Get inspired & interoperable

New report on interoperability governance models published

Published on: 24/04/2018
Last update: 24/08/2018

Effective interoperability governance needs to cater for a smooth transition of strategic objectives down to operational implementation at different government levels and in distinct state systems. In addition, governance structures miss systematic and structured monitoring procedures and feedback loops”. This is according to the recently published report on Interoperability Governance Models undertaken for the European Commission in the context of the National Interoperability Framework Observatory (NIFO) and the new European Interoperability Framework.

In the second version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), adopted in 2010[1], the European Commission introduced the concept of “Interoperability Governance”. The current EIF, published in 2017, describes interoperability governance as incorporating the “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 EIF further represents interoperability governance in its model as the “background layer”, which oversees and coordinates the four interoperability layers, legal, organisational, semantic, technical, and a vertical function, public service governance, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Interoperability model

Figure 1 Interoperability model
Source: EC (2017) New European Interoperability Framework, Promoting seamless services and data flows for European public administrations[2]

The report on Interoperability Governance Models* produces insights on current collaborative governance structures to drive interoperability and that may serve as best practices at both EU and Member States' levels. The study analyses the current governance structures of thirteen selected European countries[3] and three European policy areas[4] to gather insights on interoperability governance in Member States and at the European Commission. The levels at which an actor may perform governance functions represent an adaptation of the multi-level approach to transition management as defined in literature (strategic, tactical and operational) [5]. The report's template is extended with the addition of the political level, which indicates the high-level governance functions executed by political actors. The template reflects generic understanding of strategic planning processes from economic and management literature[6]. This distinction helps to better illustrate the separate functions that an actor may perform on each governance level.

This template on interoperability governance, as presented in Figure 2, below, includes the type of bodies/ actors operating on each governance level, the relationship between the bodies, as well as the important documents that scope the governance model and define it.

Figure 2  Interoperability governance template

​​​​​​Figure 2 Interoperability governance template

The report's analysis shows that there is a diverse range of possible interoperability governance structures in existence across the analysed countries, underlying that both decentralised and centralised governance structures can offer benefits. It delivers insights into common elements required for successful and effective interoperability governance models and some conclusions about successes. For instance, the report reveals that e-Government has no unique natural "home" in different countries' political structures. In fact, three different major forms of political structures for the governance of e-government exist; unique, shared or hybrid. For the 13 countries assessed in 2016 and 2017, the report found that one ministry holds absolute political responsibility for this in five countries. Two ministries share the responsibility in six countries. One of the countries has a powerful agency in charge of this whereas another has a dedicated ministry only in charge of digital policies.

This report equips policy makers, service providers and citizens with deep insight into the levels of interoperability governance in the 13 countries assessed. In addition, the discovery of other countries’ structures can serve as inspiration for further reflections by public administrations on how to unleash the potential of interoperability.

LINK to reportReport on Interoperability governance models in Europe


*Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

[1] Available here:

[2] Available here:

[3] Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain

[4] ISA² Programme, CEF e-Procurement and eHealth Network.

[5] Cf. Loorbach, Derk (2004): Governance and transitions: a multi-level policy-framework based on complex systems thinking. Conference on Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, Berlin. René, Loorbach, Derk, Rotmans, Jan (2007): Transition management as a model for managing processes of co-evolution towards sustainable development. In: International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 14, pp. 1–15

[6] See a comparison of literature e.g. in Rabl, Klaus (1990): Strukturierung strategischer Planungsprozesse, Wiesbaden: Gabler, where strategic planning refers to long-term planning processes, tactical planning cover mid-term coordinating and planning activities to realise the strategic objectives, and operational refers to short-term and realisation of plans in concrete projects to achieve strategic objectives.