, the Ministers recognised that interoperability is the key condition to developing pan-European eGovernment services, and that, to reach such interoperability, an agreed European Interoperability Framework is a necessary condition.
The European Interoperability Framework is based on the premise that each Member State has, or is in the process of developing, its national Government Interoperability Framework (GIF). Consequently, the European Interoperability Framework focuses on supplementing rather than replacing, National Interoperability Frameworks by adding the pan-European dimension. By providing recommendations and defining generic standards with regard to organizational, semantic and technical aspects of interoperability, it offers a comprehensive set of principles for European cooperation in eGovernment.
The EIF document represents the highest-ranking module of a comprehensive methodological tool kit for implementing pan-European eGovernment services. It will be further developed parallel to the progress and the emerging requirements of pan-European infrastructures and services.
The EIF is supplemented by the well-established IDA Architecture Guidelines that approach interoperability from a more technical and pragmatic viewpoint. The IDA Architecture Guidelines — and other documents foreseen in the IDA(BC) Work Programme — aim at practical guidance and the building of common standards and infrastructures needed for the implementation of interoperability.
Considering the rapid rate of developments in technology, the National Interoperability Frameworks need to be updated promptly and regularly. This also holds for the European Interoperability Framework and related documents which will be regularly updated in a institutionalized consultation process with the Member States.
EIF Recommendations 7-9 concern "semantic interoperability" and highlight the special role of XML vocabularies based upon data dictionaries:
"To move from simply presenting information to where computer programmes can exchange it, combine it with other information resources and subsequently process it in a meaningful manner, requires agreement on a wide variety of issues that relate to the context within which the information is created and used. This is the subject of semantic interoperability. It entails agreement on, for example, ways to discover, represent and give a context to information. This will allow automated tools to share and process information, even when they have been designed independently. The objective is not only to allow information resources to be linked up but also to allow information to be automatically understandable, and, consequently, reusable by computer applications that were not involved in its creation.
In the context of the 2005 target of eGovernment services, semantic interoperability concerns the need to agree on common definitions and understanding for the pieces of data that will need to be exchanged on a pan-European level.
Solving semantic interoperability is an activity to be done at the sectoral level, i.e., within a specific eGovernment service, taking into account the life event or business episode it serves. However, it is most likely that a common set of data items (the core eGovernment data elements such as basic national identifiers of enterprises, citizens and administrations) may need to be identified at a pan-European level. This will require the implementation of organizational as well as technical infrastructures...
An essential requirement for the exchange of information is a single language that enables the description of the meaning and structure of the underlying data, i.e. a markup language. In the context of current technologies and market developments this markup language is XML. However, XML does not, and cannot by itself, guarantee or deliver semantic interoperability. This is achieved through initiatives to develop common semantics on the basis of XML; the subsequent introduction of XML schemas and related artefacts (e.g., metadata, ontologies, etc.) then make it possible to integrate services that were developed with different vocabularies and with different perspectives on the data..."
IDA European Interoperability Framework (EIF) is "supplemented by the well-established Architecture Guidelines for Trans-European Telematics Networks for Administrations that approach interoperability from a more technical and pragmatic viewpoint. The IDA Architecture Guidelines, along with other documents foreseen in the IDA(BC) Work Programme, aim at practical guidance and the building of common standards and infrastructures needed for the implementation of interoperability..."
IDA Architecture Guidelines for Trans-European Telematics Networks for Administrations was produced by Enterprise DG, Interchange of Data between Administrations Programme. Brussels, June 2002 (Version 6.1). The Technical Handbook Section 2, Service Profiles, describes the use of common technologies used in data interchange, including:
- 2.1 Character Sets
- 2.2 Document Archiving Services (including File Compression Techniques)
- 2.3 Document Exchange Services — PDF (Portable Document Format); SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language); DSSSL (Document Style Semantics and Specification Language); HTML (Hypertext Markup Language); XML (Extensible Markup Language); XMI (XML Metadata Interchange); UML (Unified Modelling Language); WebDAV; GIF (Graphics Interchange Format); TIFF (Tag Image File Format); JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group); CGM (Computer Graphics Metafile).
