The European Union

The European Union (EU) comprises many nation states with many diverse cultures and languages at varying states of technology/technical development. For it to be able to function effectively, especially in the area of information exchange, the governments concerned have to establish a proper interoperability framework and standards on data interchange.

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The development of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), a framework for the e-government services of the member states to facilitate the interoperability of these services at pan-European level, is taking place under the European Commission's Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment services to public Administrations, Business and Citizens (IDABC) Programme.

The EIF version 1.0 recommends the use of open standards for maximum interoperability among

e-government services. It defines the minimal characteristics for open standards as the following:

1.         the standard is adopted and maintained by a not-for-profit organization;

2.         the development of the standard occurs using an open decision-making process and does not preclude any party from it;

3.         the standard is published and is available either free of charge or for a nominal fee;

4.         the published standard must be available for all to copy and distribute, either free of charge or for a nominal fee; and

5.         any patents present in the standard are to be irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.

The definition above has attracted controversy even though the area of validity is confined to panEuropean projects carried out in the context of the IDABC Programme. FOSS groups and advocates have welcomed it but other groups, including ANSI, BSA and EICTA, have criticized it, particularly with respect to the last two criteria. These parties point out that they are inconsistent with the approach taken by other standards development organizations that acknowledge the right of patent holders to charge reasonable royalties and to place reasonable restrictions on the licensing of their essential technology covering an open standard.

The European Commission's IDA expert group on open document formats has recommended that the European Union's public sector use open formats in their electronic documents. For revisable documents, XML-based formats like the Open Document format from OASIS and Microsoft's new XMLbased MS Office formats are recommended.

United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom's e-government initiative places a lot of emphasis on open technical standards to achieve seamless information flow across the public sector and to provide citizens and business with better access to government services. Its e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF) defines the technical policies and specifications governing information flows across government and the public sector. Complying

 with e-GIF at the highest level includes the use of open standards like XML as the primary means for data integration and the implementation of Internet and WWW standards.

The Netherlands

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The Netherlands has its OSOSS - the programme for Open Standards and Open Source Software in government. This programme encourages the use of open standards and provides information on open-source software. The Dutch ICTU, the organization for ICT and government programme, runs OSOSS. While the programme targets the public sector, its results will be 

available for the private sector and individuals too. The programme provides information and advice to the public sector on open standards. It has set up a catalogue of recommended open standards for use in the public sector.


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The Flemish OSLO project (Open Standards for Local Administrations) is a public-private partnership funded by Flemish ICT service providers and public administrations. Started in February 2012, the project facilitates a working group with ICT experts from local and regional public administrations and ICT service providers to build a consensus on standards for information exchange. To finetune its specification on addresses, the OSLO project organised an informal workshop with interoperability experts from bpost, V-ICT-OR, the University of Ghent, and the ISA programme to review existing standards.

In Belgium, local governments manage a large part of an address, explains Pascal Desmarts of bpost. Local governments decide on the street names, and building numbers. In practice, we see that municipalities are applying different semantics. For example, they.may have historically allowed duplicate street names or applied different – at times complex – numbering schemes for apartments and mailboxes. Postal address included in base registers such as the national Civil Register or the Flemish CRAB address register are therefore at times ambiguous and of poor quality. In such cases, bpost approaches local governments individually and gives them some guidelines to remove ambiguity, for example by doing away with duplicate street names. In some aspects, the Base Registers themselves could also be improved to accommodate address complexity in the field. At the meeting, Pascal presented 5 cases of “complex address numbering”. According to Pascal, standards for exchanging information about addresses should be able to deal with these real-life cases of complex address numbering. 


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By joining the Open Government Partnership, Sweden reaffirmed its commitment to open government efforts both in principle and practice. Sweden, with its long tradition of transparency, citizen engagement and efforts to build an effective and accountable government, embraces the ideas of the initiative. Sweden’s Action Plan and engagement focus on the challenge of More Effectively Managing Public Resources in 

development cooperation.

Sweden has long used information technology to develop public services, and today ranks among the leading eGovernment nations in the world. The current policy is expanding earlier generations of eGovernment policies. The first generation policy saw citizens as taxpayers and focused on productivity. The second saw citizens as customers and broadened the focus to efficient delivery of services over the internet. The third and current policy initiative presented in the Digital Agenda for Sweden views citizens as potential co-creators and calls for “smart and open government supporting innovation and participation”. Currently, work is ongoing to define the next generation strategy for

open data and public services. Government innovation will be driven by external partners in combination with open data. Citizens will be empowered by eGovernment services designed around users’ needs and developed in collaboration with third parties, and by increased access to public information, strengthened transparency and effective means to involve stakeholders in the policy process. The Digital Agenda for Sweden and the Malmö Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment (approved by the EU MS, and the European Free Trade Area countries) are important foundations for the current open and transparent strategy process. Before formal negotiations on the strategy begin in the Government Offices, the strategy proposal – prepared by small but representative groups of civil servants – is examined by the different executive levels of government and finally circulated for comment among diverse external groups for a period of three months using the internet, Facebook and Twitter.

Published on the occasion of the first LOLA Conference in Europe 10/10/2013 - Flemish Parliament.