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ISA programme gets green light

ISA signing
   

The new ISA programme was adopted by the Council and the European Parliament in September 2009 and will replace the IDABC programme, which comes to an end on 31 December 2009.

The ISA programme sets out to strengthen the cooperation between administrations in all EU countries by supporting effective electronic communication across borders thereby facilitating the effective implementation of EU legislation, which nowadays mostly implies the use of ICT.

ISA will not fund sectoral solutions but will support the smooth implementation of EU policies by providing both generic ICT solutions (e.g. generic applications and tools,  common infrastructure services and common frameworks). ISA will also help sectoral policy areas in the assessment of the ICT implications of Community legislation, as well as the implementation of the ICT systems supporting this legislation.

Commenting on the entry into force of the new ISA decision in October 2009, Siim Kallas, Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud, stressed that ‘citizens and businesses rightly expect effi cient public services across Europe; they expect administrations to be able to communicate with other government departments easily and swiftly, and throughout Europe. The new ISA programme gives a boost to our long-standing efforts to create a European Union free from electronic barriers at national borders’.

Evolving digital environment
When developing and implementing ICT solutions at national level, there is a risk that Member States opt for different or incompatible solutions. This would generate new eBarriers in cross-border communication, impeding the proper functioning of the internal market. The IDABC programme has clearly demonstrated that a co-ordinated approach by Member States can help deliver results faster, with higher quality and meeting business requirements.

The ISA programmes takes up the challenge in support of a co-ordinated approach by launching actions in four areas:

  • common frameworks in support of interoperability across borders and sectors (policies, strategies, specifi cations, methodologies, guidelines and similar approaches and documents);
  • analysis of ICT implications of EU legislation; 
  • common services (operational applications and infrastructures of a generic nature to meet user requirements across policy areas);
  • reusable generic tools (demonstrators, shared and collaborative platforms, common components and similar building blocks for user needs across policy areas).

Mr Filip Svab,
representing the Czech Republic’s Presidency, explained that ‘the Czech Republic’s Presidency took a keen interest in the approval process of the ISA programme, as it shares the concerns about avoiding new eBarriers that Member States risk. An effective way of establishing and operating capable ICT systems supporting European eGovernment services, enhancing openness, sharing, re-use and voluntary collaboration in the field, is indisputedly achieved by working together on the interoperability issues with full respect for the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. The ISA programme provides sound tools for such cooperation between European public administrations, as well as other stakeholders, on interoperability solutions needed for our respective ICT systems and services. However, tools, conditions and opportunities introduced by ISA can only be exploited and utilised fully if they are used as much and as often as possible.’

Mr Dragos David,
rapporteur of the European Parliament, said: ‘I have welcomed the Commission’s proposal and I am proud to declare that the report has been adopted with a large majority in the April plenary session. I strongly believe that the ISA Programme will highly contribute to a better interaction between the European public administrations and indirectly to a better interaction between the citizens and the public administrations. This programme facilitates effective and effi cient cross-border and cross-sector electronic interaction among European administrations, thus enabling them to provide electronic public services that can help them to carry out their activities and to implement Community policies for citizens and businesses.

‘This will facilitate the free and unimpeded movement, the establishment and employment of citizens in Member States in order to provide better, more effi cient and more easily accessible services to citizens and public administrations.

‘In today’s Europe, where citizens are free to work in and re-locate to any member state and where companies carry out business across the EU, Member States need to strengthen their efforts to ensure barrier-free communication within the internal market. By facilitating the effi cient and effective electronic cross-border and cross-sector interaction between European public administrations the ISA programme will contribute to meeting the challenges.’

The programme also contains a number of accompanying measures in support of the management of the ISA programme and in relation to the sharing of experience and the exchange and promotion of good practices. Interoperability is one of the focus areas, if not THE most important focus area, of the programme, and the most basic precondition for the delivery of cross-border eGovernment services.

ISA priorities
The ISA programme will continue the tradition of strong collaboration with Member States already established by IDABC via the various groups of experts. It will reinforce this via an even closer involvement of the offi cials in charge of the implementation of the related eGovernment policies at national level, to ensure close coordination, cooperation and dialogue.

The specifi c priorities for the ISA programme will be derived from the European Interoperability Strategy (EIS) and the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). The EIF is presently being revised while the EIS is in the last stage of its development with the strong support and commitment of national Chief Information Offi cers and other high level representatives of the Member States (CIOs).
 
Once adopted, both the EIS and the EIF will have to be applied both at Community and at Member States level.

Assessment of ICT implications
The ICT implications of new legislation will be assessed by screening any proposed legislative measures at the preparatory stage.
Throughout this process the ISA programme will endeavour to identify and verify common and generic needs and to support the sectors and the Member States by facilitating the establishment of common and generic solutions relevant to the interaction with, and between, Member States.

The ISA programme will consequently adopt a flexible approach to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and to take on board actions covering needs arising during the implementation period.

The programme will make stronger use of the experience gathered in the areas concerned within the Commission’s Directorate General for Informatics itself, one of the major suppliers of tools and information systems and services in the Commission and EU institutions.

This way, the programme is expected to strengthen coordination across sectors by offering solutions that help cut costs, reduce time-to-market and ensure interoperability.

The ISA Committee
The ISA programme offers a unique opportunity to bring together at European level the Member State representatives responsible for national strategies on eGovernment at CIO level. The ISA committee has an important role to play in assisting the Commission in defi ning strategies and setting priorities. It is expected to establish a permanent working group to assist the Commission in translating priorities into actions and help the Commission ensure continuity and consistency in their implementation.

Furthermore, expert groups consisting of national representatives are expected to be established to guide the Commission in the implementation of the ISA work
programme and ensure coordination or alignment with national initiatives.

Only through cooperation and coordination at all levels,from strategy to implementation and use, can the programme achieve the impact that it sets out to achieve.

Ms Veronica Ionita,
rapporteur of the Committee of the Regions stressed that: ‘local and regional authorities should not exclusively be looked upon as users, as they are also important suppliers of such services. Exchange of good practice with local and regional authorities should therefore become an essential part of the ISA programme. Also, more focus should be put on interinstitutional partnerships between the European public administrations at all levels: central, regional and
local level, nationally recognised by the Member States.’

Mr Antonello Pezzini,
rapporteur of the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) said inter alia that: ‘The interoperability of information systems, the sharing and re-use of information and the joining up of administrative processes are the essential instruments of collaboration between public administrations that gives rise to a modern, enlarged and secure Europe.

‘From the first IDA programme to the new ISA programme, the EESC has unfalteringly advocated the need for pan-European online administration services and the
complete interoperability of the telematic networks of public administrations serving Europe’s citizens, in order to fully open up the European Economic Area.

‘All facets of the European interoperability reference framework should be reinforced, including:

  • the political aspects of a common vision based on shared priorities;
  • the legal aspects (consisting of coordinating legislation); and
  • the technical, semantic and organisational aspects.’ EESC and COR voice support for ISA initiative

For further information on ISA: http://ec.europa.eu/isa

Editorial published in Synergy 13 - December 2009