- 2.4 Content Interoperability Services (XML-Based Standards, EDI Services)
- 2.5 World Wide Web (WWW) Services [Basic WWW, DOM, CSS, WAI, WCAG]
- 2.6 Middleware And Internal Interfaces
- 2.7 Message Transfer Services
- 2.8 File Transfer Services
- 2.9 Workflow Management
- 2.10 Directory Services
- 2.11 Network Management Services
- 2.12 Group Working
- 2.13 Carrier Telecommunication Services
- 2.14 WAN Services
- 2.15 Security Services and Secure Connections: VPN, PKI, IPSec, Java Security, Cryptography and Authentication Services, Firewalls, Virus Protection and Email Attack, S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)
- 2.16 Open Source Software
The IDABC Architecture Guidelines are being revised for Version 8.0, including harmonization with the Final version of the published European Interoperability Framework. Content for version 8.0 includes Part I: Enterprise Architecture for pan-European services — targets IT policy + decision makers; Part II: Integrating pan-European Projects into IDABC architecture and environment — targets heads of project and other technical people; Part III: Specifications and standards / glossary / IDA tools and applications which targets the implementers..." [from Barbard Held's FLOSSPOLS Conference presentation "Interoperability: The EU Perspective."]
Enthusiastic approval for the EC's European Interoperability Framework document has been given by members of the Open Source community, owing to the emphasis upon open source software. The eEurope Action Plan 2005 adopted by the European heads of state at the Seville summit in June 2002 stated that the Interoperability Framework would be "based on open standards and encourage the use of open source software." Rationale for the support of open source software is articulated thus in the EIF document:
"Open Source Software (OSS) tends to use and help define open standards and publicly available specifications. OSS products are, by their nature, publicly available specifications, and the availability of their source code promotes open, democratic debate around the specifications, making them both more robust and interoperable. As such, OSS corresponds to the objectives of this Framework and should be assessed and considered favourably alongside proprietary alternatives."
While the European Interoperability Framework document does not deny the legitimate role of proprietary software alternatives in the IDABC Programme, it does present a strong statement about royalty-free standards that are viewed to be acceptably defined as "open" standards. A "standard" in this context is "used in its broadest sense to include all specifications, having gone through a standardization process."
The principle of "open standards" is formulated in EIF section 1.3 "Underlying principles," derived from the eEurope Action Plan 2005 as well as the Decisions of the European Parliament, where the Council and the Commission "have adopted and promote a set of general principles which should be respected for any eGovernment services set up at a pan-European level," including "Use of Open Standards":
"To attain interoperability in the context of pan-European eGovernment services, guidance needs to focus on open standards. The following are the minimal characteristics that a specification and its attendant documents must have in order to be considered an open standard:
- The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.)
- The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee
- The intellectual property — i.e., patents possibly present — of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis
- There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard."
It is unfortunate, perhaps, that several announcements and news stories about the release of the European Interoperability Framework Final Version 1.0 document were generated and syndicated under the (possibly misleading) headlines "EC Announces Open Standards Definition" and "EC Announces Open Standards Definition at Dutch Presidency Conference." The assertion made in the headline is not false, but without qualification, it might be concluded that the IDA document's definition of "open standard" was being promulgated as the official and legally binding definition from the EC, applicable to all application areas, in multiple jurisdictions, in all Member states. Such is not the intent.
While the definition is an approved policy definition for the IDABC Programme, it is not intended to be binding outside the specified area of validity: "the recommendations and guidelines of the [European Interoperability] Framework and related documents, such as the IDABC Architecture Guidelines, are mandatory for pan-European projects carried out in the context of IDABC programme."
On the other hand, it must be noted that the EIF document's "minimal characteristics" necessary for consideration as an "open standard" are largely identical to or commensurable with other definitions of "open standard" constructed by leading members of the Open Source community. Specifically, the stipulation that the intellectual property (patents) inherent within and bound to a published standard be made "irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis" is argued to be a natural and unavoidable concomitant of the Open Source business model . The widely accepted definition of "open source" (license) is published by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) in a ten-point "Open Source Definition" governing access to and distribution of "open source" code. The first element of The Open Source Definition is "Free Redistribution": "the license shall not require a royalty or other fee..." The seventh element of the open source definition relates to Distribution of License, where the rights attached to the redistributed program [source code] "must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties." The Open Source Initiative (OSI) has approved over 50 (fifty) licenses which meet the requirements of the Open Source Definition.
