Interoperability is “the ability of two or more systems or applications to exchange information and to mutually use the information that has been exchanged” [[i]]. In the context of Cloud Computing, interoperability can be further described as the “capability of public clouds, private clouds, and any other systems in the enterprise to understand each other’s application and service interfaces, configuration, forms of authentication and authorization, data formats etc. in order to cooperate and interoperate with each other” [[ii]]. In our case, interoperability could be understood as how well a public administration service interacts with external entities in order to organise the efficient provisioning of its public services to other public administrations, businesses and or citizens.
The European Commission’s ISA (Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations) programme [[iii]] developed an Interoperability Maturity Model (IMM) [[iv]] to provide public administrations insight into two key aspects of their interoperability performance:
- The current interoperability maturity level of a Public Service;
- Improvement priorities to reach the next level of interoperability maturity.
The IMM helps owners of a Public Service to enhance the quality of the service delivery, reduce costs and overcome integration issues by reusing available services and orchestrate services in an effective manner to maximise service outcome and benefits for citizens and public administrations [[v]].
In the context of interoperability maturity, the IMM measures how well a public service is able to interact with other organisations to realise mutually beneficial and agreed common goals through the exchange of information and reuse of services. Three different domains of interoperability are distinguished:
- Service Delivery – Providing end-users accessibility to the public service
- Service Consumption – Consumption of reusable services from other public administrations and businesses. This can include the consumption of functionalities, base registry information and security services
- Service Management – Controlling and monitoring the process flow related to external service interactions from trigger to outcom
The IMM uses a five-stage model to indicate the interoperability maturity of the public service. The reason for the usage of these various maturity levels is two-fold:
- To measure the interoperability maturity of the public service as a whole and of the underlying aspects;
- To indicate which capabilities and next steps are required to improve interoperability maturity.
The five maturity levels for the IMM are summarised in the table below:
The desired interoperability level for a public service is at minimum level 4: ‘Sustainable’. At this level, the public service is considered to have implemented all relevant best practices.
The STORM CLOUDS approach
The STORM CLOUDS Smart City Applications were evaluated using the Interoperability Maturity Model Questionnaire. Based on the assessment a tailor-made set of recommendations was provided towards the service owner. The following five principles are applied to generate recommendations:
- Principle 1: Each interoperability attribute differentiates between at least two maturity levels;
- Principle 2: The improvement tables provide recommendations how to improve maturity step-by-step for a specific interoperability attribute;
- Principle 3: When a public service does not have the maximum level yet for a specific interoperability attribute, a recommendation is given to make the step towards the next interoperability level;
- Principle 4: When a public service does have the maximum level for an interoperability attribute, no recommendation is given;
- Principle 5: When the foreseen maturity improvement is a sliding scale (e.g. from less to more), a generic recommendation (not maturity level specific) is given to improve the maturity further along the sliding scale.
For each improvement step the provided recommendation tables show the next maturity level to be achieved through improvement and the general recommendation as to how to achieve the next maturity level [[vi]].
[i] ITU-T, 2002, Global Information Infrastructure terminology: Terms and definitions
[ii] ISO, ISO/IEC 19941 standard: “Information Technology — Cloud Computing — Interoperability and Portability”
[iii] European Commission, Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations Programme, viewed June 2, 2016 <http://ec.europa.eu/isa/>
[iv] European Commission, Interoperability Maturity Model Documentation (Guideline & Definitions)
[v] European Commission, 2013, Interoperability Maturity Model, viewed June 23, 2016 <http://goo.gl/ydFPHs>
[vi] European Commission, 2016, Interoperability Maturity Model Full – Recommendations