Dealing with Employees/Information Technology
Discuss the framework based on Information Technology.
1. Roles and Responsibilities
This highlights the primary roles and stakeholders within xxxxx together with
their respective responsibilities of the Information Systems Framework.
The Business Clusters group are responsible to ensure that the information systems
currently in use, as well as those which are intended for introduction within the IS
landscape, are reflected within the Information Systems Framework.
The Technology and Systems Governance group are responsible to ensure that the
relevant, key technological, architectural and best practice measures required for
adoption are clearly described and kept up to date. The same applies to the articulation
and currency of key Information Systems governance principles.
The Corporate Shared Services group are responsible for bringing together the various
horizontal central systems that are common to a wide user population under a single
The eGoverment Department is responsible for seizing the opportunity of technology
to deliver on a vision for eGovernment to become an essential component of public
service transformation identified by a transparent, lean, well-connected administration.
This administration will deliver a guaranteed quality of service for all, and do so with
the highest possible consideration of the needs and expectations of the citizen as its
The Strategy and Planning group are responsible to ensure that the relevant strategies
are established and are supported by appropriate business planning, ICT budgeting,
performance management and governance processes. The department is also
responsible for the process of delegation of responsibilities to line ministries.
2. Introduction to the Information Systems
The National ICT Strategy for xxxxx articulates a number of objectives in
the Government’s context and vision for 2015. Based on a number of streams ranging
from infrastructure to governance and regulation, it also establishes a number of targets
which are intended to enable the transformation of xxxxx as a regional ICT services hub.
The xxxxx Strategic Plan1 is squarely aimed as one of the key enablers of this vision.
It contextualises a number of initiatives which are planned to ensure that this vision
is achieved. One of the deliverables of this plan intended to assist in achieving the
objectives laid out is the articulation of the Information Systems Framework (ISF).
The primary objectives of the ISF is to describe a number of key building blocks
that constitute the primary information system ecosystem currently in use within
Government as well as to provide a clear set of definitions, roles and responsibilities
applicable in context. The ISF brings together a number of perspectives including
governance, regulatory and business which enable its audience to have concrete visibility
of Government’s Information System landscape. A set of definitions are also provided,
intended to ensure a common baseline for the interpretation of significant information
systems concepts as applied within the same ecosystem.
The key audience of this Information Systems Framework include:
- Ministries & Chief Information Officers (CIO’s)
- Private and Public Sector
- General Public
This document is organised as follows.
1.It articulates the mandates, roles and responsibilities of the relevant.
2.The document makes reference to several standards and procedures, together
with the existing frameworks that xxxxx has been adopting in its operations.
3. A comprehensive outlook on the Government Strategic Model and the respective
Information Systems Blue Print is subsequently provided.
xxxxx’s mandate is articulated in a public statute approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on
the 6th of May 2008. The xxxxx Strategic Plan 2009-2012 (Strategy) affirms the Agency’s
mandate as, to:
- Serve as the central driver of information and communications technology
strategy, programmes and initiatives in Malta.
- Deliver and manage the execution of programmes related to the implementation
of information technology and related systems in Government with the aim of
enhancing public service delivery.
- Provide efficient and effective information and communications technology
infrastructure services to Government as directed by its key stakeholders from
time to time.
- Proliferate further application and take-up of information and communications
technologies in society and economy.
- Promote and deliver programmes aimed at enhancing ICT education and the use
of ICT as a learning tool.
xxxxx’s strategic role is a departure point from the role of its predecessor, namely
being the key solutions provider for practically all Information Systems / Information
Technologies (IS/IT) solutions within Government. In line with its key guiding principles
stated in the Strategy, xxxxx will focus on what is core to its operations and what is
fundamental to Government’s success in its national programmes.
Xxxxx will therefore set the strategy, establish the associated ICT budgeting requirements
and prioritisation, institute the IS/IT governance framework and guide the various
stakeholders and carry out appropriate programme management of the strategic,
complex and enterprise-oriented activities and programmes.