If a standard in the ICT domain incorporates or references patented intellectual property necessarily infringed by implementation of the standard (for example, patented algorithms or business process methods), requiring formal execution of a license with the patent holders and royalty payments for use of licensed IP, this standard will probably not be directly implementable in open source software development projects under the Open Source Definition license terms, and such a standard, therefore, may not be perceived or characterized as "open" by members of the Open Source community. The IDA's Interoperability Framework was designed to optimize interoperability especially in terms of allowing and encouraging the use of open source software. It is not surprising, therefore, that the EIF document's "minimal characteristics" necessary for consideration as an "open standard" were written to be compatible with the dominant business models, licensing practices, and code redistribution requirements of the Open Source community. That will typically exclude royalty payments for patented IP that involves patent licensing under a required executable license.
The potential difficulty of reconciling RAND patent licenses embedded in IT standards with Open Source (software licenses) is exemplified in the recent case of the IETF's MARID Working Group, dissolved by the Internet Engineering Steering Group. Microsoft's engineers maintained that the Statement about IPR made to IETF and explained in the "Microsoft Royalty-Free Sender ID for E-Mail Specification License Agreement" met the formal requirements of the IETF for declared IP. This fact proved to be irrelevant to a significant subset of Open Source members, including the Apache Software Foundation and Debian, who argued that they could not implement or deploy the IETF Sender ID specification under Microsoft's RAND license terms. Although royalty payments were not at issue, several other standard "RAND" (putatively: "reasonable and non-discriminatory") license terms were declared to fatally impede implementation of the Sender ID specification in open source contexts.
Apache therefore wrote in an open letter that the Microsoft Royalty-Free Sender ID Patent License Agreement terms "are a barrier to any ASF project which wants to implement Sender ID. We believe the current license is generally incompatible with open source, contrary to the practice of open Internet standards, and specifically incompatible with the Apache License 2.0. Therefore, we will not implement or deploy Sender ID under the current license terms." Several incompatabilities between the RAND license and open source software licensing were documented, but two key issues were notions of "non-sublicenseable" patent license terms, and formally executed licenses. Larry Rosen, general counsel of the Open Source Initiative, wrote as follows:
The "nontransferable, non-sublicenseable" language in their reciprocal patent license (S2.3) also imposes an impossible administrative burden on the open source development community and, in essence, creates additional downstream patent licenses that will be incompatible with the AFL/OSL and similar open source licenses, and with the open source development process.
The requirement that Microsoft Sender ID patent licenses be formally executed (e.g., S6.10) is incompatible with the way the open source development and distribution process actually works. Furthermore, the requirement that "If you would like a license from Microsoft (e.g., rebrand, redistribute), you need to contact Microsoft directly" (S2.2) gives Microsoft information about its competitors' plans that it has no reason to know. No open source license — and all of them allow rebranding and redistribution — can be conditioned on informing Microsoft of anything at all. Other proposed licenses have been rejected by OSI and FSF because they required licensees to notify the licensor of their intentions..." [Additional details are documented in the news story "Apache Software Foundation Rejects Microsoft Patent License Agreement for Sender ID."]
Predictably then, the IDA's definition of "open standard" embedded in the European Interoperability Framework document has caused concern for advocates of software patents (in Europe), as well as for some standards organizations that perceive themselves as guided by "open standard" principles — who do not wish to have their organizations' standards IPR policies held up against the IDA's definition of "open standard." IDA acknowledges that during the 10-month period between the release of an EIF Working Draft and approval of the Final Version 1.0 by the TAC, "IDA received more than 20 comments on the draft document from Members States, industry representatives, and stakeholders within the institutions. The area attracting the most criticism were issues related to the governance of and compliance to the document and the definition of open standards outlined in the draft. Both points were slightly revised after consultation with the Member States and industry stakeholders."
Rishab Aiyer Ghosh reported in a NewsForge article: "In the [conference] session on interoperability and open standards, Barbara Held from the European Commission's IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) Unit announced their definition of Open Standards, which require the royalty-free licensing of any applicable patents, and prohibit any restrictions on re-use of open standards. While a representative from CompTIA in the audience heavily criticised this new definition, speakers Doug Heintzmann from IBM and Phil Zamani from Novell said their organisations were in support of the new definition of open standards..."
