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To communicate and provide services, public administrations must have the necessary links for exchanging information. These must be both secure and interoperable. The eLink specifications developed in Sweden offer this possibility.The OSCI defined in Germany does so using a different approach. IDABC eLink is investigating the applicability of integrating national initiatives into IDABC’s package of common telematic tools and generic services to add another dimension to what IDABC already offers.

Last update: December 2004

What is eLink?
How does it work?
Who benefits?
The role of IDABC
Technical information

What is eLink?

eLink is a middleware solution developed by IDA which provides a range of services for information exchange primarily between public sector authorities. It also caters for data exchange between citizens and the public sector, and enterprises and the public sector. In short, eLink allows government bodies to cooperate and offer services online to businesses and citizens. The middleware's role is to mediate between distributed and heterogeneous applications while providing them with a set of generic services (messaging, directories, security, authentication, transaction, etc.).

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The key objective of the pilot project was to determine eLink specifications, and identify common tools to be used by IDA sectors and Member State administrations. The final project should specifically meet government requirements for online services. Compared to existing IDA tools, eLink is able to support the three communication types (A2A, B2A and C2A), the two connectivity types (peer-to-peer and one-to-many), and also to offer the two required information flows (request/reply and file transfer).

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How does it work?

eLink compatible solutions, operating as middleware between various administration back-offices, ensure a wide margin of interoperability. The product types that can be exchanged between different actors are described in the agreements in a bi-lateral, decentralized way. The yellow pages are global directory service(s) containing information about the actors (organisations), the products (services) available and corresponding addressing information. Their role is especially important in back-office exchanges, where- according to a specific agreement- the data of an application must be directly sent to the web address of another application (no interactive 'website').

Through a range of specific agreements and a yellow page directory service, eLink is able to control the processing of business information. This is particularly important, as in many cases the yellow pages identify directly the applications corresponding to an eLink data exchange agreement (these applications are not websites or portals that may be found through search engines such as Google etc.).

eLink provides a bundle of functionalities to address the eGovernment requirement services:

  • C2A and B2A communication types;
  • Reply, request-reply, subscribe/publish and File transfer information flows;
  • Integrating all security aspects (confidentiality, integrity, authentication, non-repudiation, time stamp);
  • Synchronous and asynchronous modes of operation;
  • Full tracking of messages;
  • Automatic message routing.

In addition, elink, as an Internet standards-based concept, is compatible with the use of the Internet network, as it is compatible with any other IP network, such as TESTA.

The eLink specification is based on standards incorporating XML, SOAP, Web Services, XML-Encryption, XML-Signature, UDDI and collaborating with PKI technologies. In the same lines, the eLink toolkit is based only on open source components and own development.

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  • IDABC activities on eLink originated from a Swedish national set of generic specifications for exchange, dissemination and collection of data, primarily between authorities in the public sector, but also between Swedish citizens and the public sector, and Swedish enterprises and the public sector.

  • In 2002, a feasibility study was carried out by IDABC to consider the possibility to apply the Swedish concept in a European context as part of the IDABC Programme.

  • On the basis of the positive results of the eLink study, it was decided to apply these concepts into detailed eLink specifications, IDABC common tools and pilot projects.

  • The eLink pilot project commenced in January 2003 and finished in November 2004. During this project the following tasks were performed:

o Requirements gathering and analysis (Q1 of 2003);
o Definition of the IDABC eLink specification (Q2 of 2003);
o Decision on which pilots to implement (Q3 of 2003);
o Development of the IDABC eLink toolkit and pilot software (Q4 of 2003 - Q1 of 2004);
o Pilot running phase (Q2-Q3 of 2004);
o Refinement of the eLink specification and corresponding modification of the IDABC eLink toolkit (Q3 of 2004);
o Assessment of the pilot operation and suggestions on the future of IDABC eLink (Q4 of 2004).

  • The eLink II Support and Maintenance project commenced in January 2005 and will finish by June 2005. During this project the following tasks are performed: consultancy and support, promotion and maintenance of the application.

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Who benefits?

Citizens and businesses: eLink will be able to respond to their demand to access one-stop shop and permanent 24/7 eGovernment services through the Internet, thereby reducing administrative costs.

Public Administrations: They will operate more efficiently and therefore will be able to offer a better and more comprehensive service to citizens and enterprises.

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The role of IDABC

As is the case for other generic services and tools, IDABC has launched and is advancing this initiative in close cooperation with the Member States. Concerning the dissemination of eLink, it should be noted that the eLink specification itself has already become public, while the eLink toolkit and pilot software developed within the project is available to Member State public administrations using a licensing scheme similar to that of CIRCA.

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Technical information

Project start date


Project completion date


Project status


IDA budget

2001 € 128,000
2002 € 504,000
2003 € 0
2004 € 50,000
2005 € 150,000

Responsible service

DG Enterprise and Industry - IDABC Unit

Project coordinator

Hannele LAHTI


Countries involved

All EU Member States

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