For the Agency to succeed in this paradigm shift of focusing on what is core and
decentralising other responsibilities where appropriate, the Agency needs to realise two
key objectives, namely:
1. Devolving and decentralising responsibilities to the Ministry Office of CIO’s and
Line Ministries. This includes the devolution of responsibilities for Minor
2. Capitalising on the strong relationship with industry experienced players.
From an operational standpoint, XXXXX is gearing itself to focus on what is core. In this
respect, it is considered in-congruent to continue to provide projects and services which
are vertical in nature and which are deemed as ‘non-core’.
It is believed that these vertical activities will be delivered more efficiently and effectively
by Line Ministries / Office of the CIO’s. The centralisation of such operations is not
considered to make financial or operational sense (unless explicit circumstances
mandate otherwise) – such an approach also increases the risk of stifling initiatives.
MITA has an overall responsibility for the successful delivery of the overall ICT strategy.
In this respect, xxxxx is implementing a number of measures to ensure that the
decentralised IT/IS approach is successful. The following measures are being taken:
1. Building the capacity of the Office of CIO’s by permeating best practices through
the deployment of the ICT Governance Framework. Xxxxx is gradually delegating
activities and empowering the CIO’s to operate within the new paradigm of this
2. Assisting in building the Office of CIO’s capacity to take up more vertical
operational responsibilities whilst widening relevant strategic supervision on
respective Ministries’ activities, in line with the objectives set out for them.
3.Transferring the knowledge, resources, operational and administrative
responsibility of both current and the new ‘non-core systems’ to the line
Ministries. The delegation process will ensure that the specific requirements,
enhancements and new developments would be decided upon directly by line
Ministries, within the wider direction and standard-setting environment of xxxxx.
Suppliers and vendors have a key role in the implementation of the overall Government
ICT strategy. In line with key guiding principles, xxxxx will build, nurture and sustain
first-rate relations with the local and international IT industry within an aggressive
outsourcing policy framework and programme, wherein the industry’s capabilities will be
sought and capitalised upon to the maximum extent possible.
Xxxxx has taken various measures to outsource the maintenance and support of a
number of non-core services and operations. Worth mentioning are the activities
relating to desktop services and PC leasing, as well as the outsourcing of the support of
a number of non-core applications.
A key area where suppliers will have a major role to play is in assisting Government
transform the way public services are delivered through the implementation of technology
solutions. Xxxxx will apply technologies to take service delivery to a completely new
league, apply increased focus to citizen-centricity, service-personalisation and multiplechannel
delivery as well as aggressively pursue virtualisation and aggregation amongst
others. This transformation will be accompanied by the rationalisation of resources,
processes and expenditure to deliver faster, cheaper and leaner services.
A cornerstone for this transformation is the implementation of a number of Core
Information Systems (CIS’s), Corporate Shared Services (CSS) and eGovernment
initiatives. Key to xxxxx achieving this Strategy is the selection of industry players who
are experienced in their respective fields and enter into strategic arrangements with
them (including those based on SaaS) to implement proven best-practice solutions,
through an open and competitive process. Within the current strategic objectives,
is currently considered a relatively small market to expect increased sustainability of bespoke
solutions development in the longer term. It is also believed that such an approach
would result in a lost opportunity in terms of not be able to capitalise on established
industry best practices. xxxxx’s objective is to maximise the return on investment which
government makes in products and/or services procured from these vendors
Suppliers and Vendors
Line department Chief
The Agency will also extend its academic relations to capture the interest and
participation of relevant academic institutions of international repute, with the intent
of attracting them to establish satellite operations . Under this same umbrella,
the Agency will also engage major global and regional vendors and service providers to
extend the range of specialisations through the proliferation of vendor-driven academic
programmes linked directly to the inherent specialisation requirements of the specific
industry and the major vendors.
