Friday, 6 November 2009

Government services

Many governments invest heavily in the formulation of navigation structures for service discovery by citizens and companies. They have all types of web sites as portals to their governments, whereas each government organization has its own portal again. Quite a number of governments define so-called life events as the basis for these navigation structures.

There are several remarks that we can make in this respect. Firstly, a life event conceived by a service provider will probably always differ from events perceived by customers. Web Service Modeling Ontology therefore distinguishes a goal of a customer versus a capability of a supplier. Mediation is required for matching goals to capabilities.
A second remark is that it is virtually impossible for governments to define all possible life events, although of course one might argue that all relevant life events are laid down in laws and regulations. However, taking the perspective of 'goal' of a customer, such a goal might be perceived as simple by that customer but may be complex for a government. One goal may relate to many capabilities and the result of the goal may trigger yet another capability.

Another approach is required, which reflects the basic functions of a government. Politics defines the rules in which a community in a particular country will function. This results in laws and (local) regulations that are managed by relevant government organizations. To be efficient and effective, these government organizations will maintain data files with what one could call master data, e.g. a data file with all citizens of a municipality. These data files consider real objects like buildings, humans, etc., but also more abstract legally oriented objects like the relation between an employer and an employee during a period. All these objects will be in a state, e.g. a person is born and lives somewhere. These states may changes by transitions. Transitions need information that reflects events in the real world. The latter, events in the real world as modeled from a service providers perspective, are basically the services of that provider (i.e. its capabilities).
Thus, the approach is quite simple. Define data structures for real world and legally defined objects in terms of semantics and specify the allowed state transitions for those objects. This approach is commonly known as object-orientation.