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“Interoperability” is a technical term that means the ability to work across systems.

Interoperability is an essential requirement especially in e-government, where the main activity is exchange of information, data and documents. Here, the ability to work across systems allows administrative procedures to be carried out with new technology. Diverse institutions, their various people and machines, where specific procedures are carried out, must all speak the same language and must agree on the steps for carrying out each part of the administrative procedure.

This rule must apply at all levels:

  • within each separate entity
  • regionally
  • nationally
  • within Europe

Interoperability is “like a chain that allows information and computers to be linked both within the organisation and between diverse organisations, administrations, enterprises and citizens”

There are three important aspects:

  • technical interoperability means technical questions such as connections between systems, defining the interface, the format of the data and protocols, including telecommunications,
  • semantic interoperability ensures that the precise meaning of information exchange is comprehensible from any other application whether or not the application was originally created with that use or aim in mind
  • organisational or administrative interoperability models the work process. It puts the architecture of the information, in line with the aims of the organisation and considers the business side of the venture.

One particular approach to planning interchange of data is by marking the types of documents by XML standards. XML is gaining importance as a useful tool for integration and interoperability between public information systems through:

  • widespread use of a mark up language that suppliesdimensional elements for establishing costs and eventual priority for intervention during exchange of structured information between administrations,
  • organising and updating a store of marked and structured information. This information is exchanged between public administrations via interoperable services or applications. It is important here to consider the best way to relate between spontaneous agreements and co-ordination projects,
  • analysing auxiliary tools for marking documents, while taking into account the standardisation and maturity of the market,
  • adopting measures to support use of XML in order to improve spread of services to citizens and enterprises.

The aim is to realise a Semantic Web.

“The Semantic Web is an extension of the current web in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in co-operation." -- Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler, Ora Lassila, The Semantic Web, Scientific American, May 2001

Another definition states that “the Semantic Web is the representation of data on the WWW. It is based on the Resource Description Framework (RDF), which integrates a variety of applications using XML for syntax and URIs for naming.”

The prototype opens the road to this goal. It is constructed in XHTML, the new standard language for building Web pages. XHTML is a reformulation of HTML as an XML application and is the transition towards XML. This offers two main advantages:

  • bringing HTML into the XML family leads to better extensibility and precision in syntax,
  • it remains compatible with software that supports HTML 4.0.

© Minerva Project 2005-02, last revision 2006-03-24, edited by WP5, Committee for the development of a prototype of public cultural websites.
URL: www.minervaeurope/structure/workinggroups/userneeds/prototipo/progproto/interoperabilita_e.html