Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Integration of Government Services Using Semantic Technologies

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Integration of Government Services Using Semantic Technologies

Article excerpt


The paper describes an approach to semantic interoperability of eGovernment services applied within the 027020 FP6 IST Access-eGov project. The goal of the project was to improve accessibility and connectivity of governmental services for citizens and businesses by means of creating integrated scenarios and providing guidance to users while following this scenario. The scenario helps the user to identify and fulfil any needed electronic or real governmental services in a selected life situation. The Access-eGov project has developed software tools enabling service integration using semantic technologies. In addition to that, a methodology providing guidance to the user-driven process of creating ontologies was developed. Sample ontologies were prepared for trial applications. The developed tools support browsing, discovery, and execution of government services according to a selected life event or goal. The project successfully developed and tested the proposed solutions. The software developed within the project is available as open source software.

Keywords: E-government, Semantic web services, Semantic interoperability, Ontology, Semantic annotation

1 Introduction

Semantic interoperability, i.e. technical capability of interoperation of provided services, is nowadays considered to be a key challenge in several fields (eBusiness, eHealth, etc.), and in particular in the field of eGovernment. Interoperability was also recognised as a precondition for the implementation of European eGovernment services in the eEurope Action Plan [4] and was explicitly addressed as one of the four main challenges in the i2010 EU strategy [5]. This is important especially for integration and co-operation of existing services - employing solutions based on existing standards, open specifications and open interfaces [6].

One of the most promising approaches to interoperability is the employment of semantic technologies [1], [18]. Semantics provides the capability to model and represent knowledge within a given domain by means of explicit formalisation of key domain concepts, their attributes and relations, as well as workflow sequences and structures. Considering the heterogeneous and distributed nature of the eGovernment domain, semantics can be effectively used as a common background platform for describing processes and services provided by governmental institutions on various levels. The common platform then enables to integrate the services, make them interoperable and transparent for end users (citizens and-or businesses).

Intensive research in the application of semantics in the eGovernment field is being carried out, mostly focused on integration of back-offices, employing Service Oriented Architecture and Web Services enriched by a semantic description [1], [2], [9], [15], [20]. This direction of research is also documented by projects supported by the European Commission within the Information Society Technologies (IST) programme (Site 1). Most of the solutions apply semantic technologies to ease the system design by modelling the user's behaviour, to enable or enhance interoperability of services, to provide a platform for the creation of semantically described web services, etc. Provision of better and well-integrated public services to citizens and businesses can be recognised as a common goal of all these research efforts. In the following paragraphs, we will briefly mention some of the R&D projects, which can be considered as examples of the existing solutions and approaches.

There is a wide range of approaches, proposals, frameworks, and projects in the area of semantic interoperability in the eGovernment domain, especially dealing with the creation and management of semantic web services. However, practical outcomes of the research in this area (see e.g. [18]) are somehow lagging behind original expectations. The lack of supporting methodology, specialised tools, and guidelines describing how to create and maintain formal semantic descriptions of the services in practical applications may be one of the reasons. …

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