Indeed, Business Software Alliance (BSA) offered a written "Response to the IDA Working Document on the European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European Egovernment Services" based upon the January 2004 Working Draft. Pledging its support for the notion of "open standards" as a means to promote IT interoperability, BSA disageed with the IDA's definition of "open," preferring one consistent with the goals of many commercial software developers who seek to market software implementing patented standards technology, and who seek to incorporate patented technology into standards for the sake of generating revenue. BSA objected to the no-royalties clause, asking for a definition of "open" under which "essential intellectual property rights to implement the standard should be licensed on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (RAND), either with payment of a reasonable royalty or without." No real surprise.
Conclusion: The EC's definition of "open standard" published in the November 2004 Final Version of the European Interoperability Framework is not a definition that will likely find favor with corporate entities committed to a belief that royalty-bearing patented IP in IT standards is a good (or acceptable) thing. Conversely, this definition of "open standard" is probably what we can expect to see formulated with increasing frequency by advocates of the Open Source software development community. It mirrors language in the much-cited "Open Standards: Principles and Practice," by Bruce Perens. IDA's definition is consistent with in the draft "Principles for Open Source and Open Standards" formulated for the Open Standards Alliance.
This debate about "open standard" appears to be just the latest incarnation of a long-standing conundrum, and perhaps an impasse. Those seeking to defend a commercial revenue model based upon RAND-based standards do not wish to face discrimination through definitions of "open" or through policy decisions by jurisdictions which favor open source (against "choice"). Those seeking to advance the spread of open source software are quick to point out, and tirelessly so, that RAND's "reasonable and non-discriminatory" ideal is fatally compromised by virtue of its discriminatory stance against the open source business/licensing model. In the words of Richard Stallman:
"In order for standards to be useful for the general computer-using public, the standards must be freely implementable by all... Many standards bodies [...] promulgate patent-restricted standards that the public cannot freely implement... They often refer to such licenses by the term 'RAND,' which stands for 'reasonable and non-discriminatory.' That term whitewashes a class of patent licenses that are normally neither reasonable nor non-discriminatory. It is true that these licenses do not discriminate against any specific person, but they do discriminate against the free software community, and that makes them unreasonable. Thus, half of 'RAND' is deceptive and the other half is prejudiced."
Little is to be gained therefore, politically or otherwise (it may be argued), through programmatic efforts to quintessentially and officially define and "open standard," and thereby to provide a basis for discrediting alternative definitions of "open standard" — when the definitions emerge so predictably from different kinds of vested interests. Attempts to co-opt the term "open standard" will deplete energy which needs to be spent creatively on substantive challenges to advancing interoperable computing solutions supported by voluntary standards. A revised GPL may provide the basis for clearer thinking about rights (in software and patents) germane to open standards; one suggestion for legal reform is provision for "fair use" of patented technology in non-commercial software. Meantime, a key issue for Open Source, and for developing countries that increasingly depend upon open source solutions in disadvantaged economic arenas, will substantively be as follows, irrespective of any official pronouncement about "open" or "not open": can such-and-such standard, with its legal requirements for IPR, be confidently implemented in open source software development projects, consistent with the requirements of open source licensing and business models?
The EIF Recommendations from the Final Version 1.0 document should be examined in context, where explanatory text, footnotes, and references provide a complete picture; they are summarized here in list format for convenience.
Recommendation 1: Member State administrations and EU Institutions and Agencies should use the guidance provided by this European Framework to introduce a pan-European dimension into their own interoperability frameworks and administrative infrastructures to enable interoperable pan-European eGovernment services. Adherence to the EIF should also be mentioned in the national interoperability frameworks. For IDABC projects, the guidance provided by the EIF and related documents should be considered mandatory.
Recommendation 2: The following principles, of a general nature, should be considered for any eGovernment services to be set up at a pan-European level: Accessibility; Multilingualism; Security; Privacy; Subsidiarity; Use of Open Standards; Assess the Benefits of Open Source Software; Use of Multilateral Solutions.
