Recommendation 12

Recommendation 12: Apply relevant standards to develop a comprehensive approach for spatial data modelling, sharing, and exchange to facilitate integration in digital public services


  • Active participation in GI and digital government communities improves alignment of specifications and helps administrations maintain awareness on technological innovation
  • Open standards facilitate interoperability and data exchange. They help reduce ICT vendor lock-in and promote fair competition
  • Standards are used to shape ICT solutions. If existing standards are not applied, ad hoc design decisions may be taken that are relevant to the solution in question but less applicable in the wider context. These ad hoc design decisions may result in long term interoperability issues when integrating with other ecosystems in the future and thus higher costs
  • The EU INSPIRE Directive sets out binding implementing rules and technical guidelines in a number of specific areas (metadata, data specifications, network services, data and service sharing, and monitoring and reporting). They ensure that spatial data infrastructures of the Member States are cross-border compatible
  • Catalogues of ICT open standards are centralised online catalogues that contain commonly agreed standards for different domains. They help public administrations identifying standards that, for example, could be included in public procurement


  • Be actively involved in standardisation activities relevant to your Geospatial Information (GI) and digital government communities
  • Use open standards – where possible – to reduce the risk of ICT vendor lock-in. There are catalogues of recommended open standards both at national and international level that help identifying existing solutions. Examples include: OGC catalogue service, the Dutch Government Open Standards Catalogue and the German SAGA. To know more about interoperability initiatives at Member States level the European Commission developed the National Interoperability Framework Observatory (NIFO) factsheets
  • Apply the INSPIRE implementing rules and technical guidelines to put in place an EU-wide, cross-sectoral interoperability framework for location information facilitating its integration in digital government processes and services
  • Expand the application of INSPIRE with other geo-standards elaborated at international level (W3C, OGC, OASIS…) and European level (Copernicus, EIF, CEN TC/287…). This allows linking of the use of geo-standards with relevant general ICT and digital government standards. Examples of geospatially relevant standards that are not covered by INSPIRE are: sensor (observation) services, quality services, and notification, alert and feedback services
  • Take up the Internet of Things (IoT) – and related standards – as it will rapidly increase the availability of sensors and tools to share and process big (geospatial) data that becomes relevant for digital government applications
  • In all of the above considerations regarding standards, ensure the implementation applies the standards in the simplest possible way to reduce complexity and cost, whilst maintaining the aims of interoperability and re-usability
  • Use Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) to design and describe business processes and Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) to execute the described processes using services. These techniques can be useful to define where spatial data input is needed, processed, and generated in digital government processes
  • Next to standards, public administrations should also be aware of the Linked Data paradigm and its technical specifications that can be considered as an important enabler for the integration of geo-spatial and non-geospatial information using URIs and RDF. The application of Linked Data principles and technology supports INSPIRE implementation and can be seen as a complementary approach for exposing INSPIRE assets providing some flexibility. For example, the European Commission has already developed Core Vocabularies in the context of the ISA programme. They are data specifications created in an open process with expert groups and endorsed by ISA Member State representatives. Next to Core Vocabularies there are also metadata schemas such as ADMS-AP, DCAT-AP and GeoDCAT-AP that help to connect related data that wasn’t previously linked


  • The standards world moves slowly and is continually evolving. This means that sometimes it lags behind or is not yet ready in the context of a particular new application. Standards evolve with the evolution in technology. Legacy systems are built on legacy technologies and standards. This sometimes means that it is difficult to justify and make “one more major upgrade” or to integrate new and legacy systems
  • Standards are often a “middle ground” agreed by specialists over a number of years. Hence they might not always be a perfect fit for a particular new application
  • System and data integration require common standards such as those promoted by INSPIRE. With so many public authorities and countries involved, there is an immense implementation challenge to achieve harmonisation. However, the steps are being taken to make this happen in a coordinated way, underpinned by the legislation
  • The return on investment for linked data depends on a degree of harmonisation which is difficult to achieve, with a multiplicity of data, different data and quality standards, and in many cases, a lack of legislative and policy support

Best Practices:

Further reading:

Nature of documentation: Technical report


Type of document
European Union Public License, Version 1.1 or later (EUPL) 
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