Please briefly introduce yourself.
I am Pavlina Fragkou, Project Manager at the European Commission’s (EC) Interoperability Unit. As such, I participate in the definition, development and implementation of policies and actions under the ISA2 Programme. I am a Seconded National Expert, meaning that previously, I worked in Greek Public Administrations’ IT departments supervising the design, implementation and daily operation of national level information systems. I also hold a PhD degree in Machine Learning.
SEMIC stands for “Semantic Interoperability Community”. However, as semantics is part of linguistics, it seems to be a domain closer to social sciences than to IT. What has semantics to do with IT?
Semantics is about making the machine understand data by using technologies that enable the representation of the meaning involved in information. Semantic technologies provide an abstraction layer above existing IT technologies that enables bridging and interconnection of data, content, and processing. The Semantic Interoperability Community focuses on the aforementioned technologies in order to help citizens and business exchange data in a more efficient way i.e., with unambiguous, shared meaning. Thanks to the interconnectedness of today’s society and the expectations of citizens and businesses, semantic interoperability is more important than ever. It is not so far from social sciences after all: the exchange of information through computers is still a proxy for human understanding.
In what sense is SEMIC important for interoperability?
SEMIC, an action of the ISA2 Programme in the area of semantic interoperability, facilitates a European community of semantic interoperability practitioners and provides solutions to help European public administrations in meaningful cross-border and cross-domain data exchanges. In order to do that, SEMIC focuses on the use of common semantic standards and promotes transparent and well-documented metadata policies in order to increase the visibility and reuse of existing semantic interoperability solutions.
What can people find in your SEMIC collection on Joinup?
The SEMIC action provides several benefits to its community, mainly:
- A community of practitioners, the SEMIC community, to exchange knowledge and best practices on semantic interoperability and to co-create and co-maintain semantic interoperability solutions.
- A repository of knowledge and semantic interoperability solutions, freely available. Interoperability solutions include, among others, data models (i.e., vocabularies), studies, pilots as well as information about webinars, workshops, conferences etc.
This is what people can find in our collection on Joinup.
How does Joinup help you with building up your community around semantic interoperability?
Thanks to Joinup, we can consolidate all our assets, the knowledge generated and our specifications, in one single platform. Also, Joinup is our canonical repository which grants stability and confidence to our community.
Regarding the number of visitors, SEMIC is one of the most successful collections on Joinup. How do you explain your success? What tips would you give to other collection owners to improve their visibility?
The SEMIC collection has the advantage of having great assets in it: DCAT-AP, ADMS and the e-Government Core Vocabularies, developed through the years, being great interoperability assets and, as such, able by themselves to bring and put in contact semantic interoperability experts all around Europe and the world.
I do not think I can provide much advice to other collection facilitators but, clearly, I think that up-to-date information and quality assets are critical.
How far is today's IT environment from a complete, semantically interoperable environment?
In my humble opinion, quite far. The number of initiatives around semantic interoperability suggests that IT practitioners recognise the importance of semantic interoperability and are working towards improving it. It may not take long but it will still take time. On the other hand, a number of interesting solutions are proposed through the use of knowledge graphs and linked data.
Recently, you organised the SEMIC 2019 Conference in Helsinki. How did the event contribute to the work of SEMIC?
SEMIC conferences contribute in publishing interesting work developed by Member States (MS) in cooperation with the EC, as well as establishing synergies between MS in order to enhance interoperability, share best practices through reusable solutions, and co-decide the design/future of effective interoperability solutions.
One of the key moments of 2019 was the organisation of the SEMIC 2019 conference, which took place on 21st October in Helsinki. The event was co-organised with the Finnish EU Council Presidency and focused on the topic ‘Linking data spaces for citizens’. Our high-level speakers from the Finnish Ministry of Finance, DIGIT, OECD, and European Court of Auditors shared their views on the value of semantic interoperability for seamless transfer of data between European public administrations, at the benefit of European citizens. Moreover, we invited on stage participants from cross-border projects and experts of new technologies. The event attracted approximately 200 participants from Europe and around the world.
Can you tell us more about your last achievements, for example the cooperation with NIFO?
The National Interoperability Framework Observatory (NIFO) provides policy makers, researchers, and business stakeholders with the latest developments on digital government and interoperability across Europe; NIFO also publishes the annual provision of the Digital government factsheets which constitute a vital step in the process of monitoring the development in Digital Government in Europe. The SEMIC and NIFO actions collaborated to convert these factsheets into linked open data.
Our experts carried out research on semantic interoperability topics e.g., a report on Data quality management, which explores the intersection between data quality management (from a data governance point of view) and semantic interoperability: how semantic assets support and evolve data quality considerations.
Also, we have been very active in sharing knowledge about semantic topics and connecting with the SEMIC community through a series of webinars:
- Artificial Intelligence and public administrations
- CCCEV evolution: past, present and future
- GeoDCAT-AP: Adoption and implementation experiences of the geospatial extension to DCAT-AP
- CPEV: International development and future plans of the Core Public Event Vocabulary
What are the next steps for SEMIC?
SEMIC’s next steps involve among other:
- Revision of current solutions such as e-Government Core Vocabularies, ADMS etc.;
- Continuation of current pilots as well as beginning of new ones with Member States;
- Communication actions such as webinars, the annual SEMIC conference, a SEMIC hackathon;
- New studies on interoperability solutions and synergies.