Recommendation 3: Setting-up eGovernment services at a pan-European level requires the consideration of interoperability issues with regard to organizational, semantic and technical viewpoints.
Recommendation 4 (organizational): The requirements for pan-European eGovernment services should be jointly determined by the participating administrations via a demand-driven approach. This should lead to the identification and prioritisation of such services to be provided at pan-European level.
Recommendation 5 (organizational): Public administrations that consider setting up eGovernment services with a pan-European dimension should analyse the related business processes and actors to be involved. They should agree on the necessary Business Interoperability Interfaces (BII) through which their business processes will be able to interoperate at pan-European level and the definition of common BII standards should be studied.
Recommendation 6 (organizational): Where the provision of a pan-European eGovernment service requires contribution from several public administrations across Europe, the respective expectations should be formalised, for example by means of service level agreements. Such agreements should at least be considered between the different business interoperability interfaces (BII) concerned (at pan-European level). In addition, a common security policy should be agreed upon.
Recommendation 7 (semantic): For each eGovernment service considered at a pan-European level, the data elements to be exchanged should be made interoperable by requiring
- The responsible administrations to publish information on the corresponding data elements involved at national level.
- The responsible administrations to draft proposals for and agree on the data and the related data dictionaries required at pan-European level. This work should be performed on the basis of core eGovernment data elements common to all pan-European eGovernment services. The sector-specific eGovernment data elements should then be defined and agreed upon.
- The responsible administrations to draft proposals for and agree on multilateral mapping tables between the various national and pan-European data elements.
Recommendation 8 (semantic): When considering semantic interoperability, due account should be taken of linguistic traces of the specific legal vocabularies used in delivering services. In the European Union's legal and social framework, there is a presumption of linguistic equivalence in directives and regulations that are approved as part of the legislative process. This implies that vocabulary used in European law subsequently finds itself used in the delivery of eGovernment services on the national level. This may require pan-European harmonization.
Recommendation 9 (semantic): Initiatives at pan-European level to develop common semantics on the basis of XML should be performed in a coordinated way and should consider cooperation with the existing standardisation bodies. In particular, the XML vocabularies should be developed whilst taking into account the agreed core/specific eGovernment data elements. Specific European schemas and definitions should be made available to all pan-European stakeholders through common infrastructures.
Recommendation 11 (technical): At back-office level, technical interoperability aspects should be considered for the following fields: Data integration and middleware; XML-based standards; EDI-based standards; Web Services; Distributed Application Architecture; Interconnection services; File and message transfer protocols; Message transport and security; Message store services; Mailbox access; Directory and domain name services; Network services.
Recommendation 12 (technical): Security aspects to be considered concern all layers: Security services; General security services [PKI]; Web service security; Firewalls; Protection against viruses, worms, Trojan horses and email bombs.
Recommendation 13 (technical): Member State administrations and EU Institutions and Agencies should develop and use common guidelines for the technical interoperability of pan-European networks, applications and services in the context of eGovernment. The IDA(BC) guidelines should constitute the basis for such guidelines, and be updated accordingly, also taking into account relevant results and guidelines coming from the Community research and technological development programmes and other Community programmes such as IST, eTen, and eContent.
Recommendation 14 (technical): The common guidelines should be based on recognised open standards.
Recommendation 15 (technical - multilingualism): As concerns the submission of requests via e-mail or front offices, there should be facilities for citizens and enterprises to submit requests in their own language when possible. An alternative is to submit requests only in a limited set of languages at EU level (e.g., 3 languages such as English, French and German).
Recommendation 16 (technical - multilingualism): For the Pan-European services provided via portals, the top-level EU portal interface should be fully multilingual, the secondlevel pages (introductory texts and the descriptions of links) should be offered in the official languages and the external links and related pages on the national websites should be available in at least one other language (for example English) in addition to the national language(s).
Recommendation 17 (technical - multilingualism): For other cases machine translation software may be offered to yield a rough translation of the contents of a website into the desired language.
"IDA (Interchange of Data Between Administrations) is a European programme using advances in information and communication technology to support electronic exchange of information between public administrations across Europe. It is managed by the IDA Unit in the European Commission's Enterprise Directorate General.
IDA's objective is to set-up and manage networks and services enabling administrations in the Member States and at EU level to exchange data electronically in order to implement European policies and legislation.