A pre-requisite for xxxxx and the various stakeholders to operate successfully in a new
paradigm of decentralised IT and IS management requires that a strong governance
framework is established and be functioning effectively. Two key actions that the
Agency is taking are:
1. Setting up, owning, driving and sustaining an ICT Governance Framework by
establishing a comprehensive body of standards, policies, procedures and
directives. These are intended to be adhered to by the various stakeholders,
including Ministries and CIO’s, private and public sector entities, employees and
2. Establishing a new Information Systems Framework (this document) intended
to assist in the provisioning of the right environment for stimulating increased
value from information systems investments within the public sector. This
approach will strengthen IS governance, promote structured interoperability,
encourage the attainment of improved integration and better define the multiple
stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities in the effective deployment of information
Enterprise Architecture comprises of the entire Government IT ecosystem which includes
Corporate Information Systems, the Core Information Systems, the eGovernment Shared
Services and the underlying IT Infrastracture Services. xxxxx is responsible for ensuring
a coherent Enterprise Architecture within Government. CIO’s are actively encouraged
to pursue effective conformance with the Enterprise Architecture direction, including
related applicable requirements as published in policies, procedures, technical standards
and guidelines. Respective CIO contribution is considered a critical success factor in this
regard. A comprehensive toolset to assist in relevant architecture assessment processes
is in place. This process evaluates ICT solutions from five key perspectives namely the
Enterprise, Business, Data, Application, and Technology viewpoints. Through this process,
solutions are assessed and verified to conform with the current enterprise architecture
direction andrecorded within an authoritative inventory that is maintained by xxxxx.
This acts as a point of reference with respect to the current state of the Government
wide Enterprise Architecture.
One of the key activities that xxxxx is responsible for is the programme management of
the various activities included in the xxxxx Strategic Plan. Programme management is
especially important in view of the following considerations:
1. Transformational nature of the activities;
2. The importance of focusing on business outcomes which render business
benefits and value, rather than merely on technology deliverables;
3. The complex and large-scale nature of the activities;
4. The involvement of various stakeholders.
Another important role that xxxxx has been entrusted with is that of design, sourcing,
deployment, maintenance, operation and support of secure infrastructure platforms
required for the implementation of the programme of activities described in the strategy.
Xxxxx is responsible to ensure business continuity, data guardianship and effective
governance of government’s data and information systems resources.
In the implementation of supporting infrastructure and platforms, suppliers and
vendors are increasingly playing a fundamental role. Supplementing this Information
Systems Framework, through respective roadmaps and blueprints, xxxxx will provide
solution providers and their clients with the necessary visibility of the infrastructure
opportunities being made available for the deployment of solutions.
Xxxxx is establishing a framework through which the industry is made aware of
Government’s preferred technologies. MITA is committed to publish a Technology Outlook
and Roadmap on a regular basis. The Agency’s posture of embracing the application of
open standards and technologies as a matter of policy as well as a generic guideline
for all technology-related decisions, making proprietary technologies an exception, is
important. This is coupled with the smart consideration for open source applications
and systems which will widen the Agency’s scope towards harnessing benefits for largescale
The Agency has committed to partner with industry to develop an enhanced procurement
framework for the acquisition of CIS’s. This is to achieve the two faceted objective of
increasing the number of capable bidders competing for the provision of services to
government and reducing the procurement cycle from requirements definition to
implementation. Besides increased visibility of government’s procurement intentions,
the Agency will also accelerate the adoption of ‘pre-qualification processes’, standard
contracting documentation, price cap pre-notification and simplification of functional
requirements. In this regard, xxxxx has embarked on a public consultation exercise on
the proposed Contractual Framework which will govern the provisioning of CIS to the
xxxxx as a Schedule 3 entity, meaning that the Agency can administer its
own public procurement in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement
On a consistent basis, the Agency publishes a Procurement Outlook2, intended to
provide the industry with prior visibility of tenders that are anticipated to be published
over a period of time. This enables the industry to be better prepared to contribute to
xxxxx’s and Government’s IT and IS requirements. This Outlook is not a definitive and/or
exhaustive list and is compiled according to the general information available to xxxxx on
the date of publication.
