Digitalisér.dk (Digitalisér.dk)

Published on: 10/06/2009
Document

Digitaliser.dk is a new collaborative, social network where social software is combined with open public data and public services. Private Citizens, businesses and public institutions can add value, share, reuse, discuss, and debate data and resources that are public as well as their own resources. Digitaliser.dk is both a formal central repository of information on data interchange standards and a big open digital adventure playground – a creative space for everyone involved in digitizing the public sector.

Digitaliser.dk demonstrates how Web 2.0 technologies and public data can be exploited in the public sector to stimulate development and adoption of digital content and business models. With digitaliser.dk, the Danish government has created a new model of partnership between the tech community and government which paves the way for more direct communication between the public sector, citizens, and businesses. Citizens and businesses are no longer passive recipients of public information but participate in dialogue and knowledge sharing with the public sector.

Impact
The Danish government cement it’s continuously support to open innovation, open software, and open public data with digitaliser.dk. The new phenomena of social software was adapted in 2001, when the Danish government created a nationwide digital debate forum, which could be installed locally within a public authority and accessed centrally by a publicly available debate search engine. The project slogan was ”Creating Dialogue in an Effective Democracy”. Today digitaliser.dk adds new opportunities to this slogan:

“Creating Dialogue and New Opportunities in an Effective Democracy”.

Being a framework for one of the most ambitious open public data programs in the world the project makes it possible for private citizens and businesses to utilize public datasets to create services that support particular business processes create more transparency and added value to public data.

Digitalisér.dk is also a venue that provides an uncomplicated basis for debating common public digitisation by using intuitive web-based interaction rather than formal processes. Digitalisér.dk is also intended to be of value to users outside the Danish public sector and is open for use to all, both public and private, as well as Danish and non-Danish users.

Focusing on utility and openness Digitalisér.dk has renewed Danish eGovernment architecture and provided the Danish public and private sector with easily accessible information.

Number of resources and growth rate (http://api.test.digitaliser.dk/rest/admin/userChart)

Users
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Posts
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Groups
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Lessons learnt
For several years, Denmark has taken first place in a number of international surveys on public sector digitization. From this vantage point the question is: Where do we go from here?

After focusing on a top-down approach on extensive joint public digitization projects, we realized that closer collaboration with the grass roots organizations would bring us forward. To reach the next level in the digitization process, we realized that we had to change our strategy from push to pull. The grass roots are pulling us forward and the Danish government with participation of the user community provides and maintains the framework.

Based on experiences from Facebook and other online social networks, we chose a range of public data and resources to create the preconditions necessary to form social relations between them and create the framework needed to display, find, debate, develop, reuse, and improve resources.

Due to the agile approach to development involving both public and private institutions as well as individuals has resulted in a site designed to meet public demand. Semantic technology entails information of content, meaning and terminology thus reducing the level of complexity in digital services and interoperability.

 

Policy Context

The ICT sector in Denmark is largely regulated through agreements between public administrations in the role of large buyers, or between the industry and the public sector. In this context, public administrations is committed to enhance competition in the ICT sector, drive the market by demonstrating best practices and by supplying services that make even small moves towards digitisation and open ICT systems attractive or even cost-effective on a short term.

For several years, Denmark has been top rated in a number of international surveys on public sector digitization. Eventually the question rose: Where do we go from here? To reach the next level in the digitization process, we realized that we had to change our strategy from push to pull. After focusing on a top-down approach on extensive joint public digitization projects, we realized that only closer collaboration with the tech community and grass roots organizations would bring us further ahead.

We also wanted to make it possible for private citizens and businesses to utilize public datasets to create services that support particular business processes create more transparency and added value to public data. We wanted to renew the Danish eGovernment architecture and provide the Danish public and private sector with easily accessible information. To get there, we looked at Facebook and other online social networks for inspiration.

We realized that while we possessed a huge amount of data and resources, we were missing the social relations between them. We then chose a range of public data and resources to create the preconditions necessary to form social relations between them and create the framework needed to display, find, debate, develop, reuse, and improve resources.

Description of target users and groups

Primary target group is it-professionals. From enterprise architects to usability experts and from programmers to project leaders: Digitalisér.dk is open for use to all, both public and private, as well as Danish and non-Danish users.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Gov 2.0 website
Digitalisér.dk is a Gov 2.0 website for everyone involved in the digitalisation of Denmark – public sector, private sector, universities and citizens. The keywords are ‘open’, ‘easy access to content’ and ‘collaboration’.

Digitalisér.dk is administered and developed by the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

User model and collaboration
However, even though the website is administered by a public institution, all content is created and maintained by the users who organise themselves in groups. Each group is responsible for the content it creates.

Everyone can register as a user and all users can create groups and base them around a professional topic, a project or an organisation. Content is represented as ‘resources’, which are containers that can handle all types of content from XML-schemas to PDF-files to plain text. A resource can be everything from a written guide about a technical topic to actual software to a hyperlink. Resources can be published to group members only or to the public.

