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The story of two countries sharing data

The Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS) aims to develop and maintain standards and software that enable secure data transfer between various governmental and private data sources.”

Petteri Kivimäki - CTO of the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS)

 

 

Data sharing between national governments: Estonia and Finland         

The story of the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS) is one of two European countries that throughout history joint forces to collaborate and face challenges together. In 2013, the challenge to overcome was data sharing in and between national governments. Estonia and Finland decided to find mutually beneficial solutions together. The framework for the collaboration was set up in 2017 and called the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions.

Coordinating technical interoperability

From another point of view, the story of NIIS is one about technical interoperability. Interoperability is “the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information”.

European governments are getting more digital and citizen-centric. To provide seamless electronic services, government departments and their information systems must exchange data. Therefore, the different IT systems have to be technically interoperable. The interoperability between systems can be facilitated by a standardised and secure exchange layer, for example X-Road.

Co-developing X-Road

X-Road is originally an Estonian open source software for standardised and secure data sharing which can be used and modified by anyone. X-road is the base for many digital services enabling and shaping eEstonia, the national digital government initiative in line with the Once Only Principle. Beyond national interoperability, the X-Road open standard enables cross-border data sharing between governments.

In 2013, Finland started to implement X-road, too. However, country-specific aspects and national legislation made the implementation of X-Road in the Finnish public sector challenging and called for further modification. The two countries decided to co-develop the standard and the software. To make the collaboration more effective and to share the costs of development, the governments joined their skills and resources and coordinated the software development in the non-profit organisation NIIS.

The Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions for an interoperable EU

NIIS is further developing X-Road to enable digital cooperation in and between national governments and organisations. NIIS is equally funded and governed by its members and contribute their resources and skills. Currently, Estonia and Finland are the only members. However, Iceland and the Faroe Islands are already part of the NIIS partner programme and in the process of becoming NIIS members.

To put the cross-border feature of X-Road to good use, NIIS is welcoming new members and partners from Europe, connecting more national environments and developing new interoperability solutions. The wider vision is an interoperable Europe, integrating existing interoperability initiatives by the European Union, like eDelivery, to be compatible with X-Road. Another goal for the near future is the possibility to share the insights of data analysis instead of the data itself using X-Road.

NIIS and their achievements in further developing X-Road are a good example of strategic enablement of data sharing, that, by being successful, is almost invisible to most of its beneficiaries and the wider public. “I do not think citizens know NIIS” says Petteri Kivimäki – CTO of NIIS. Therefore, we invite you to listen to the Support Centre for Data Sharing interview with Petteri Kivimäki who elaborates on the background and the future plans of NIIS and X-Road for a data sharing ecosystem in Europe. Information about the upcoming NIIS community meetings can be found in the Support Centre for Data Sharing event list.

Name

Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions

Sector

Government & Public Sector

Region

Nordics and Baltics

Countries

Members: Estonia, Finland. Partners: Iceland and Faroe Islands

Time

2013 - ongoing

URL

https://www.niis.org

Business model

Government-to-Government

Participants

NIIS was founded and is owned by the governments of Finland and Estonia. Iceland and the Faroe Islands joined recently, respectively in 2018 and 2019.

Type of organisations

Public organisations

Data sharing model(s)

Multi-party data sharing agreement

Core impact

By further developing and maintaining X-Road, NIIS enables digital cooperation in the Nordic and Baltic region and any other country that decides to adopt the standard.

Context

NIIS is a cooperation between Estonia and Finland that was recently joined by Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The cooperation aims to develop and maintain standards and software that enable secure connectivity, data search and data transfer between various governmental and private data sources. NIIS focuses on practical collaboration, sharing of experience, and promoting innovation. 

 

Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions: The story of two countries sharing data
Image credit:
(C) 2019 Petteri Kivimäki