From an eGovernment perspective, an agile procurement framework, based on an open
competitive process, is also being articulated. This is meant to be used by Public Sector
entities to commission services related to the implementation, support and maintenance
of eGovernment applications. These services range from business analysis, design,
development, copyrighting, and maintenance and support of these applications.
Core Information Systems
If xxxxx is to be successful in its role, particularly that of transforming the way public
services are delivered and implementing measures for Government to maximise the
benefit from its IS/IT investments, the Agency cannot solely consider technological
deliverables in isolation, but must focus on achieving the expected business outcomes
and objectives through the implementation of IS/IT.
An important consideration in this regard is that xxxxx must move away from being
primarily a software development shop and more towards becoming a programme
management organisation of excellence. In this regard, the Agency is looking into
establishing a Programme Management Framework which is based on industry best
practices and which will enable a holistic, streamlined and standard operation for all
programmes to the benefit of all relevant stakeholders. The programme management
framework will be used to:
1. Implement the outcomes as identified in the Policy Documents / Strategies;
2. Manage the sourcing and deployment of the CIS/CSSs;
3. Manage the transformation of the public services based on industry best
4. Establish and achieve the intended benefits.
In the current scenario where xxxxx is increasing outsourcing activities; contracting
third-parties on a number of major investments related to business critical information
systems and supporting platforms; taking measures to further empower the Office of
CIO’s and Line Ministries as well as assuming a stronger governance and programme
management role, having a strong IS/IT framework of policies, procedures and standards
In this respect, xxxxx is taking a number of steps to publish new and pertinexnt business,
data, applications and technological standards, policies and procedures as well as ensure
the continued updating of the current suite of policies. These measures, supported by
a thorough compliance process and self-regulation are deemed to be critical for the
successful implementation of the decentralised IS/IT management paradigm
The National ICT Interoperability Framework (NIF) is driven by the following objectives
describing the desired state of play of interoperable Public services:
1. Shared and re-usable ICT assets owned by Government are discoverable and can
be easily used by Public services with minimal effort thus reducing their overall
2. Public services are deployed on a flexible architecture centred on business needs
and provisioned via standardised approaches and capabilities reducing
dependencies on specific vendors, technologies and practices. In turn this
a. a level playing field that allows multiple vendors to compete fairly and
equally based on the feature set and performance levels of their products;
b. more choices during the acquisition process which improves business
continuity and exit strategy scenarios while keeping with the required
performance levels and functional capabilities;
c. the ability to take advantage of pre-established international best
practices that have been proven to work by EU Member States;
3. Public services mediate administrative business processes by offering user-
centric and one-stop shop services;
4. Inter-connectivity and information sharing between solution constituents,
Public services and EU-wide implementations is transparent, secure and reliant;
5. Citizens can at any point in time request and make use of public information.
The NIF establishes a set of guiding principles that contribute towards improved
interoperability among public services. The NIF provides focus on the identification of
technical enablers for the exchange of meaningful information and the ability to re-use
existing ICT resources. The NIF also takes into account the European context by adopting
the definitions and introducing the principles and recommendations issued by the
European Interoperability Framework (EIF) as directed by the European Interoperability
Strategy (EIS). It also serves as an enabler for complimentary initiatives developed by
Xxxxx that specifically deal with the development and support of Public Services including,
but not limited to, the Information Systems Framework and the Information Technology
Strategic Plan. For its governance aspects, the NIF refers to the ICT Governance
Framework and the Compliance Management Framework.