Besides resources, it is also possible for groups to post news and announcements.

All registered users can discuss and query resources and group members can have group internal debates for their eyes only as well as group specific resources only they can access.

Related groups can join networks which are “groups for groups”. That way, a large organisation, which consists of many groups or a topic related to many groups, can create a universe that only shows the content and news which is relevant to it.

Organisation of content
Because of the nature of the site, it is not possible to organise all content in a site hierarchy. The natural way of finding content is therefore by search.

Resources and news can be tagged by users and groups and the accumulation of tags creates a folksonomy that can be used to filter search result or as stand alone navigation. The more times a tag is used, the more visible it will become to the users.

As mentioned, the content can be everything that has to do with the digitisation of Denmark. Since everybody can add content to Digitaliser.dk, it is necessary to be able to see which status the content has with regards to quality and official character.

Therefore, some resources are marked as Mandatory, i.e. because they are legally mandatory to use in certain situations in Denmark, while other resources have status as Recommended. Other resources have passed validation tests and, for instance, become valid OIOXML.

Potential and evolution
Digitalisér.dk is being used as a repository in aspects of a communications platform, a project tool and a discussion forum. The website has already replaced a significant number of websites, i.e. the ISB (InfoStructureBase) and the OIO Catalogue. Later this year, the Danish Software Exchange will migrates its content to Digitaliser.dk, thus making Digitalisér.dk the Danish main hub for open source software.

Technology solution

To ensure the possibility of reuse, to decrease the risk of a vendor lock in and to save money the overall choice has been to pursue the development of a system that in all aspects is based on open technologies. This approach is also very much in accordance with collaborative communities that is hosted and encouraged by Digitalisér.dk, because ‘open’ is an important precondition for cooperation.

In accordance with recommendations from the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation the system will be distributed as FLOSS to the public. The latest builds of the system can always be obtained from the subversion repository in the Software Exchange. The Ministry will be positive towards future partnerships with third parties and especially other countries

Digitaliser.dk is based on a number of FLOSS components (i.e. Postgresql, Umbraco) but the majority of the code base has been developed in the project. The frontend is mainly based on .NET while the backend is Java based. This technology choice is possible because the frontend and backend is separated by a web service layer, which makes the system extremely flexible.

The website is built using relevant open standards such as accessibility and web standards to ensure maximum future interoperability with third parties.

Digitaliser.dk has a REST API which gives the users approximately the same possibilities as the GUI but is also very useful when performing bulk operation on the website – for instance when uploading many resources. The API also makes it possible to use Digitaliser.dk with client software.

Technology choice: Standards-based technology, Mainly (or only) open standards, Accessibility-compliant (minimum WAI AA), Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

So far we have only positive experiences. We have created, a new collaborative digital playground where social software is combined with open public data and public services. Private citizens, businesses and public institutions are already adding value, sharing, reusing, discussing and debating data and resources that are public as well as their own.

Digitalisér.dk illustrates how public data can be utilised in the public sector and stimulate development and utilisation of digital content and new business models. Digitalisér.dk facilitates a direct communication between the public sector, the citizens and businesses.

Citizens and businesses are no longer passive recipients of public information but collaborative partners participating in dialog and sharing of information with the government. As the graphs shows both the number of users, groups and postings are steadily rising.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

Digitaliser.dk has been released in full as open source software and so is apt for replication in other countries or sectors across country borders. The graphical user interface is in Danish but is easily translated to other languages.

By recommendation from a private adviser the government of Norway has shown interest in reusing Digitaliser.dk for a project management portal for the Norwegian public sector.

Lessons learnt

Digitaliser.dk has been released in full as open source software and so is apt for replication in other countries or sectors across country borders. The graphical user interface is in Danish but is easily translated to other languages. By recommendation from a private adviser the government of Norway has shown interest in reusing Digitaliser.dk for a project management portal for the Norwegian public sector.


The change of our strategy from push to pull has enabled more focused and tailored/means-tested benefits for the user of the platform. The strategic change manifests itself in our choice of high user involvement and our choice to use the agile work methods as the main work approach.

Our choice to have a high user involvement turned out to be very important and absolutely vital for the development and future utilization of the platform. Through the development of digitaliser.dk there has been a close dialogue between the it-developers and the actually end-users of the platform.

An example of the close dialogue is the online Beta-version that was made public very early in the process. This was done to ensure and gain knowledge about the end-users’ need online and their opportunity to create networks. Bearing the beta-version in mind there was unfulfilled expectations when the beta version (compared to the final version) was not able to live up to what was expected within the final version. The experience gave us a communication challenge, when turning the negative experience to a constructive method in the further development of the platform. There is no doubt that the development progression during the Beta-version phase of digitaliser.dk proved it’s worth.

Another noteworthy learning is our experiences with the agile approach in the development phase. The agile working method during the development process has been instructive. We found that while working with the agile method there is a high risk that decisions made early in the process needed to be redefined upon through the project flow.

Scope: National