Government Interoperability Framework (GIF) and National Enterprise Architecture (NEA)

While working with the Interoperability Frameworks for e-government services at the country level, one theoretical issue I face is the debate on methodology for attaining interoperability in an e-government context. For some, it is the National Enterprise Architecture (NEA), and for others, it is the Government Interoperability Framework (GIF).

But, studying NEAs and GIFs of countries, an emerging trend is emerging; the distinctions are getting blurred. At least the way these are documented. But, I need to get it validated.

All the GIFs contain ‘standards’, so do the EAs; the difference is how these standards are categorized and clustered.

Take the case of GIFs first. Australia (2005), Brazil (2006), Denmark (2005), Malaysia (2006), New Zealand (2006) and the UK (2005) (- let’s call them the first lot-) categorizes the standards according to ‘technical layers’ but Germany (2006) and the EU (2004) ( – the second lot) uses ‘services or life events’ to categorize the standards.

The ‘layered’ model – used by the first lot – clustered the standards in specific technical categories (or layers) such as interconnection, data integration, information access and presentation, metadata and security. The focus here is only on the ‘technical’ dimension of interoperability. In comparison – the second lot – grouped the standards in such a way that the focus spreads beyond just the ‘technical’ dimension of interoperability to the ‘organization/process’ and the ‘data/semantic’ dimensions of interoperability as well. The standards – in the second lot – are categorized according to the services or life events such as income taxes, job search, social security contribution, personal documents, car registration, permits, certificates, enrollment, the announcement of relocation and health-related services etc.

Interestingly, however, it is also observed that many countries – many from the first lot – have reviewed and a few others are still reviewing their original GIFs and are planning to address the unattended dimensions (‘organization’ and ‘data’) of interoperability in their future versions of GIFs. The possible reason for taking the route of addressing the technical interoperability first, by the majority of the countries, could have been the ease in standardizing the technical matters(?).

Take the case of the latest version of New Zealand’s e-GIF (2008). It clusters the standards in layers such as network, data integration, business services, access and presentation, web services, security and best practices. The ‘web services’ is comparatively (w.r.t 2006) the latest addition and attempts to address the missing links of ‘organization’ and ‘data’ dimensions of interoperability.

The point is, in cases of older GIFs, if the standards were not categorized by the life events, then categorization of standards was limited to technical layers only, neglecting the two (organization and data) of only three (organization, data and technical) aspects of interoperability. However, with the addition of new categories such as ‘web-services’ (still under the ‘technical’ dimension though), this missing link is being attempted to be bridged.

There is another trend, though. Instead of revising their existing GIFs, many countries are working through their respective National Enterprise Architecture (NEA) to address the ‘organization’ and ‘data’ dimensions of interoperability. This confluence is now reflected in the latest versions of the GIFs and the NEAs. The distinctions are getting blurred.

Consider the case of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s – Enterprise Information Technology Architecture (2008). This can be treated at par with any National Enterprise Architecture (NEA) in a limited context. The Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM), which provides an architectural framework to identify the standards, specifications and technologies that support the commonwealth’s computing environment, uses access and delivery, information, application, integration, management and security to categorize the standards – a very similar classification system as seen in the latest version of New Zealand’s e-GIF.

Do you see a converging trend here?

2 comments on “Government Interoperability Framework (GIF) and National Enterprise Architecture (NEA)

  1. We are seeing a split in the focus of interoperability across the world into two aspects. There is nothing new conceptually, just the categorization.

    Generally, we look at the
    1) eBus/eGov Context :’semantic and business context’ and
    2) Technical: ‘technical underpinning such as transfer, transports, syntax, security, etc’

    These at this time require different techniques and participants types to bring to resolution. The first requires a significant amount of business acumen to achieve. The second requires a significant amount of technical acumen.

    They are both just as arduous to achieve — they just require different expertise.

    The DoE in the USA has a WG working on interoperability in the North American Electric Grid. We also work very closely with NIST and have been chartered by the Congress to assist NIST report on and give guidance on how to achieve interop in the electric grid. The first report is due end of year 2008.

    Our current work effort is below and has a graphic of how we have split these issues you are discussing out. I think it covers both area that you noted above, but you will have to let me know that for sure. ( fig s.2, page 5)

    Rik Drummond, Drummond Group Inc
    Member GridWise Architecture Council

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