xxxxx has launched or plans to launch other frameworks which are intended to directly or
indirectly support, to varying degrees, this Information Systems Framework. Particularly
in view of the substantial investments that are happening or which are due to occur, the
following frameworks are worth mentioning:
1.A basic framework has been drafted to identify the gap in the annual funding
requirements between the cash outflows and the cash inflows required for the
implementation of CIS/CSS. The cash outflows will need to cover the total costs
of the solution / service over its entire lifetime, and will include (but will not be
limited to) partner/supplier costs and xxxxx labour effort and infrastructure
costs. Costs may be capital and/or recurrent in nature depending on the
procurement approach and the contractual agreement established with the
selected partner/s. The cash inflows will depend on various aspects including
the annual budget allocation by Government, EU funding, the attainment of
efficiency gains and the reduction in operational costs relating to systems
that will be replaced by the new suite of CIS/CSS to be implemented. xxxxx may
opt for various models in order to finance the annual funding gap. Such options
may include (but are not limited to) Government charge-back, acquiring short-
term financing options, and adopting long-term financing options both in terms
the way agreements are done with partners/suppliers as well as through debt
2.A value-optimisation framework to ensure that Government maximises the
value and the benefits generated from the IT/IS investment. xxxxx intends to
implement an industry standard framework for IT/IS Value Optimisation and
apply it to its operations. The Agency will adopt a two phased approach with
the first phase focusing on identifying and contracting training institutions
that are certified to deliver training value optimisation framework, and to
identify and contract suppliers that can provide assistance for the ex-ante work
on key investments which xxxxx is performing and which are in the preparatory
stages. The second phase will carry out a review of the outcomes of the first
phase and upon confirming the value that xxxxx can gain from the implementation
of the Framework, then the Agency will formalise the use of the Framework.
Information Systems Framework
The Information Systems Framework is made up of four key perspectives. These are
the Government Strategic Model, Government Business Model, Information Systems
Blueprint and Enterprise Architecture Governance Model.
The Government Strategic Model focuses on the high level perspectives which describe
the three basic categories of Information Systems namely the Corporate, Citizen Facing
and Core Information Systems.
The Government business model describes the modus operandi in which Government
operates, making reference to the homogenous systems mapped to the Government
business functions such as Taxation, Revenue Generating, Administration, Energy,
Border Control, etc.
The Information Systems Blueprint provides a graphical representation of the main
building blocks of the Information Systems Blueprint, highlighting the key interactions
and the relationships within the Government Strategic Model.
Finally, the Enterprise Architecture Governance Model represents the key objectives of
the Architecture Assessment process. The Architecture Assessment process verifies
the alignment of the respective ICT investment to the Enterprise Architecture direction.
The Government Strategic Model (GSM) is based on three key facets, namely, corporate,
citizen facing (or rather eGovernment) and core (including minor and information
systems). All strategic building blocks are governed by the ICT Governance program which
is managed and operated by xxxxx. The key objectives including attributes pertaining to
the respective strategic building block consist of the following:
eGovernment Shared Services
- Information Systems that faciliate the implementation of point
of single contact public services
- Implement functionality common to all Core Information Systems
- Establish as a horizontal function that is managed by xxxxx
- Faciliate citizen participation through collaboration tools (Web 2.0)
- Provide guidelines on eGovernment Shared Services
- Faciliate, through guidance, the alignment to EU obligations related to public
- Concerned with the delivery of value-add services to the citizen
- Business change control process determined by xxxxx
Core Information Systems
- Information Systems intended to support the delivery and execution of the
respective government business functions
- Owned by the resepctive line ministry
- Managed by the respective business cluster
- Operated according to defined roles and responsibilities
- xxxxx provides the necessary assitance and advisory support to the respective
- Business change control process determined by the respective CIO
Minor Information Systems
- Transferred to line Ministries
- Responsibility taken over by Permanent Secratries and CIO’s
- xxxxx faciliates the relocation to line Ministries
- xxxxx provides the necessary assitance and advisory support to the respective
- Systems logically grouped within a Business Cluster
Corporate Shared Service
- Information Systems intended to faciliate the execution of public
- Intendend to reduce redundant efforts in establishing enterprise wide
- Owned and managed centrally
- Mainly operated by xxxxx
- Concerned on delivering value-add services to the administration
- Business change control process determined by xxxxx
All of the above share the following common characteristics:
- Governed by the GMICT Policies and Standards
- Enterprise Architecture alignment is confirmed through the Architecture
- xxxxx provides relevant computing resources where applicable including the
consideration for co-location services, dedicated virtual stacks
to facilitate rapid solution deployment and operational autonomy
There are a number of core business functions within Government such as taxation,
revenue generation, and energy, and others. The Government Business Model (GBM) is
intended to provide the business model the Government operates within in this context
by mapping the respective systems to these core business functions.
