NIFO - National Interoperability Framework Observatory glossary



Administrative simplifications means, where possible, to streamline and simplify their administrative processes by improving them or eliminating anything that does not provide public value. Administrative simplification can help businesses and citizens to reduce the administrative burden of complying with EU legislation or national obligations.

There are many ways to take stock of the value of interoperable European public services, including considerations such as return on investment, total cost of ownership, level of flexibility and adaptability, reduced administrative burden, efficiency, reduced risk, transparency, simplification, improved working methods, and level of user satisfaction.

The Asset Description Metadata Schema (ADMS) is a specification used to describe reusable solutions, such as data models and specifications, reference data and open source software.


Base registries are the cornerstone of European public service delivery. A base registry is a trusted and authoritative source of information, which can and should be digitally reused by others, where one organisation is responsible and accountable for the collection, use, updating and preservation of information.

A base registry framework, ‘describes the agreements and infrastructure for operating base registries and the relationships with other entities’.

Reference Doc: Revised EIF 

A business continuity plan refers to a plan that aims to ensure that digital public services and their building blocks continue to work in a range of situations, e.g. cyberattacks or the failure of building blocks.

Reference Doc: Revised EIF


Catalogues help administrations find reusable resources (e.g. services, data, software, data models). Various types of catalogues exist, e.g. directories of services, libraries of software components, open data portals, registries of base registries, metadata catalogues, catalogues of standards, specifications and guidelines.

CAMSS provides a comprehensive method to assist the assessment of ICT standards and specifications. CAMSS provides a method, it does not itself select standards. The CAMSS method aims to achieve interoperability and avoiding vendor lock-ins. CAMSS criteria evaluate (among other things) the openness of standards and specifications.

The CPSV-AP is a data model that describes public services in a structured and machine-readable way by standardising the semantics. Public administrations and service providers can use this approach to guarantee a level of cross-domain and cross-border interoperability at European, national and local level.

Core Vocabularies are simplified, re-usable and extensible data models that capture the fundamental characteristics of an entity in a context-neutral fashion. Public administrations can use and extend the Core Vocabularies in the following contexts: 1) Development of new systems, 2) Information exchange between systems, 3) Data integration, 4) Open data publishing.


A ‘data access and authorisation plan’ determines who has access to what data and under what conditions, to ensure privacy. Unauthorised access and security breaches should be monitored and appropriate actions should be taken to prevent any recurrence of breaches.

The DCAT Application profile for data portals in Europe (DCAT-AP) is a specification based on W3C's Data Catalogue vocabulary (DCAT) for describing public sector datasets in Europe.


The EIF conceptual model for public services covers the design, planning, development, operation and maintenance of integrated public services at all governmental levels from local to EU level.

The EIF principles are fundamental behavioural aspects to drive interoperability actions. There are 12 principles relevant to the process of establishing interoperable European public services. They describe the context in which European public services are designed and implemented.

The European Interoperability Cartography (EIC), as defined by the Decision (EU) 2015/2240 is a “repository of interoperability solutions for European public administrations provided by Union institutions and Member States, presented in a common format and complying with specific re-usability and interoperability criteria that can be represented on the EIRA”.

The new European Interoperability Framework (EIF) is part of the Communication (COM(2017)134) from the European Commission adopted on 23 March 2017. The framework gives specific guidance on how to set up interoperable digital public services.

EIRA is an architecture content metamodel defining the most salient architectural building blocks (ABBs) needed to build interoperable eGovernment systems. The EIRA provides a common terminology that can be used by people working for public administrations in various architecture and system development tasks.

A European public service comprises any public sector service exposed to a cross-border dimension and supplied by public administrations in Europe, either to one another or to businesses and citizens in the European Union.

Reference Doc: Revised EIF

Public administrations need to exploit external information sources to deliver their services effectively, such data may include open data and data from international organisations, chambers of commerce, etc. Moreover, useful external information and data can be collected through the Internet of Things (e.g. sensors) and social web applications.


Inclusion is about enabling everyone to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies to access and make use of European public services, overcoming social and economic divides and exclusion. Accessibility ensures that people with disabilities, the elderly and other disadvantaged groups can use public services at service levels comparable to those provided to other citize

Access to base registries should be regulated to comply with privacy and other regulations; base registries are governed by the principles of information stewardship. The information steward is the body (or possibly individual) responsible and accountable for collecting, using, updating, maintaining and deleting information.

In the public sector context, integrated services refers to the result of bringing together government services so that citizens can access them in a single seamless experience based on their wants and needs.

Public administrations produce and make available a large number of services, while they maintain and manage a variety of information sources. These include internal information sources that are often unknown outside the boundaries of a particular administration (and sometimes even inside those boundaries).

Interoperability is a key factor in making a digital transformation possible. It allows administrative entities to electronically exchange meaningful information in ways that are understood by all parties. It addresses all layers that impact the delivery of digital public services in the EU, including: legal, organisational, semantic and technical aspects.

Interoperability agreements can occur on all EIF layers: organisational (e.g. agreement about mutual acceptance), semantic (e.g. minimal set of document metadata, or content schemas, technical (e.g. signature formats and containers). The format will vary accordingly.

‘Interoperability by design’ means that for a European public services to be interoperable, they should be designed with certain interoperability and reusability requirements in mind.

Interoperability governance refers to decisions on interoperability frameworks, institutional arrangements, organisational structures, roles and responsibilities, policies, agreements and other aspects of ensuring and monitoring interoperability at national and EU levels.

The EC's ISA programme developed an Interoperability Maturity Model to provide public administrations insight into two key aspects of their interoperability performance: 1) The current interoperability maturity level of a Public Service; 2) Improvement priorities to reach the next level of interoperability maturity.

