Unified Data Modelling and Document Standardization Using Core Components Technical Specification for Electronic Government Applications

Article excerpt

Abstract

In the effort of Governments worldwide to effectively transform manual into electronic services, semantic interoperability issues pose as a key challenge: system-to-system interaction asks for standardized data definitions, codification of existing unstructured information and a framework for managing governmental data in a unified way. Integrating and extending recent developments in Germany, Hong-Kong, UK and US governments - but also eBusiness interoperability research results in Europe, the proposed approach is applied within the Greek e-Government Framework and bears the following steps: (a) Gathering and analysis of governmental service forms at field level, so that common structures can be identified, (b) Customization of UN/CEFACT Core Components, (c) Semiautomatic XML Schema Definition (XSD) files creation, using sets of naming, structuring and verification rules, (d) Adoption of international or development of country-specific Codelists, (e) Development of guidance material for the application of the approach by government officials at central or local level. Discussion on the results is targeting best practice examples that can be drawn at scientific and organizational level, but also the key difficulties that have to be tackled - in relevance with the administrations and industry readiness in each country. Future steps include enhancing the paradigm in order to cover vertical data standards and applying the approach to other EU or associated countries.

Key words: eGovernment, Semantic Interoperability, Data Standardization, UN/CEFACT CCTS, UBL, Core Components

1 Introduction

During the last years public administrations are striving to leverage modern information and communication technologies, in an effort to improve the quality of their services towards citizens and businesses, to provide multiple communication channels and to make their internal or cross-organizational processes more efficient. Furthermore, the definition of cross-border public sector services in the European Union, also known as Pan-European Electronic Government Services (PEGS), appears as a necessary step in order to achieve truly interoperable, one-stop electronic service provision at a pan-European context. However, the successful provision of eGovernment applications does not only require the progress of services architectures, but also implies fundamental knowledge sharing, transparency of public sector information and requires a careful rethinking of the information resources in order to ensure that information is interpreted in the same way by communicating systems. And this is where semantic interoperability issues come into the foreground.

As identified in relevant literature [32], semantic interoperability is a systematic way of interrelating information resources, so that we can allow for interpretation of pervasive and ever-growing information elements. Semantic interoperability is thus obtained when actors, including organizations, people or systems, are able to share meaning, which is to understand each other [20]. This implies sharing some context (e.g. definitions of terms, examples and counter examples, translations, etc.), which enables common interpretation of the data that is exchanged. It also implies that actors have some joint objectives, which justify the data exchange, hence contributing to give it some additional contextual meaning [19]. Achieving semantic interoperability has been recognized as an important research field both in the eBusiness [10] and the eGovernment research domain [8], further stressing the need for joint practices and knowledge sharing between relevant approaches [7].

In the area of eGovernment, semantic interoperability has to phase a multi-faceted problem: the number of existing documents that take part in the service provision from administrations towards citizens and businesses is usually at the level of several hundred, the owners of those documents may be different organizations (ministries, prefectures and municipalities, public sector organizations) and there is a lack of common fields standardization and adherence to common definitions, due to the still non-electronic nature of many public sector services. …