Local governments from 3 countries sharing one GIS infrastructure (LoG-IN GII)

Published on: 14/06/2007

Local governments play an important role providing services that enhance the environment for local business. However, many local governments are reluctant to assume this role for many reasons. The LoG-IN Generic Information Infrastructure (GII) is a powerful infrastructure owned by 35 local authorities from the UK, Germany and Belgium. It is based on open standards, XML/GML and web services. All local authorities can build powerful web applications using only a browser. The GII allows local authorities to manage and publish their geodata supporting a multi-channel approach. The GII has led to a saving of over € 1.5 million to date.

Policy Context

The LoG-IN project consists of three partners (UK, Germany and Belgium) representing 35 local authorities. Consequently several legal and political conditions apply. Flanders: There is no generally accepted written vision in Flanders on the role of local authorities in the field of e-government. Local authorities are also left to their own devices for financial or material support. A possible strategy to still achieve certain objectives consists in close cooperation both at the sub regional and at the European level. In the Southern Part of West Flanders local authorities have been working together on e-government for the benefit of citizens and companies since 1995 and have always aimed at achieving a European dimension. In this context the input of knowledge (visions, good practices, do’s and don’ts) is deemed more important than financial support. Since 2005 active Flemish e-Government board strongly focused on back-office and authentic sources. LoG-IN GII is in line with central government strategy. In Flanders there is a strong GIS cooperation between government levels. The LoG-IN GII set a new ambition and standard. UK: The e-Services goals of Norfolk County have to be in line with English (ODPM) e-services goals. They are the result of a regional strategy based on a triple helix approach. It strongly supports regional strategies. Germany: The Länder does not define goals concerning e-services or support to businesses. The Landkreis can decide for itself. The GII triggered a fundamental debate on the role of e-government for regional development and led to the start of intermunicipal cooperation. European policy guidelines: INSPIRE, OGC and the Lisbon agenda.

Description of target users and groups

The first target group is the 35 local authorities that are partner or sub-partner in the LoG-IN project. The three major partners are the intercommunale Leiedal (Flanders, Belgium), Landkreis Rotenburg-Wümme (Germany) and Norfolk County Council (UK). All three partners deliver services to local authorities or form part of a regional network of (semi-)public organizations. 35 local or regional authorities have been identified as sub-partner. They form a mix of rural towns and urban cities. Results of the project have been made available to over 100 local authorities outside the project area. Central governments (G2G) - The three regions work closely together with their central governments. In Flanders the LoG-IN GII is used in the information exchange between local authorities and the province, the Flemish and federal government in several domains (business information, address data, parceling data) and in the data-exchange with French neighboring municipalities. The German local authorities use the GII to exchange information from their back offices with the Landkreis government. The UK partner uses the GII to exchange data with regional actors and to fulfill the English e-Government targets on business registration. Business community (G2B) - The LoG-IN project aims to turn local authorities into stronger players in the field of local economy by providing them with innovative tools and strategies. The LoG-IN GII supports extranets between the local authority and the local businesses. The GII was used by the UK partner to give SMEs access to census information for commercial purposes. As part of the LoG-IN project a service was set up aimed at all cultural organizations in Norfolk County, which allows them to publish their activities (from high-brow to low-brow) in order to reach out to the 2 million visitors a year. Citizens (G2C) - The applications on-line have a potential to connect to 800,000 people.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

At the level of the partnership great attention was given to make sure that the requirements were in line with the needs of the 35 sub-partners. In the first year an inventory was made of all systems in place and the local and regional ambitions. Bottlenecks in information storage, analysis and delivery were identified as well as interoperability needs. In a second phase the resulting needs were verified within each participating region to make sure that all regions were prepared to step into the joint procurement. The involvement of the local and regional stakeholders (civil servants, key politicians, regional development sector) was secured by the organization of E-Government Academies (with international experts presenting similar approaches), focused seminars for key personnel and the approval from central government. During the actual procurement there was a strong involvement (co-design) of the candidates together with key stakeholders. Once launched, it was decided not to communicate the GII itself to the general public, but to communicate only applications built with it. This resulted in important support of politicians who received a central role in press. Internally the GII was promoted by building smart applications with an added value for the target groups. Multi-channel issues: The GII allows local governments to make their information available to several digital channels: web, mobile, pad, web services (WMS, WFS, and WCS), Google Maps, Google Explorer and basically every OGC compatible system. Businesses can tap into the databases and use it in their own websites or even business processes. However, apart from that several applications also focus on bringing in information and data to support human-human interaction and increase efficiency and effectivity. Especially the strong link with back offices is useful.

Main results, benefits and impacts

Efficiency gains: - Cashable financial gains: saved investment of over 1.5 million euro and a calculated saving of 15 FTE staff. - More empowered employees: over 50 civil servants were trained as power users, the focused E-Government Academies reached 1,200 public sector participants and 300 non-government participants. - Better organizational architectures: 7 proven re-engineered protocols and procedures have been in place resulting in a new type of service, usually involving G2G and G2B information exchange. Effectiveness benefits: - Reduced administrative burden: 50% savings in procedure for business including - Transparency information and certain that it is correct - Increased user value and satisfaction: large take up (over 40% of applications launched) Democracy benefits: - Transparency and accountability: transparent in data Innovation: - Unique model: 35 local authorities, 3 countries, 1 system. - The system has proven added value for the local authorities by linking into their back-offices and offers the potential for information-rich services to businesses and citizens. - Local authorities get access to powerful tools usually only available to central governments. - If local authorities work together, they can become a ‘big player’ and therefore become noticed by larger ICT consortia who usually do not work for these customers. - Radical choice for open standards and interoperability - International co-operation and procurement does not necessarily has to lead to the lowest common denominator but can be a leverage for all - The careful managed process led to a wide support amongst all stakeholders - The model can be realized by proprietary software, by open source software or by a combination - Co-design of systems between public and private sector works, provided the right procedure is followed - The system resulted in high expectation from the business community and a change in perception.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

- Several cities and regions want to join, even from outside the three countries - Flemish schools (15-18 year students) want to copy the service model to build small applications for their students. The GII has been made available to them. - The system has been presented to all Belgian municipalities and is seen as a reference. The model also inspires other European projects - Engineering schools in Belgium and UK can use the system for their Master dissertations

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - If well planned, co-design between local governments and candidates (software companies) can be very successful. In the preparation of the procurement phase, not a list of detailed specs was agreed but overall requirements such as standards, interoperability, service model, use cases, needs on data storage, ambitions on data analysis and presentation. The two remaining candidates had to prove the feasibility of their solution, creating an interesting dynamic. Lesson 2 - Doing your homework (needs, stakeholder support, internal marketing, identifying relevant standards, linking-in with strategic ambitions) pays off. Lesson 3 - Although ICT is critical, the real added value to target groups comes from the added value of the service models, the usefulness and transparency of the information, etc.

Scope: International, Local (city or municipality), Regional (sub-national)