By providing essential tools supporting secure communications across Europe, IDA plays a decisive role in the fulfilment of EU policy objectives and the efficient management of the Internal Market. In particular, IDA is a major contributor to reaching the eGovernment objectives of the eEurope Action Plan..." [web site description]
The European Parliament and the Council formally adopted on 21-April-2004 the Decision establishing the new IDABC Programme, which will support the Interoperable Delivery of Pan-European e-Government Services to Public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens as of 2005.
Established by Decision 2004/387/EC IDABC is a new programme that aims to identify, support and promote the development of interoperable pan-European e-Government services. IDABC will build on the achievements of the preceding IDA programmes, which focused on improving the effectiveness of telematic information exchanges between public administrations.
The development of pan-European e-Government services will be done through the establishment of networks in specific Community policy sectors (projects of common interest) and will be supported by horizontal measures. These include for example, the establishment of portals for businesses and citizens, the provision of technology and software solutions and other support activities... Note that Infrastructure Services include "specification of XML vocabularies, schemas, and related XML deliverables to support the interchange of data in networks" and "open source software-based tools and actions to facilitate the exchange of experiences between, and the take-up of solutions by, public administrations."
'IDABC: Cross-Border E-Government Services' for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens. "On January 1st 2005, the IDABC programme enters into force. IDABC will apply a unique mix of competence in information and communication technologies (ICT) and understanding of user requirements to encourage innovative public sector services and solutions. The programme will pursue three distinct activities:
- it will support trans-European projects implementing information flows between European administrations that are co-operating in specific EU policy areas
- it will provide the horizontal technological platforms and tools that support trans-border information flows by encouraging interoperability between national IT systems
- it will encourage the emergence of cross-border services of direct benefit to the European citizen or business [web page description]
- European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European E-Government Services. Final Version 1.0. [PDF source from IDA]
- EIF Draft. IDA Working Document, Version 4.2. January 2004. Copyright: European Communities 2004. [PDF source from IDA]
- EIF Reference Page
- Available Documentation on the European Interoperability Framework. References documents related to the European Interoperability Framework that have been published since 2003.
- "Interoperability: The EU Perspective." By Dr. Barbara Held (Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA), European Commission). Paper presented at the FLOSSPOLS Conference on 'Open Standards and Libre Software in Government' (The Hague, 18-November-2004). 13 pages. Page 8 annotates the differences between the 2004-01 and (final) 2004-11 versions of EIF with respect to an IDA definition of "Open Standards". [cache]
- Announcements for the EC 'Open Standards Definition' (discussed above):
- Announcement 2004-11-18: "Dutch EU Presidency Concludes Open Source in Government Conference. EC Announces Open Standards Definition."
- "EC Announces Open Standards Definition at Dutch Presidency Conference." IDA website announcement. November 22, 2004. By R.A.G. / K.H., Copyright (c) European Communities 2004.
- "EC Announces Open Standards Definition." By Rishab Aiyer Ghosh. From NewsForge (November 19, 2004). Report on the "Open Standards and Libre Software in Government" conference.
- News (headline) also syndicated from dozens or hundreds of other websites, including (e.g.,), IfG.CC Institute for eGovernment; EHTO European Commission News; NewBrainframes.org; MadPenguin.org; Typepad.com; O'Reilly OSDir.com; International Open Source Network; FreeCherryPY.org, etc.
- IDA Architecture Guidelines. Reference page.
- IDA Architecture Guidelines: Available documentation.
- "Comments by the BSA in Response to the IDA Working Document on the European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European Egovernment Services." March 2004.
- "Stallman: 'Patent Licenses Discriminate'." By Richard Stallman. From ZDNet News (April 23, 2002). The more recent article [November 2004] by Bruce Perens "The Problem of Software Patents in Standards" elaborates on various ways by which RAND discriminates.
- IDA (Interchange of Data Between Administrations):
- IDA web site
- EC DG Information Society E-Government
- IDA Work Programmes 2000 - 2004. For example, the documents of May 2004 on New Projects of Common Interest, Horizontal Actions and Measures, and Programme budget breakdown.
