ISA: a programme for targeted action
The ISA programme creates a framework that allows Member States to work together to create efficient and effective electronic cross-border public services for the benefit of citizens and businesses. It offers European public administrations a comprehensive approach to the establishment of electronic services that can easily cooperate across borders (interoperable electronic public services). Promotion of the interoperability of electronic public services forms the first pillar of the ISA programme.
The programme also supports actions that deal with sharing and reuse of best practices, methodologies, services and tools that reduce the costs of establishing interoperable services. These actions belong to the second pillar of ISA programme.
Without a comprehensive approach to interoperability there is a risk that Member States will end up developing mutually incompatible solutions. This leads to new barriers to the delivery of public services in the internal market, while increasing costs and administrative burdens. The ISA programme addresses this risk by supporting the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). The EIF is a set of guidelines for the establishment of interoperable public services. It notes and takes into account that legal compatibility, semantic interoperability, technical aspects of information systems, organisational cooperation and a favourable political climate are all necessary to make interoperable public services a reality.
On the way to the establishment of interoperable cross-border public services that save costs and time through sharing and reuse, a number of objectives first have to be reached.
Building trust and security – critical for the exchange of data between public administrations
It is essential that information received by a public administration in one Member State by electronic means can be marked as genuinely originating from another public administration in another Member State. This would ensure that sensitive information is only shared between authorised parties. The ISA programme provides Member States with the tools to create and verify advanced e-signatures, making information exchange more secure.
Trusting information exchanged across borders means that the parties involved ensure the meaning of the exchanged information is correctly transferred in the local language and can be integrated within the national context. Activities in the area of semantic interoperability provide the means for public administrations to work together on common vocabularies, definitions and classifications of information in the domains of justice, social affairs, research, economy, health and many others.
Architectural efforts to create an efficient structure of collaboration at European level
The ISA action on Interoperability architecture studies the possibility of structuring European public information systems and services around a joint architectural blueprint.
ISA also supports the establishment and improvement of architectural building blocks – tools and services that can be reused across borders and sectors, such as the following:
- a multilingual service, CIRCABC provides private workspaces for collaborative groups to share information and documentation;
- a Machine translation service can be used by European public administrations to facilitate efficient and effective electronic cross-border interaction;
- the sTesta project provides a secure private European network for data exchange between all the EU Institutions and national networks.
ISA further supports the development of interoperability-related recommendations for the assessment of standards and specifications used by Member States when acquiring electronic tools and services. This action leads to more interoperable information systems and the more efficient use of public funds via sharing and reuse of completed assessments among eGovernment projects.
Interoperability should be addressed in ICT systems that support new policy projects
Nowadays, many political projects result in new information systems. The ICT implications of the new legislation should therefore be addressed while the legislative act is in its drafting stage. ISA supports the assessment of ICT implications of new legislation, based on methods that ensure the involvement of both the authors of legislation and ICT experts. The requirements for interoperability of new systems and the opportunity for reuse are addressed in the method.
Communicating and sharing assets and best practices to contribute to the programme success
A set of accompanying measures to the ISA programme contribute to the effectiveness of the programme by reaching out to the relevant stakeholders, informing them about ISA and the issues promoted by the programme, and collecting their feedback. The ISA collaborative platform will provide the communities working on ISA actions with a space for discussion, collaboration and sharing of best practices. By merging the communities of OSOR.eu and SEMIC.eu, the ISA collaborative platform will enable a more efficient interaction between currently separate communities and provide better, integrated services. OSOR (Open Source Observatory and Repository for European public administrations) allows for the exchange of information, experiences and free open source-based software for use in public administrations, while SEMIC (Semantic Interoperability Centre Europe) is a catalyst for the preservation of meaning in the data exchanged in European eGovernment at all levels, through the sharing and reuse of quality-checked semantic assets such as common vocabularies, definitions and classifications.