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MAGDA platform

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The MAGDA (Maximum Data Sharing between Administrations and Agencies) platform provides one common service-oriented data exchange infrastructure for the 190 agencies and 13 departments of the Flemish regional government, and for the 308 local governments. The MAGDA platform provides access to base registries of citizen and enterprise data, harnessing reusable technologies that can be easily adapted to the needs of different government administrations, from the regional to the local level, and increasingly to the federal level. 

The MAGDA platform allows for the retrieval of data from base registries (federal and Flemish) and the exchange of data. The platform was built to realize the principle of the "once-only” collection of data, as well as the multiple (re)use of data. Data entered (for the first time or updated) by citizens and businesses are collected only once. All applications that later want to use these data can retrieve them from the available base registries and so always use the latest information.

Through the MAGDA platform base registries (both federal and Flemish) are connected. And this despite the different structure of the data sources and the different design of the applications using them. The following base registries amongst others are now interconnected by the platform: the National Register, the CBSS (Crossroads Bank for Social Security), CBE (Crossroads Bank for Enterprises) and LED (Database of certificates of learning and of professional competence). The platform also offers data from other data sources which can be considered as authoritative sources. The data provided comes from more than 25 other sources, including information on vehicles, work permits, integration of refugees, education information, school attendance, … .

MAGDA’s reusable services allow government organizations to quickly and cost-effectively integrate data from these sources into their processes and applications.

The implementation of the platform was instrumental in the change from a “pull” to a “push” government, i.e. from a type of government in which citizens and businesses have to actively ask for services to a type of government that can proactively inform them about the benefits they are entitled to, on the basis of the data the government already has about them. The use of the MAGDA platform has steadily increased over time, to the point that it currently connects more than 25 data sources and provides more than 75 data services. Only in 2016, the usage of the platform and the number of users were increased by 300%.

In terms of IT infrastructure, the platform was developed to be compatible with the legacy systems of the base registries, so that there was no need for a migration to new technologies. The platform is based on a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and delivers web services that are technology-independent components defined by a behaviour and an interface. The same data can be provided as an XML data file or a CSV (comma-separated values) data file and can be delivered either via FTP (asynchronous) or via HTTP/SOAP (synchronous) protocol. Also web applications have been built that allow end-users to directly query the base registries. This variety of standardized, reusable access methods has contributed greatly to the successful uptake of the MAGDA platform.

The MAGDA platform makes data exchange technology-agnostic. The transformation that is carried out by MAGDA, transforming proprietary data formats into a canonical format, neatly integrates different data-models and technologies in a unique, reusable technical solution by which legacy infrastructure and older systems can be easily accessed.

The MAGDA platform is based on industry standards. We make use of the SOAP-protocol, WS-S certificate-based security, … . As for services and software, the outsourcer’s team that manages the platform has always had an open vision, fully integrated with the strategic vision of the Flemish Government, which sets out a number of vendor-independent strategies w.r.t. data-centers and common software platforms. The MAGDA platform uses the standard offerings of our IT outsourcer, to maintain stack-compatibility with the rest of the Flemish government, but it also makes use of open frameworks and tools such as Spring and Maven.

The MAGDA-platform has set for the whole of the Flemish government a single data-driven standard – which we call the MAGDA-standard - which offers business service templates and common data models (comparable to the core vocabularies developed in the ISA-programme). This free-to-use MAGDA-standard is now followed government-wide, has been reused dozens of times, and is a key-enabler for realizing the “once only” principle inside the Flemish government and at local governments.

The Flemish Services Integrator (VDI) has a MAGDA Design Team responsible for architectural & functional decisions, a MAGDA Release Team, consisting of a dedicated team of developers and a MAGDA Steering Committee: budget & business decisions. Together these teams keep the MAGDA platform up and running. On a yearly basis, the new MAGDA data services to be developed and the additional base registries to be opened up are determined in close consultation with the MAGDA Customer Board.

The use of the MAGDA-platform and its reusable software code archetypes provides several advantages for our customers. MAGDA has become the one-stop-shop for all the public data that a government organization may need to fulfill its duties to its customers, citizens or enterprises. For that purpose MAGDA has developed a standardized, reusable process to establish connections by its customers to the base registries of the Belgian federal government and the Flemish government. This reusable process is focused on the simplification of all the technical details involved: only 1 technical connection must be made, only 1 security protocol must be followed, only one set of privacy rules has to be adhered to. During this process, we provide support for dealing with technical, business, legal and privacy problems. This support has been written down in clear, reusable guidelines and recommendations.

MAGDA has also developed reusable software code libraries to make it easier for base registries to open up and connect to the MAGDA platform. MAGDA filters the data from the base registry according to the privacy permissions of each customer, which means the base registry doesn’t have to do this itself, saving it development and operational costs. To facilitate development of its data access services, the base registry can use business service templates and software code archetypes provided for free by the MAGDA development team.

The initial development costs for the version 1.0 of the MAGDA platform in 2004-2005 were € 2.4 million euro (including the hiring of external ICT expertise, which cost € 1 million euro per year), the upgrade to version 2.0 in 2012-2013 (which included a number of important functional improvements to the platform) cost € 3.2 million euro (again including the cost of external ICT expertise, which has been reduced to 600.000 euro per year). Annual costs for the continued operation of the MAGDA platform amount to about 3 million euro per year.

The Flemish government foresaw that the MAGDA platform would become an important enabler in its e-government strategy, and gave the MAGDA platform its own separate funding, in order to guarantee the continued expansion and exploitation of the MAGDA platform. MAGDA itself has become a core component and key player in all the data-exchange projects within the Flemish government and at local governments.

Taking into consideration the continuous growth and the growing importance of the MAGDA platform studies are now underway to find the appropriate financing model to ensure the further maintainability and sustainability of the platform.

For a short movie about the MAGDA platform, see

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