National Interoperability Framework Observatory


The NIFO was first launched as a pilot phase in December 2008 to first focus on developing a comparative model of the existing National Interoperability Frameworks (NIFs). Under Phase 1 the comparative model has been tested with three NIFs. The result of this Phase 1 has resulted in a well structured yet pragmatic Analytical Model that has formed the basis for Phase 2. The focus of Phase 2 was to cover the remaining countries in scope and analysing them with the Analytical Model. Phase 2 has been completed however the need to take a further step in NIFO is necessary to support the alignment of the NIFs with the European Interoperability Framework (EIF).

The objectives of this Phase 3 of the NIFO are twofold:

  • Define a NIFO maintenance process including the updating of the EU public administrations eGovernment Factsheets with the validated information from both the detailed and high level analysis depending on whether a NIF is available or not.
  • Provide assistance to the EU public administrations to apply the EIF at national level, first and foremost by aligning the interoperability initiatives to the EIF.

To support the second objective of the alignment of the NIFs and the EIF it is necessary to be able to identify the differences between the EIF and a NIF. The current Analytical Model is good to serve to first objective albeit the level of granularity is too high. Furthermore to identify the differences with the EIF the existing model cannot be used. For this purpose a new analytical model was designed where all elements of all NIFs can be categorised. The elements of the EIF are likewise categorised and therefore it is a simple ex-ercise to identify the gaps between a NIF and the EIF.

Next to the updated Analytical Model a NIFO maintenance process is defined where it is important that NIFO is aware what all NIFs are doing at any moment. And in order to bring the analytical model into practice functional requirements are defined which is the input for a technical implementation in the Joinup platform.

NIFO covers all EU public administrations, EEA countries and Candidate Countries with whom a Memo-randum of Understanding regarding their participation in the ISA programme has entered into force. In all this makes currently a total of 34 countries. The maintenance process was put into practice, hence for every country a NIF analysis was done using the analytical model and a factsheet was created which contains a short overview of the NIF and the level of alignment to the EIF.

A methodology to align the NIFs with the EIF was designed to further complement the second objective. A four step approach is proposed using the analytical model. The first step is to analyse the NIF, i.e. cate-gorise all the artefacts in the analytical model. In the second step are the artefacts compared to the ele-ments of the EIF. Based on this comparison the gaps can be identified and assessed. Finally a NIF can learn from the best practices of other NIFs to complete their gaps using the analytical model.

The maintenance process  will be implemented in the JoinUp platform to remain fully operational. It is also suggested that NIFO will take an active role to support the countries in developing a NIF which is aligned to the EIF and possibly highlight the good practices. Only by doing this will all Member States be able to reach the objective to be fully aligned to the EIF.


Policy context

The National Interoperability Framework Observatory is an action within the ISA work Programme of the European Commission. It is one of the actions within the programme aimed to improve electronic cooperation among public administrations in EU Member States. This programme - known as ISA for "Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations"- takes a very practical approach in supporting administrations across Europe to communicate more easily. It capitalizes on the experience gained since 1999 with the two previous programmes IDA II (Interchange of Data between Administrations) and IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of pan-European eGovernment services to public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens).

ISA will run from 2010 to 2015 with a financial envelope of 164 million euros. Commission Vice President Siim Kallas, responsible for administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud, said: "Citizens and businesses rightly expect efficient public service across Europe and that administrations are able to communicate with other government departments throughout Europe  easily and swiftly. The new ISA programme gives a boost to our long-standing efforts to create a European Union free from electronic barriers at national borders".

ISA will facilitate electronic cross-border and cross-sector interaction between European public administrations, enabling the delivery of electronic public services and ensuring the availability of common solutions. Agreement on how public administrations should work together is at the heart of the programme and its priorities are based on the European Interoperability Strategy (EIS), which was developed by the Commission with the support of the Member States’ administrations.

