NemHandel - Open Infrastructure for E-Business (NemHandel (EasyTrade)

In 2007 the Danish National IT & Telecom Agency (NITA) launched a national open e-business framework ‘NemHandel’ (literally ‘EasyTrade’), based on a new national service-oriented infrastructure and utilizing state-of-the-art open standards to do e-business transactions business to government and business to business via the internet. The national open e-business framework supports reliable, secure and asynchronous exchange of business messages, e.g. invoices, across heterogeneous networks, including the internet. Since 2005 suppliers to the Danish public sector have been required by law to send invoices electronically, which affects approximately 70% of all Danish businesses, and thus electronic invoicing in the public sector is a key driver for the initiative. However the ‘NemHandel’ initiative also aims more widely in a business-to-business context to replace less cost-effective solutions, such as the scanning-based digitalisation of paper invoices, as well as to pave the way for more comprehensive digitisation of a range of e-business processes to reduce administrative burdens in Danish businesses. Please see the Danish eInvoice Solution. As part of the ‘NemHandel’ initiative, NITA has developed a basic open source ‘NemHandel’ application for the exchange of e-business documents, e.g. electronic invoices, via the internet. The open source application is freely available through the ‘Softwarebørsen’ open source software exchange to public sector institutions, private businesses, and to IT vendors who may incorporate the technology in their own commercial products. A number of commercial IT vendors have already and others are in the process of integrating the 'NemHandel' technology into their products so that documents may be exchanged directly between existing IT solutions. Likewise a range of existing commercial service providers, e.g. banks and operators of value added networks (VAN) and other proprietary solutions, are looking to connect their individual networks to the NemHandel infrastructure.

Policy Context

Lack of interoperability between networks and solutions is a major barrier to the widespread use of electronic exchange of business documents (e.g. invoices), because of the sheer cost and effort of having to utilise diverse networks and disparate proprietary standards. The private sector has not managed, or indeed taken the initiative, to achieve interoperability or the establishing of shared infrastructure services (e.g. addressing mechanisms, federated identity and access management services) and, that being the case, the Danish public sector has shown leadership and established the necessary shared infrastructure services. The NemHandel initiative enables nationwide interoperability and supports the formation of an ecosystem of commercial vendors and service providers offering NemHandel compliant solutions and services. The NemHandel infrastructure is based upon common open international standards to establish common ground for interoperability which allows vendors and service providers of all sizes to develop and market NemHandel compliant products. Thus, with public sector governance private sector players are now starting to innovate and develop commercial products on the foundations of a Government-established and maintained shared open infrastructure. Since 2005 Danish suppliers to the public sector have been required by law to send invoices electronically. This affects approximately 70% of all Danish businesses. Thus, existing legislation allows electronic invoicing in the public sector to act as a key driver for the initiative, which is targeted more widely to help businesses digitise their business processes. The NemHandel initiative aims to relieve businesses’ administrative burdens by replacing less cost-effective solutions, such as the scanning-based digitisation of paper invoices, as well as paving the way for more comprehensive digitisation of a range of e-business processes. As for secure identification of users of the e-business framework, a public key infrastructure is already in place in Denmark and certificates have been distributed to a considerable number of companies.

Description of target users and groups

All Danish businesses, with particular attention to the needs of SMEs and micro-sized businesses. The total Danish population of businesses is approximately 290.000 (2005) of which 95% fall within the EU categories of SME (10-250 employees) and micro-sized businesses (<10 employees). 90% of Danish businesses have broadband internet access 65% (2006) of Danish businesses are (regular or occasional) suppliers to the Danish public sector.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

As the basic infrastructure is up and running, all interested parties are free to connect their solutions and networks, provided that they sign a multilateral contract that permits all signing organisations to exchange business messages and describes important non-repudiation aspects as well as the concept of gateways to other trusted network infrastructures. Within a legal framework, the actual integration of the NemHandel technology into existing or new IT solutions and the connecting of other trusted networks to the NemHandel infrastructure is left entirely up to the individual interested parties, as is innovation and development of new functionality and services based on the NemHandel technology. A simple message handling client is freely available for download for businesses who wish to try the NemHandel functionality and an online invoicing form provides very basic invoice sending capabilities for businesses who prefer to acquaint themselves with the NemHandel concept in this manner. In early 2009, a nationwide information campaign will be launched in cooperation with trade associations, business bureaus, public authorities and commercial vendors and service providers to create awareness and stimulate adoption among Danish businesses.

Technology solution

UBL documents NemHandel uses UBL 2.0 (Universal Business Language) as the common standard for definition of business documents format.

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

Early and accelerating uptake Despite the fact that no formal marketing activities have been carried out as yet some 8000 businesses are already using the NemHandel infrastructure, commercial IT vendors have already integrated, and others are in the process of integrating, the 'NemHandel' technology into their products, and commercial service providers, e.g. banks and operators of value added networks (VAN) and other proprietary solutions, are looking to connect their solutions and networks. Underlying principles The establishment of the national e-business framework ‘NemHandel’ and the provision of a freely available toolkit for developers and integrators and a open source ‘NemHandel’ reference application for exchanging e-business documents via the internet a) provides businesses, who are required by law to send all invoices electronically to the public sector, with a cost-effective solution, and b) encourages the over-all digitisation of business processes in the private sector. Both objectives will reduce the administrative burdens of Danish businesses, particularly SMEs, by lowering the barriers for e-business and for general digitisation of administrative processes. Providing the infrastructure and basic software for e-business, the ‘NemHandel’ initiative allows private companies of any size to participate in electronic supply chains and other business interactions due to the low technical, administrative, and economic barriers.

Return on investment

Return on investment: €1,000,000-5,000,000

Track record of sharing

Commercial IT vendors have already integrated, and others are in the process of integrating, the 'NemHandel' technology into their products, and commercial service providers, e.g. banks and operators of value added networks (VAN) and other proprietary solutions, are looking to connect their solutions and networks.

Lessons learnt

The success of NemHandel, which is already obvious, is due to: The thoroughly positive business case of significant reduction of administrative burdens and considerable financial savings. The development of the NemHandel framework on the basis of actual business requirements gathered through an open dialogue with businesses, public authorities, trade associations and IT vendors and solution providers The use of the pervasive and well-known basic platform, the internet.

Scope: National
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