The public sector is facing new economic and demographic challenges that require greater efficiency and effectiveness by public administrations. “Do more with less” (“maximum yield with minimum effort”) has become a mantra, supported by the European Commission, which epitomizes the goal that public administrations set themselves in a context of progressive reduction of available economic resources and in the presence of communities of increasingly demanding users in terms of services offered. To obtain the “maximum yield with minimum effort”, however, public administrations will necessarily open the door to innovative approaches for the delivery of value-added services.
This is the context for CLIPS, CLoud approach for Innovation in Public Services, a research project funded under the Seventh Framework Program of the European Commission 2007-2013.
The approach proposed by CLIPS
During the project, which ended in July last year, a new approach, which is as methodological as it is technological, was developed and tested, based on the cloud and the mashup of data, and oriented towards the creation of an ecosystem of cross-border public services, in which the experiences and results accrued as part of a single municipality become reusable assets for others.
The following are the salient points of the CLIPS approach:
Co-innovation. The PA, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and citizens cooperate (Public-Private-People Partnerships) in the conception and development of new, cloud-based public services, enabling a participatory innovation process that supports the creation of public services that are more responsive to the actual needs of end users.
Micro-services. Co-innovation is made possible by the application of an approach based on microservices, that is, services that run small functionalities and which, because of this feature, can be shared and thus combined with each other to create more complex services, just as Lego bricks are combined to create more complex works.
Collaboration. PA-SME-public collaboration has SMEs and citizens play an active role in the design and development of public utilities. In fact, the project has experimented one ICT tool that also makes it possible for non-expert programmers to contribute to the creation of services, simplifying it through a visual approach for the mashup (manual composition) of data from other available resources: web service and Open Data.
Sharing. The services created are published on a marketplace that is transboundary in CLIPS, creating a common heritage among cities which have the opportunity to reuse services developed for other public administrations.
Authentication. The definition of services cannot ignore the eIDAS (Electronic IDentification Authentication and Signature) regulation in the field of authentication and which has led to various authentication frameworks (compatible) in EU countries (SPID in Italy).
This approach developed in CLIPS has been tested in four pilot cities: Lecce in Italy, Santander in Spain, Novi Sad in Serbia and Bremerhaven in Germany.
Role and management of data
In the approach described above, data, and open data in particular, play a fundamental role. Data still represent an untapped potential for many public administrations which, if made available to the entire local community, can generate new services and, thus, new potential business models.
In CLIPS, the data available have been of both the Open Data type and data from legacy systems of public administrations. This second type of data has led to facing another interesting challenge: the security of any sensitive data managed by the public administration within a cloud environment.
The solution experimented in CLIPS has only the business logic of services (microservices) residing on the cloud, while PA data always remain within public administration IT systems. Access to data on such legacy systems is handled through other atomic services presented by public administrations: microproxies. On one hand, microproxies (like access channels) allow PAs to maintain complete control over their data and, on the other, to comply with the access and security requirements established within the entire ecosystem enabled by the cloud environment of CLIPS.
Finally, in order to further exploit the potential offered by a cross-border environment, CLIPS has made use of the Open Data node federation made available by the four pilot cities, offering the players involved in the implementation of public services a single point of access to open data, making the development of cross-border services possible and/or usable in several cities.
CLIPS represents an interesting opportunity that led the project team to consider and develop ICT solutions in order to accelerate digital transformation in public administrations with cloud support, taking advantage of the available data resources and allowing different stakeholders to participate actively in the transformation of public administration services into digital services. The new modes of interaction between the PA, citizens and enterprises have obtained an important result: services that better meet real needs.