European Commission Invests in AS4 to Accelerate the Digital Single Market
European Commission 2017
The European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Digital programme has launched calls for proposals that aim to further increase the number of implementations of eDelivery based on the AS4 open technical specification, as profiled in the e-SENS Large Scale Pilot. The call is open to users of e-SENS AS4 (public administrations or businesses) but also to providers of AS4 software and services. The purpose of this initiative is to further enlarge the ecosystem of market solutions for eDelivery, indirectly supporting electronic data and document exchange initiatives in a wide variety of sectors.
CEF Digital 2018 allows cross-border interaction between public administrations, businesses and citizens, by deploying digital service infrastructures (DSIs). CEF Digital 2018 contributes to the creation of a European ecosystem of interoperable and interconnected digital services that sustain the Digital Single Market (DSM).
The CEF eDelivery building block is one of the current CEF building blocks supporting the Digital Single Market. The Core part of eDelivery is a message exchange building block called e-SENS AS4, a modern and highly secure and reliable messaging technology to exchanging of sensitive data on citizens, businesses and public administrations securely.
The selection of e-SENS AS4 to power message exchange reflects a principle to build eDelivery using open technical specifications and standards, using state-of-the-art market solutions, rather than bespoke public sector solutions. AS4 is an advanced open industry technical specification, developed at OASIS. The security features of e-SENS AS4, which is a usage profile of AS4, are state-of-the-art and implement guidance provided by experts at the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA).
Today, e-SENS AS4 is already deployed in Member States and in the European Commission, and is used for use cases as diverse as cross-border eJustice, eProcurement, business registries interconnection and providing information on tobacco products, e-cigarettes and refill containers. A first reference to AS4 in EU regulation was as a common solution for interoperability and data exchange in the gas sector. More recently, e-SENS AS4 was specified in a Commission Decision as a common protocol to be used by air carriers when transferring Passenger Name Record (PNR) data to Passenger Information Units. In addition to these examples, work is ongoing on a growing number of similar large scale, not yet publicly disclosed, eDelivery deployments.
The vision for e-SENS AS4 and eDelivery is to allow users to deploy any e-SENS AS4 interoperable solution, whether commercial or open source, to communicate to other users, irrespective of their choice of solution. This depends heavily on there being a healthy competitive ecosystem of e-SENS AS4 conformant solutions, in which businesses and public administrations have a choice of solutions to choose from. The European Commission is actively facilitating and enlarging this ecosystem by providing a conformance testing service for e-SENS AS4 and by the CEF eDelivery grants.
The European Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) is responsible for implementing an estimated €300 million of the CEF Telecom budget in the form of grants during the same period. Recently, INEA launched a new round of CEF calls for grants, two of which are of particular interest for AS4 solution providers: the one of eDelivery and the one of eProcurement. The calls are open now.
The eDelivery grants emphatically include support to software vendors that want to upgrade an existing solution to support the e-SENS AS4 Profile. Products that successfully pass CEF conformance testing will be listed in CEF's online list of conformant vendors, which prospective users looking for eDelivery solutions look to when researching potential suppliers.
Vendors of AS4 products that already implement the ENTSOG AS4 usage profile should expect few if any issues in verifying conformance to e-SENS AS4, as the latter is a derivative of the former and has the same technical core, including its security features. For these and other products, CEF grants further reduce the already likely limited investment required for passing conformance tests, and open up new opportunities and markets for their products.
The scope of the eDelivery grants also emphatically includes interoperability testing with other solutions. These tests will help vendors identify, and fix, interoperability issues that could otherwise disrupt their customers using those products to use eDelivery with their counterparties. Proposers can combine upgrades of solutions to e-SENS AS4 conformance and interoperability testing with other solutions, whether already conformant or in the process of becoming conformant, in a single proposal.
Information on the INEA grants is available online:
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