Standards and Interoperability

In the context of various information management systems running in governments, the expectation of having a single version of the truth is not something new. For better planning, organizing, controlling and leading, having access to timely and correct (non-conflicting) data/information is pertinent. However, in many cases, few information systems, if any, running in government organizations, share information among themselves, even though many have similar functionalities and overlapping data sets.

The good news is the ‘need’ to share is gradually being realized in the connected world, and ‘interoperability’ is being suggested as a solution.

Interoperability allows disparate systems to ‘talk’ to each other. Needless to say, the complexities in getting them to ‘talk’ can be further reduced by having these systems developed based on agreed standards. After all, it is easier to connect similar things.

There is a clear link between ‘standards’ and ‘interoperability’ – with increasing standardization, the ease to interoperate increases. However, caution is warranted here [in the beginning – to achieve interoperability through commanding standards] as standardization is difficult to achieve and enforce and would stifle the freedom of design.

In contrast, ‘interoperability’ as a concept allows that bit of disparateness in systems to exist but still provides room for systems to ‘talk’ to each other.

It appears interoperability can be achieved either by developing information systems based on certain standards or without standards. However, the efforts needed to make systems exchange data would differ in both cases.

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