IFPortal: A Web Portal for the Characterization and Comparison of Government Interoperability Frameworks

IFPortal: A Web Portal for the Characterization and Comparison of Government Interoperability Frameworks

Luis Campos (Centro ALGORITMI, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal) and Delfina Soares (Centro ALGORITMI, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/ijwp.2014040102
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Abstract

The search for better and more adequate levels of government information systems interoperability led many governments all over the world to develop, adopt and publish what is known as e-government interoperability frameworks – documents that specify a set of common elements such as vocabularies, concepts, principles, policies, guidelines, recommendations, standards, and practices for agencies that wish to work together, towards the joint delivery of public services. The central purpose of this paper is to present a detailed description of a portal — IFPortal — that could provide a simple and appropriate way to aggregate, analyze, compare, and display information about e-government interoperability frameworks. Such a portal will enable the registration, search, visualization, analysis, and comparison of interoperability frameworks' content, structure and scope, thus allowing for the identification of similarities and differences among them. An IFPortal prototype, already developed, is also presented and may be accessed in order to exemplify the IFPortal concept.
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Introduction

Along the last decades Information Systems and Technology (IST) have assumed an increasing role in the development, progress and well-being of individuals, organizations, and society.

Public sector and government agencies are not an exception to this phenomenon. Indeed, and more markedly since the end of 90’s, IST have been intensively used by governments to renew and transform the way they conduct their multiple State governance activities (Soares & Amaral, 2013).

Despite the huge amount of money spent and the many efforts done by governments so far, the ideal vision of e-government — a government that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in a citizen-centered and streamlined way, communicating with citizens through multiple integrated access channels — hasn’t yet been fully achieved. One of the major justifications for that situation is the lack of interoperability that still persists among government information systems (IS).

To strive against and overcome this problem, and be able to achieve bigger, better and more adequate levels of interoperability, many governments around the globe have been developing and publishing what is currently termed as interoperability frameworks (IFs).

An e-government interoperability framework (IF) is a document that sets “an agreed approach to interoperability for organizations that wish to work together, towards the joint delivery of public services. Within its scope of applicability, it specifies a set of common elements such as vocabularies, concepts, principles, policies, guidelines, recommendations, standards, specifications, and practices” (EC, 2010, p. 2).

By outlining the essential prerequisites and basic technical specifications that all public agencies should adopt (Guijarro, 2007), IFs are considered indispensable instruments to the successful implementation of a country e-government strategy and, consequently, to the delivery of enhanced services to citizens and businesses, to the achievement of better decision-making processes, and to cost savings or cost avoidance (Lallana, 2007b).

According to a worldwide survey conducted by Lisboa (2012), at least 44 countries have already developed their national IF (NIF), 19 of which are European countries, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Number of IFs identified by continent (adapted from Lisboa, 2012)

The development of IFs has elapsed not only at a country/national level, but also at a wide-regional level. For example, the European Commission (EC), through its research and development programs IDABC (http://ec.europa.eu/isa/), developed and published the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), which aims broadly (i) to promote and support the delivery of European public services, (ii) to guide the government in its pursuit of delivery of European public services to citizens and businesses, and (iii) to help in the achievement of the alignment between the NIF of each member state and the EIF (EC, 2010).

In most countries the IFs have been developed through a consultative process in which citizens, agencies, and companies have the opportunity to participate, through comments made in discussion forums and through participation in working groups.

An IF document is typically organized into five sections (Charalabidis et al., 2010; Lallana, 2007a):

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