Four Business Areas delineate Government operations into high-level categories
relating to the purpose of Government (Services for Citizens), the mechanisms the
Government uses to achieve its purpose (Mode of Delivery), the support functions
necessary to conduct Government operations (Support Delivery of Services), and the
resource management functions that support all areas of the Government’s business
(Management of Government Resources). Figure 4 portrays a graphical representation
of the GBM and how the Government’s solutions are mapped in this respect.
The Information System Blueprint provides a pictorial representation of the
architectural building blocks that represent the key Government systems and building
blocks as well as their basic interactions and relationships. In line with the GSM, there
are a number of key dimensions to the GSM, namely the citizen facing elements, the
line of business (or vertical) systems, the common and shared systems as well as the
Typical Vertical systems include
- Inland Revenue System
- Value Added Tax System
- Vehicle Registration System
Typical Citizen Facing systems include
- Inland Revenue Online
Typical Common Shared systems include
- Unified Communications
- Corporate Data Repository
The Government strives to ensure that maximum benefit and operational
efficiency is derived from all technology investments. A number of technology strategic
principles are therefore in place to engage xxxxx, vendors and suppliers towards providing
solutions that follow this direction. These principles include abstraction, interoperability,
loose coupling, cohesiveness and generality.
In this context, and where applicable, Government will try to give preference to
solutions that exhibit concrete evidence of a number of key attributes that enable these
principles. These attributes are identified in constituents that clearly reflect engineering
patterns based on discrete yet highly interoperable elements. All inter-connectivity and
information exchange (at hardware, network and software levels, etc.) between the
solution constituents is to be built on the standards applicable in context. Software,
Network and Hardware elements etc, as well as their intra-constituents should be
independent of each other to the maximum extent possible.
Amongst others, Virtualisation and Open Standards are key enablers of the principles
discussed herewith, as well as appropriate segregation at key layers of solution and
component constituents. Specifically with respect to solution stacks (and irrespective
whether the implementation is physical, virtual or otherwise) access to external (from
respective sandboxed environments when in place) resources (including databases,
directory services, etc.) is to be governed by appropriate adaptation (‘adapters’) schemes.
Adapters are logical segregators - these adapters vary in shape and form, ranging from inhouse
developed software, off-the shelf software or specialised devices / environments
(including firewalls, VLAN’s) as well as specific commercial arrangements.
The desktop element is considered even more critical in terms of the application and
adherence to these principles. In this respect and to the maximum extent possible,
dependencies on specific hardware and software stacks and respective configurations
should be avoided or appropriately mitigated.
When procurement of information systems is initiated, a number of governing
principles are being adopted to ensure that, to the extent possible, the above are
1. If specific functionality exists and is available via solutions already in
operation within the ICT landscape, an in-depth assessment of whether
and to what extent the consideration for not using / procuring the replicated
functionality is required. This is governed through the respective Enterprise
Architecture evaluation processes identified herewith.
