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Norwegian national portal for geo. and environ. info services (geoNorge)

Published on: 04/06/2007

The geoNorge portal is the national portal for the national Norway Digital geospatial infrastructure. Norway Digital is a large public partnership comprising all of the important users and producers of geospatial information at national, county and local levels. The portal is the umbrella for a large number of geospatial eServices, making basic geographic information and a variety of thematic information readily available. The information currently provided by the portal enables geospatial information to be used by different communities, including public administration and environmental management bodies. The infrastructure also includes a gateway for distributing the information to non-partners and the private sector.

Policy Context

The political background dates back to 2003 when the Norwegian government presented a White Paper called «Norway digital - a common fundament for value adding» that was approved by the Parliament. The case presented here – the portal geoNorge – is the information distribution hub of the infrastructure. It is the largest open, standards based eGovernment component in daily use in Norway. The activity has been reckognised by two governments with different political flavours, and in two consecutive eNorway plans. It is also apart of the recent ICT policy as presented 6 months ago to the Parliament in the White Paper “An Information Society for All”. The portal and the underlying infrastructure is also an implementation in compliance with the EU Directive of 14 March 2007 establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE). In fact, Norway has been very active in the preparations for this Directive – which will be adopted in Norway because of the European Economic Agreement (EEA) – and promoted geoNorge and the infrastructure as a role model for an INSPIRE implementation. The information about the Norwegian case has been received with great interest in the Commission and numerous member states involved with INSPIRE.

Description of target users and groups

The target group of the portal is all public organisations using and/or producing geographic information. Currently 35 national institutions from all government sectors, 17 out of 19 counties, 356 out of 431 municipalities and 93 utility companies participate have signed contracts. It is expected that these figures will increase continuously, e.g. such that in 2008 all municipalities will participate. This is most comprehensive formalised geospatial infrastructure to our knowledge.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The high level management approach is the enforcement of a political decision. In practice, management is achieved by appointing one agency, the Norwegian Mapping and Cadastre Authority (NMCA), as the coordination body. NMCA has established a national secretariat that provides a strong coordination of the many partners involved. Elements are several fora on specific issues. There is a Technology Forum responsible for developing and deciding the technological architecture and approach. The forum maintains the Technology framework which is a guideline document describing how the infrastructure shall be implemented using a long range of standards from ISO (mainly the ISO 19100-series on geographic information) and open industry specifications as developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). A system of binding agreements between the partners has been established. The agreements define which services (normally web based services) each partner shall provide to the whole community and regulaties the service level quality. The portal and the service oriented geospatial infrastructure was profiled as an important component of the eNorway 2005 plan. This has later been reconfirmed in the latest eNorway 2009 plan also. Thus there is a high level political support for the case.

Technology solution

The portal is mostly utilising the internet channel. Being based upon web services and with the convergence of physical networks, wireless networks, and cellular networks with IP-based technology, these services will also be available in new channels. The case is not addressing specifically offline delivery. On the contrary, it replaces earlier cumbersome offline delivery methods with online services. This has resulted in a much greater efficiency and improved quality because information can be online accessed directly from the producer with the most recent updated information. As an example, the national mapping agency has provided digital information on CDs and DVDs for many years. This has resulted in copies of databases being established in other agencies requiring those agencies to maintain data, operate databases and providing services to their users. Today, these services are provided online directly to the users from the mapping agency through the portal. Consequently, the user agencies are relieved of many tasks and they are ensured they have the best available, best updated information at any time.

Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards

Main results, benefits and impacts

The portal is based upon state-of-the-art technology. The components involved, the different web services and the catalogues, are all based upon standards. This allows interoperability among heterogeneous partners and distributed solutions. Where this case goes beyond state-of-the-art and provides real novelty, is the demonstration of so many partners contributing to a national solution with a large variety of content in a real geospatial infrastructure. Many nations are now providing geoportals, but mostly with information from a single agency, e.g. the mapping agency. The Norwegian geoportal has from the opening in 2004 provided content from a number of agencies and been a real joint venture. One of the factors of the success of the portal has been that up to this year, all services have been freely available for anyone, anywhere in the world. From 2007 some of the services are protected and can only be used by authorised users. The portal has been in continuous development since the opening in 2004, all the time providing more services and more functionality. We are currently incorporating service chaining and service composition capabilities into the portal. This will allow more sophisticated eGovernment solutions to be provided. One scenario is for instance the situation where an investor or the municipality is making plans for a new residential area. Using services in the portal, e.g. concerning risk of avalanches, risk of flooding, radiation from the ground – all these services exist in the portal – and chaining and/or composing them, the plans can be automatically checked as required by laws and regulations. The essence of the portal is to build a service oriented infrastructure for geographic information to the Norwegian society, including to provide a variety of concrete services upon which a number of applications can be built. There is currently between 200-300 different web based services with a national coverage under the umbrella of the portal (i.e., as web services they exist independently of the user interface of the portal, but the portal provides an integration platform and catalogues that allows discovery of which services exist, and additional metadata about the services). There are both UDDI-based catalogues (as prescribed by the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C), and catalogues based upon the ISO 19115 Geographic information Metadata standard. In addition, the portal provides a regime for user authentication and authorisation for those services that are not freely available. The restrictions can be for privacy reasons, for protecting information from being misused (e.g. information about endangered species), and for commercial reasons where an institution has a government requirement to be partially funded by the market.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The influence at national level has been great, as 35 national institutions from all government sectors, 17 out of 19 counties, 356 out of 431 municipalities and 93 utility companies participate are involved formally in the infrastructure. All public partners are changing their practices to adjust to the availability of the new services provided through the portal making their tasks much more efficient., most of them providing content and services accessible though the portal. The concept has also raised a lot of interest in our neighbouring Nordic countries as well as at the European level. We have informed about the portal and the underlying infrastructure at many European events, and material has been submitted into the development of the INSPIRE Directive. In addition several people in Norway related to the case have been personally involde in the INSPIRE development including data sharing policies, metadata, harmonised data specification and the directives network services. Thus, direct experience from the case has been submitted to the European legislative process.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - Political support is essential. A backing from the government and policy documents in support of the activity cannot be overestimated. The development of a European policy, and now, also legislation, has been very valuable. Lesson 2 - Enthusiastic support from key public organizations is vital. The case has been lucky to have many supporters due to an open process and the engagement of a large number of interested institutions. The large number of partners we currently have, is due to the fact that many key agencies pulled in the same direction in the early stages. Maintaining a process with broad involvement has also been a key factor. Lesson 3 - It is necessary to base the technological framework upon open, internationally accepted standards. This has been a main driver because both users and vendors have supported to base interoperability upon the use of international standards. This apporach has also eased the implementation phase, and avoided a lot of time-consuming proprietary development. It has been easy to agree on the technological direction as long as it has been based upon open standards.

Scope: International, National