The EIF interoperability model is applicable to all digital public services as part of the interoperability-by-design paradigm. It includes: a) four layers of interoperability: legal, organisational, semantic and technical; b) a cross-cutting component of the four layers, ‘integrated public service governance’; c) a background layer, ‘interoperability governance’.


The European Commission created Joinup to provide a common venue that enables public administrations, businesses and citizens to share and reuse IT solutions and good practices, and facilitate communication and collaboration on IT projects across Europe.


Legal interoperability is about ensuring that organisations operating under different legal frameworks, policies and strategies are able to work together.


Machine Readable functionalities refers to the ability to have data or instructions (such as that stored in a bar code, written in magnetic ink, or recorded digitally on a disk) that can be read through an electronic device (such as a laser scanner, magnetic stripe reader, or disk drive) for interpretation and manipulation by a computer.

Citizens across Europe often have problems in accessing and using digital public services if these are not available in the languages they speak. Multilingualism thus requires striking a balance between the expectations of citizens and businesses to be served in their own language(s) or their preferred language(s) and the ability of Member States’ public administrations to offer services in all


The NIFO is an observatory where the latest Interoperability Initiatives at national levels from across Europe are discussed, shaped and published. The NIFO community is a dedicated space for sharing experience and best practices on policies, systems, challenges and successes related to interoperability.

A ‘no wrong door’ service delivery policy ensures the provision of alternative options and channels for service delivery, while also securing the availability of digital channels (digital-by-default).

Reference Doc: Revised EIF


‘Open data’ refers to the idea that all public data should be freely available for use and reuse by others, unless restrictions apply e.g. for protection of personal data.

Reference Doc: Revised EIF

Open source is a term describing a means of developing and distributing software that ensures software is available for use, modification, and redistribution by anyone. Generally, anyone can download open source software for little or no cost, and can use, share, borrow, or change it without restriction.

In the context of interoperable public services, the concept of openness mainly relates to data, specifications and software.

Reference Doc: Revised EIF

Organisational interoperability refers to the way in which public administrations align their business processes, responsibilities and expectations to achieve commonly agreed and mutually beneficial goals. In practice, organisational interoperability means documenting and integrating or aligning business processes and relevant information exchanged.


The goal of the Preservation of information principle is to ensure that records and other forms of information keep their legibility, reliability and integrity and can be accessed as long as needed subject to security and privacy provisions.


Electronic trust services are a key concept of the digital single market, which aims to get rid of barriers to electronic commerce and all types of electronic transactions between the different states. They include services related to the creation, verification and validation of electronic signatures, electronic stamps, or certificates for the authentication of websites, among others.


The reusability of IT solutions (e.g. software components, Application Programming Interfaces, standards), information and data, is an enabler of interoperability and improves quality because it extends operational use, as well as saving money and time. This makes it a major contributor to the development of a digital single market in the EU.

Public administrations already store large amounts of information with a strong potential for reuse. Examples include: master data from base registries as authoritative data used by multiple applications and systems; open data under open use licences published by public organisations; other types of authoritative data validated and managed under the aegis of public authorities.

Different types of services can be reused. Examples include basic public services, e.g. issuing a birth certificate, and shared services like electronic identification and electronic signature. Shared services may be provided by the public sector, the private sector or in public-private partnership (PPP) models

In the context of security and privacy, ‘Risk management plans’ refers to the process of identifying risks, assessing their potential impact and plan responses with appropriate technical and organisational measures. Based on the latest technological developments, these measures must ensure that the level of security is commensurate with the degree of the risk.


Citizens and businesses must be confident that when they interact with public authorities they are doing so in a secure and trustworthy environment and in full compliance with relevant regulations, e.g. the Regulation and Directive on data protection, and the Regulation on electronic identification and trust services (eIDAS).

Semantic interoperability ensures that the precise format and meaning of exchanged data and information is preserved and understood throughout exchanges between parties, in other words ‘what is sent is what is understood’. In the EIF, semantic interoperability covers both semantic and syntactic aspects.

A Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is essentially a collection of services. These services communicate with each other.

A Shared Infrastructure System is defined as a system that pools IT infrastructure provided by the service provider (e.g. hardware, operating system software, associated operating processes and tools) that can be physically used by several users at the time, thus being "shared".

Shared services refers to a dedicated unit (including people, processes and technologies) that is structured as a centralised point of service and is focused on providing defined business functions. These functions are supported by information technology (IT) and IT services for multiple business units within an organisation.

Developed in the context of European Union ISA programme, the Sharing and Reuse Framework for IT Solutions addresses EU, national, regional and local public administrations that aim at reducing costs, increasing their efficiency and fostering interoperability by reusing, sharing or jointly developing IT solutions that meet common requirements.

Points of Single Contact (PSCs) are e-government portals that allow service providers to get the information they need and complete administrative procedures online. 

Reference Doc: Revised EIF

The subsidiarity principle requires EU decisions to be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. In other words, the EU does not take action unless this is more effective than the same action taken at national level. The proportionality principle limits EU actions to what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaties.


Technical interoperability covers the applications and infrastructures linking systems and services. Aspects of technical interoperability include interface specifications, interconnection services, data integration services, data presentation and exchange, and secure communication protocols.

To ensure technological neutrality, public administrations should focus on functional needs and defer decisions on technology as long as possible in order to minimise technological dependencies, to avoid imposing specific technical implementations or products on their constituents and to be able to adapt to a rapidly evolving technological environment. Data portability refers to the ability to

Transparency in the EIF context refers to: i. Enabling visibility inside the administrative environment of a public administration. This is about allowing other public administrations, citizens and businesses to view and understand administrative rules, processes, data, services and decision-making. ii. Ensuring availability of interfaces with internal information systems.


User-centricity means putting users’ needs at the centre when determining which public services should be provided and how they should be delivered.