2. For acquired solutions, in line with the principles articulated above, key
intelligence and processes provided by the said solution should actively
try to expose such functionality in an industry standard fashion, using open
standards approaches to the maximum extent possible.
3. The ability to transform data is considered a critical element. The ability
to have the required degree of access to the governing schema as well as
underlying data is thus considered to be a critical success factor.
4. The ability to seamlessly inter-operate between key ICT ecosystem
solutions and services using industry standard approaches is considered
critical. Solutions and services must therefore clearly exhibit engineering
properties which enable interoperability to the maximum possible extent.
5. The Government actively encourages the appropriate mashing up of
existing intelligence to promote and come up with new solutions
This section provides a basic set of considerations that are intended to positively
contribute towards achieving the objectives laid down by the key technology principles
Under most circumstances and through normal evolution, each system will at some
point in time need to provide or be provided with information from external systems.
Irrespective of architecture style, some form of inter-operation is frequently required.
Interoperation cannot be considered as an afterthought through system extensions,
customisations, data import/export modules, etc. Furthermore, the European dimension
has also introduced increased challenges in the context of the requirement to provide
services which are not solely intended for Maltese citizens but also to other European
citizens and systems which need to interact with Government’s systems amplifying the
importance of pan-European interoperability.
ICT systems in Government have witnessed different architecture patterns in their
design; mostly lying on a continuum of architectures which, at one end presents a shared
everything approach and on the other a share nothing (silo) style. Both extremes were
(and to varying extents sometimes still are) well suited for specific situations. It is crucial
to ensure that any integration (in its wider context) of different solutions is approached
and implemented using open standards (briefly discussed later on). This is key to ensure
that whilst the individual eco-systems sustained by such solutions (and the solution
itself) can evolve at their own pace, any ‘linkages’/’interconnections’ that exist between
the different eco-systems themselves at any point in time, are not brittle and thus easily
prone to break with discrete or direct changes, creating ‘fissures’ which are expensive to
One of the key objectives of the Government’s Interoperability initiative is to facilitate the
delivery of Government Public Services to citizens, business communities and European
member state administrations through interoperability. xxxxx adapted the European
Interoperability Framework’s definition and application of, aligning it to the local context:
“Interoperability, within the context of public services delivery, is the ability of
disparate and diverse organisations to interact towards mutually beneficial and
agreed common goals, involving the sharing of information and knowledge
between the organisations, through the business processes they support, by
means of the exchange of data between their respective ICT systems.”
Each information system is effectively composed of a number of layers, starting with the
business processes it supports, the actual information (or data) it has to understand and
utilise and the underlying technical infrastructure that supports it. All these layers have
respective interoperability requirements and challenges, which can be mitigated by a
number of key enablers. In this section we mention three key pillars for Interoperability,
i.e. Open Standards, Service Oriented Architectures and the Enterprise Service Bus.
Information systems tend to reflect the technology, design patterns and influencing
factors that are present / available during their conception. It is also normal that
information systems go through an evolutionary process through their lifetime which
reflect and accommodate for additional or changes in requirements, as well as at times,
to re-align with newer technologies. Volatility plays an important part in determining
information systems life-span and how they evolve through time. Furthermore,
numerous factors will influence interoperability properties, emergent or otherwise,
including but not limited to market forces and technologies, which cannot be identified
nor quantified at this point in time.
A number of interoperability levels, based on those presented in the ‘Levels Of Conceptual
Interoperability Model’ (LCIM)3have been identified as initial baselines to gauge the
current level of interoperability of the various information systems currently employed
within the Government ICT ecosystems into consideration, summarised below.
- Level 0: No connection is possible at all.
- Level 1: The technical level, physical connectivity is possible allowing bits and
bytes to be exchange.
- Level 2: The syntactical level, data can be exchanged in standardised formats,
i.e., the same protocols and formats are supported.
