Political support and practical need
Political will, as well as practical need, is now starting to drive the move towards development, greater interoperability, sharing and reuse of electronic public services at European level.
Ministers of EU Member States re-affirmed their commitments to rapid eGovernment developments in ministerial declarations made between 2001-2007 in Brussels, Manchester and Lisbon. The ministerial declarations set the reinforcement of cross-border interoperability as an EU policy objective, aiming to reduce administrative burdens placed on citizens and businesses. It was acknowledged that electronic collaboration between administrations in support of the four internal market freedoms of movement (persons, goods, capital and services) could benefit Europe's labour market and economy.
In order to achieve this objective, Member States committed to share existing tools, common specifications, standards and solutions more effectively and to encourage collaborative development of solutions where necessary. The European Commission was invited to facilitate cooperation among Member States to define, develop, implement and monitor cross-border interoperability.
In November 2009, at their meeting in Malmö, Sweden, ministers in charge of eGovernment policy recognised that due to the work accomplished in the previous years, eGovernment has not only become mainstream in national policies, but has also reached beyond national boundaries. To further increase the positive effect of electronic collaboration on the delivery of public services, Member States committed to improving the conditions for interoperability of public administrations. The programme for Interoperability Solutions for European Public administrations (ISA) is a key actor for the delivery of cross-border electronic collaboration as it consists of actions that contribute to the cross-border interoperability, sharing and reuse of common specifications, tools and services.
The Malmö ministerial declaration invites public administrations to conduct studies to identify and evaluate legal, organisational, semantic and technical obstacles that hinder the development of cross-border eGovernment services and consider their solutions.
Focus on semantics ensures that the precise meaning of the information remains when exchanged across borders in different languages. The ISA programme supports development and sharing of assets and methodologies in the semantics domain via its SEMIC action.
The ministers emphasised respect for privacy and data protection, as trust and security are integral when creating services that rely on the electronic exchange of information. In this area, ISA supports a variety of actions, one of them being the Trusted exchange platform that supports the secure exchange of documents between local governments, national parliaments, EU institutions, citizens and businesses. As one of the priority areas, the ministerial declaration identifies the increasing availability of public sector information for reuse, to develop enriched services that maximise the value for citizens and businesses. Access to base registries – another ISA action – studies the needs and requirements to open up the databases (registries) maintained by public administrations for cross-border use. Such registries are reliable sources of basic information on persons, companies, vehicles, licences, buildings and locations.
In Malmö, the Member States further agreed to align their national interoperability frameworks with the European Interoperability Framework, a guide for public administrations in their work to provide European public services to citizens and businesses.