NIFO is defined as one of the actions of the ISA programme. A budget of € 800 000 has been reserved in order to maintain the information sharing and to assist the Member States to apply the EIF.

Target users

1) National Experts  from EU Member States

2) National Policy Officials

3) European Commission

4) Non-European Public Administrations

5) ICT Industry

Description of target users and groups

National Experts - in the Member States whom are tasked with the development of their National Interoperability Framework. NIFO provides guidance for their work and concrete examples for the further development of their NIF. Specific interoperability materials that can be used as an (best-practice) example and re-used in the local context.

National Policy Officials - in the Member States whom are tasked to develop policies on the area of e-Government and interoperability. NIFO acts as an input to decision processes in national developments and national policy officials may require an objective overview of the European situation and the position of their member state in the spectrum of development of the NIFs.

European Commission - policy-makers that require insight in the current state of the NIF into the various countries in order to develop European wide policies. As a consequence of the mission of the ISA program, the European Commission needs an overview of the status of the developments in the European countries.

Non-European Public Administrations - Many administrations or governmental institutions in global perspective are interested in the development of interoperability. Specifically the appropriate offices in the USA and Australia may have the requirement to continuously track on the status of other public administrations.

ICT Industry - organisations that are involved in the realization of e-Government solutions like Service Integrators and software vendors. Driven by long lead times of solutions, commercial enterprises may have the requirement to have insight into the status of NIF developments across Europe.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The Maintenance Process and the NIFO Analytical Model will be implemented in order to ensure that the NIF analyses and the factsheets remain up-to-date. To implement these the Joinup platform was chosen. A NIFO Community is established and the needed functionalities will be made available in order to introduce the Maintenance Process and the NIFO Analytical Model.

Furthermore all the updated factsheets are published and the aggregated NIF analyses are made available in order to allow the users, and the EU public administrations in particular, to dig into the information and to put the EIF alignment methodology into practice.


Technology solution

The main results of Phase 3 of the NIFO action include:

  • Detailed analysis of the NIFs of 16 countries using the Analytical Model.
  • High-level analysis of 13 countries.
  • Produced the factsheets of 29 countries.
  • Updated the Analytical Model.
  • Created a maintenance process.
  • Drafted functional requirements in order to implement the maintenance process.
  • Created a methodology to improve the alignment between the NIFs and EIF.

All this is implemented in the NIFO community on the Joinup platform. This will be the single place where the NIFO community can actively collect, share and discuss information. NIFO is recognised as the aggregated information source for national interoperability - In addition to awareness, NIFO should be recognized as the prime information source regarding national interoperability. In other words, it should be obvious for targeted stakeholders, if they need specific information in the NIF context, they know where to find the information and recognize the NIFO as an important information- and best practices source. In order to create momentum and continuity, the added value of the NIFO should be clear for all targeted stakeholders. Foreseen benefits (e.g. insight, information sharing, good practices) should be communicated clearly. NIFO is recognized to stimulate consistency and interoperability between the European public administrations - It is considered important that the national interoperability frameworks are not deviating between each other in addressing various aspects of achieving interoperability. A deviation can result in interoperability difficulties on a European-level in general. For these reasons, interaction and discussion (communication) between national experts is an important driver for maturity and growth of interoperability. Communicating that national interoperability frameworks should be aligned as much as possible with the European Interoperability Framework, is therefore an important communication goal.


Lessons learnt

NIF information not available in English

Many NIFs do not have translations of their information into English. In the maintenance process  the NIF contacts are responsible to fill in the analytical model in English and provide the evidence. Based on the information provided by the NIF contacts in the analytical model the NIFO can produce the factsheets. Also it is suggested that at least a summary is provided of every NIF in English as a reference for the other Member States. If they need more detailed in-formation they will always be able to contact the NIF contact.

Be more in contact with stakeholders

A closer involvement of the NIF contacts is needed to make NIFO a success when it is later operational in the JoinUp platform. Their active participation will be key.


Type of document
General case study
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