- eEurope 2005 Action Plan. Communication from The Commission to The Council, The European Parliament, The European Economic and Social Committee, and The Committee of The Regions. Brussels, 28.5.2002. Reference: COM(2002) 263 final. See the Executive Summary and full text. A proposed action was for interoperability: "By end 2003, the Commission will issue an agreed interoperability framework to support the delivery of pan-European e-government services to citizens and enterprises. It will address information content and recommend technical policies and specifications for joining up public administration information systems across the EU. It will be based on open standards and encourage the use of open source software."
- Adoption of the IDABC Programme
- IDABC: Cross-Border E-Government Services for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens
- "Decision 2004/387/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on interoperable delivery of pan-European eGovernment services to public administrations, businesses and citizens (IDABC)."
- IDA Open Source Observatory (OSO)
- Contact: Barbara Held, IDA Project Coordinator. Also reachable via firstname.lastname@example.org
- See also: OpenForum Europe (OFE)
- See also: Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII)
- "Open Standards and Libre Software in Government" Conference (18-November-2004):
- Sample definitions of "open standard" from Open Source community:
- "Open Standards: Principles and Practice." By Bruce Perens (Senior Research Scientist, Open Source Cyber Security Policy Research Institute, George Washington University). See also "The Problem of Software Patents in Standards," November 2004.
- "How Open Can Europe Get?" A White Paper by OpenForum Europe on the Contribution that Open Source Software can make to Interoperability across Europe. From the OpenForum Europe (OFE). April 2004. 9 pages. The characteristics of openness when applied to standards are: (1) Published without undue or unreasonable restriction; (2) Control by a not-for-profit industry organization with an open, well-defined process for evolution of the standard; (3) Freely available for adoption by the industry without constraint; (4) Implemented by offerings that are available in the market."
- "Open Standards Principles." From "Open Source + Open Standards," (slides 9-11) by Lawrence Rosen.
- "Open in Europe: The Importance of Open Source Software and Open Standards to Interoperability in Europe." Mel McIntyre (Chair, OpenIreland), Graham Taylor (Director, OpenForum Europe), and Ciaran McCabe (Technical Director, OpenApp). From Open Ireland: Gateway to Open Source Advocacy in Ireland. 16 pages. Abstract: "Interoperability is important to eGovernment and eBusiness. Open Standards support Interoperability for which there are a number of defined facets — technical, process, semantic. Open Source Software provides support and enablement to all aspects of interoperability. Open Source technologies promote enable the creation and use of open 'verifiable' standards and file formats. Open Source applications facilitate ubiquitous access. Open Source methodology offer an interesting model for governance of large, disparate projects where consensus is vital. Open Source Software must not be marginalized by proprietary security mechanisms, intellectual property law or restrictive business models..." [cache]
- See also: "Definition of Open Standards." Denmark National IT and Telecom Agency. June 2004. "A completely open standard has the following properties: (1) It is accessible and free of charge to all; (2) It remains accessible and free of charge; (3) It is accessible free of charge and documented in all its details..." Summary in "Danish Government Defines 'open standards'."
- Software patent advocacy organizations (likely not to support IDA's definition of "open standards"):
- Initiative for Software Choice. A CompTIA advocacy project.
- Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
- ECITA (European Information, Communications and Consumer Electronics Technology Industry Associations). Advocates protectionism: Patents4Innovation.org and Europe4DRM (Copy Protection, Digital Rights Management, Watermarking).
- Business Software Alliance (BSA) web site. See BSA Research, where nine of seventeen BSA "Studies and Surveys" deal with piracy and related matters of legal/illegal computer use [2004-11-28].
- GPL revision underway:
- "It's About Time the GPL Was Revised." By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. In eWEEK (November 22, 2004). "... the struggle to revise the GPL reflects the larger problem that software patents pose for the entire technology community. If we are to continue to innovate, the dragon of software patents must be slain. It is my hope that the forthcoming debate on the revision of the GPL will help push patent reform forward both in the United States and around the world."
- "GPL 3 to Take on IP, Patents." By Peter Galli. In eWEEK (November 22, 2004).
- "Torvalds: GPL Needs Minor Work." By Peter Galli. In eWEEK (November 29, 2004).
- Other TAC and IDA News:
- "IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Respond to TAC Recommendation on Open Document Exchange Format." News story 2004-11-23.
- General references: