Joinup has been around for more than 10 years and is still going strong. It was initially created to bring together different communities (OSOR, SEMIC, and ePractice) but, in the process, also managed to add extra qualities such as becoming a repository of interoperability solutions and an online meeting place for Digital Government experts.
As is evident, Joinup is a work in progress. And while it has been a challenging year for the platform, with the change of Programmes and policies, operating under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joinup is moving stubbornly along, despite all these difficulties.
Now, Joinup is moving towards a clearer offering and vision. To find out more we interviewed four key persons around the platform: Cristina COSMA and Victoria KALOGIROU, Joinup EC Project Officers (DIGIT); Florin BOTA, Head of Sector – Data and Content Management/Operations and Security (DIGIT); Ludovic MAYOT, Joinup Project Manager (TRASYS International).
How important is Joinup’s role in the European Commission’s Digital Europe Programme (DIGITAL)?
Cristina COSMA: Keeping in mind that the Commission is a facilitator of public services, we are looking into making Joinup a one-stop shop for European digital public services where we have solutions that meet the needs of digital policy makers, helping them deploy, facilitate, and maintain digital public services.
The Joinup platform is assisting and supporting Member States in deploying digital public services. We have done so in the previous Programmes (i.e. ISA/ISA² along with the CEF Building Blocks), and we’ll continue doing that via the Digital Europe Programme, too.
Joinup will be the platform through which we provide and put together all our offerings. It should be viewed – and used – as a showcase for solutions that can be offered by the Commission and Member States, but also by private companies that work with Open Source. Because Open Source remains one of the core principles of Joinup.
Digital policies are taking a more centre stage nowadays. We want to facilitate their uptake and make things as smoother as possible in building European digital public services.
Victoria KALOGIROU: Indeed, Joinup is continuously evolving. We always take into consideration the views and opinions of our users. So, it’s not just about “us” but it’s actually about “you”, the Joinup user. And, Joinup’s history is very important to us. Its past provides us with inspiration on how to deal with matters now, as well as how to define and proceed in the future.
A new Joinup vision was announced in the recent User Group Meeting. What is it all about, and did DIGITAL necessitate – or inspire – its creation?
Cristina COSMA: The idea is to put together digital policy with solutions and make them meet in the middle with the digital government in practice. And all this will be supported by horizontal services such as user support, user profiles, communication, and search, which will be cross-cutting and will sustain the different elements. The goal is to offer a more personalised experience to our users, covering the needs of both technical and non-technical users, allowing them, thus, to get more out of the platform.
DIGITAL helped crystalise the vision. While it did not necessarily shape it, it greatly aided in making things clearer. For instance, it made evident that there’s a strong need to have guidelines for funding of digital public sector initiatives in Europe. Specifically, for European funds, it helped clarify how to use and articulate them.
Joinup is also undergoing a visual revamp. What benefits would these changes in the User Interface and User Experience bring to its users?
Cristina COSMA: There is a clear link between the vision and the revamp. That’s why we conducted a User Experience (UX) audit in parallel with the development of the vision. The vision clearly helped inspire the revamp process.
Looking at the different inputs we have received, along with the transition to a new Programme, it became evident that a new visual identity for Joinup had to be developed, paired with a new user interface that would clarify and improve the user experience.
Ludovic MAYOT: After 10 years of operation the project has learned from mistakes and past successes. And, more than ever – because I really feel it, being involved in this project for a while already – we do it in collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders and users of the platform.
Cristina COSMA: We could also mention that this revamp will offer improved visibility of users’ content allowing for better promotion of it. This will help Collection and Solution owners reach out to even more users and allow them to improve their communication campaigns. With this revamp we want to make sure communication takes the centre stage again.
Victoria KALOGIROU: The revamp will provide features and new ways for users to easily engage and interact among themselves. Thanks to the foreseen redesigned pages and improvements, users will also be tempted to create and/or update more frequently their content.
Collection and Solution owners, too, will experience a similar desire to animate their Collections and Solutions, and engage more often with their members. The heart of Joinup is its users, that’s why we are introducing all these changes in order to place you, the Joinup user, in the front row.
The platform isn’t only changing on the surface. Drastic modifications are happening in the backend infrastructure, too. What would these bring to Joinup?
Florin BOTA: Joinup was the first Commission website that went live (approximately 3 years ago) with Drupal version 8 as its Content Management System (CMS). Thus, Joinup acted as a pilot for testing this underlying infrastructure and, after some time, we enhanced and improved the support for such Drupal websites.
Now, we are going to apply to Joinup the same streamlined approach that we’re using at the moment for about 300 other public websites. This transition will offer added benefits, such as allowing Joinup to use the corporate Drupal pipeline that offers full automation for Continuous Integration/Deployment (CI/CD) with full DevOps support. This will ensure better and faster support, improve performance and capacity, and facilitate deployments with automatic testing which will reduce the overall efforts. The process will also allow us to deploy the latest versions of outdated elements, such as PHP, Solr, and Redis, which will improve the security and performance, all at the same time.
Once Joinup is fully aligned with the toolkit (which is the set of tools that allows developers to fully integrate the DevSecOps and CI/CD infrastructure etc.), our aim would be to move the platform by the end of this year (or early next year) to the new hosting model that we’re setting up and which is based on Kubernetes.
What we’ve described here in a concise manner will require a large amount of work, and it will help us replace the old infrastructure with the new one that will be aligned, in a few months’ time, with the Kubernetes-based one.
With the help of the Kubernetes’ containerisation approach, we’ll have better scaling of capacity which means dynamically scaling up or down based on demand; this will help lower costs and energy consumption, leading to a greener and more economical process.
Another element that will change for Joinup, and which is expected to be implemented in the coming weeks, is the transition to a new model of the Web Application Firewall (WAF), which will considerably improve the security of the Joinup platform.
The new WAF will improve the granularity of identifying cyberattacks, as well as hostile crawlers and bots. This will help improve Joinup’s performance and capacity and give users a better user experience when navigating throughout the platform.
You can be kept up to date on all these exciting changes that are coming to the Joinup platform by frequently checking the Joinup revamp page. In the meantime, we wish you a great summer season!