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RINIS: facilitating over 3 billion digital transactions each year


On 23 June, the Support Centre for Data Sharing team was joined by Piet van den Berg and Rob Looij from the RINIS Foundation. Set up 25 years ago, RINIS specialises in facilitating the exchange of digital data between organisations in the public and private domain. Currently, they are handling over 3 billion transactions in the Netherlands each year. 

RINIS helps organisations implement the “Once-Only Principle” 

Public organisations have lots of information about the citizens and businesses they serve. Today, citizens and businesses often have to provide the same information multiple times. Think of a tax agency, or a health care provider for instance. From a user-perspective, providing personal information once would save much time and effort. This is true from an organisational point of view as well and saves costs for administration and claim management. Enabling organisations to deliver their services in the most efficient way not only relieves the administrative burden on both ends, it also prevents misuse and potential cases of fraud. To facilitate this, Europe aims to implement the “Once-Only Principle” from 2023 onwards, which will allow public administrations in Europe to reuse or share data and documents that citizens have supplied, in a transparent and secure way. 

RINIS delivers the platforms and infrastructure needed to make this type of exchange technically viable, as different organisations use different standards, formats, and terminology for the same information. Currently, in the Netherlands, the organisations that are part of the RINIS foundation and exchange information are, for instance, the Dutch tax agency, Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Care Assessment Centre, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Justice, amongst others. 

The biggest challenge in setting up the infrastructure is changing the organisations’ perspectives

The main bottleneck for organisations is to understand each other’s problems in terms of managing data and how to overcome them. Most organisations think “inside-out” rather than “outside-in”. That is, they have their own perspective on how best to exchange data, and this perspective is based on the data that they typically deal with. From this starting point, it is hard to consider another type of data, and another way of managing that data. 

Over the past years, the amount of data that is being shared has grown tremendously, from 700 million in 2013 to 2.3 billion in 2020. Whereas the focus in the first years of RINIS’ was mainly on building safe and reliable technological infrastructure, the needs of users have changed slightly over time. Now, most emphasis is placed on the control over data, and how to protect data sovereignty. Rather than setting up infrastructure that facilitates the exchange of data, RINIS focuses on building tools that empower citizens to decide which organisations make use of their data, and for which purposes. This means putting citizens at the heart of the design. This is exactly the rationale behind the Once-Only Principle. In practice, it means that if I give my name and social security number to one public organisation, I would retain control over that information rather than the system that produces it. This gives individuals the right to grant or deny the use of data allows them to monitor exactly which data is used for which purposes. 

RINIS is a key partner for several European digital initiatives

Even though the foundation is Dutch-born, there are many developments in the European setting to which RINIS caters as well. 
For example in:

  1. Providing the single point of contact for the EU secure Testa-network and the national access point for the European exchange in social security (EESSI), making services less pa-per-heavy and more digital-driven. 
  2. Being the implementation partner for several CEF digital building blocks such as eDelivery, eProcurement or the Single Digital Gateway regulation (SDG). This regulation turns the Once-Only Principle into reality by promoting online access to everything citizens and businesses need to get active in EU Countries. This includes access to the information, administrative procedures, and assistance services.

These CEF digital blocks and the SDG are created from the rationale that Europeans should be able to move, live, and work freely within the Union and have a single point of access to information, procedures, and assistance that they need in order to do so. To make this possible on an international level, we need dedicated infrastructure across borders.

Data sharing can create a more resilient government

There are many big technological developments in this field, for instance, the GAIA-X project, and through this envisioned support centre all stakeholders can benefit from each other’s knowledge and make use of new technologies. From a European perspective, RINIS identifies:

  • The rise of Self Sovereign Identity (SSI), leaving citizens in control of their data and able to manage their privacy details;
  • A trend in collecting data only when needed for a specific operation rather than collecting big datasets or aggregated (“bulk”) data that an organisation might need; and
  • A tendency to combine various data sources, for instance using AI to improve business processes. 

Going forward, RINIS will focus mostly on creating the building blocks needed for the international exchange of data. Looij and Van den Berg furthermore hope that SSI will not only affect data exchange within a country but will cater to the entire EU. As there is a wealth of initiatives for connecting national SSIs, this seems like a hope that can become a reality quite soon.  

Listen to our interview to learn more about RINIS’ future plans around a support centre for implementing EU regulation, and combining knowledge to collaboratively create effective infrastructure.

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