- Level 3: The semantic level, not only data but also its contexts, i.e. information,
can be exchanged. The unambiguous meaning of data is defined by common
- Level 4: The pragmatic/dynamical level, information and its use and applicability,
i.e. knowledge, can be exchanged. The applicability of information is here defined
in an unambiguous form.
- Level 5: As a system operates on data over time, the state of that system
will change, and this includes the assumptions and constraints that affect
its data interchange. If systems have attained Dynamic Interoperability,
they are able to comprehend the state changes that occur in the assumptions
and constraints that each is making over time, and they are able to take
advantage of those changes. When interested specifically in the effects of
operations, this becomes increasingly important; the effect of the information
exchange within the participating systems is unambiguously defined.
- Level 6: If the conceptual model – i.e. the assumptions and constraints of
the meaningful abstraction of reality – are aligned, the highest level of
interoperability is reached: Conceptual Interoperability. This requires that
conceptual models are documented based on engineering methods enabling
their interpretation and evaluation by other engineers.
Within the wider scope of Government, the desired baseline interoperability level
established is Level 5 of the LCIM model. This level of interoperability is defined as “the
pragmatic/dynamical level, information and its use and applicability, i.e. knowledge, can
be exchanged. The applicability of information is here defined in an unambiguous form”.
The selection is based on the importance that MITA is giving to the adoption of open
standards/specifications, which are amongst the primary enables for interoperability.
It is pertinent to note that the particular selection of this level is simply a measure
adopted for the sake of this context rather than based on any particular requirement.
The Levels of Conceptual
Interoperability. Virginia Modeling
The average life-span (based purely from a total technology refresh perspective) of a
strategic information system at large can be assumed to be between 36 to 52 months.
In order to ensure the required degree of re-use of solutions and intelligence that is
already in operation, it is fundamental that the guiding principles proposed herewith are
adopted and adhered to upfront.
Amongst others, the strategy
proposes to increase the quantity and quality of standards recognised and developed in
Europe and promotes a better use of such standards.
The need for inter-operation has in time created the need for repeatability, compatibility
and now adaptability capabilities. In this context, a standard is a technical specification,
set as a rule, guideline or definition, which is approved by a recognised organisation
and also designed to be consistently used within the industry. Calling a standard as
‘open’ makes a clear distinction against the so-called ’closed‘, ‘de facto’ or ‘proprietary’
standards which may favour a single vendor or a small group of vendors only.
Open standards are normally subject to full public assessment and can be used without
constraints in an equally available manner. The market is not however only made up
of completely ‘open’ or ‘closed’ standards; some standards may require purchase of
the specification, have restrictions to certain fields of application and require royalty
payments to intellectual property owners. Common types of intellectual property
include patents, copyrights and trademarks and may apply differently according to the
relevant legal jurisdiction.
Ultimately, the adoption of open standards will result in a number of tangible benefits,
1. Reduced vendor lock-in and dependency on specific hardware and software;
2. Easier integration between ICT systems;
3. Efficient re-use of existing ICT resources;
4. Improved access to public information.
Data in general is regularly regarded as the crown jewel of most businesses and
enterprises alike. It is also safe to infer that shareable data is one of the most valuable
assets any generic information system ecosystem can be provided with. The Government
of Malta was a very early adopter of sound shareable data principles. A number of highly
successful initiatives, such as the Common Database and Corporate Data Repository,
are typical examples in this respect. The ever increasing number of ‘consumers’ that are
identifying the value, and require the consumption, of shareable data is on the increase,
which further amplifies the requirement for shareable data elements and a sound
platform for its provision.
Several additional major initiatives (or extensions) are also currently under-way in this
respect that consume and contribute, to various extents, shareable data elements,
including but not limited to the National Identity Management System. Additionally,
information systems such as the Passports System and Electronic Identity (amongst
others) continue to evolve at their own pace. This has created an opportunity window
to take a step back and consider an evolution of the current approach towards the
provisioning of shareable data from an architecture perspective.
Although there is no real formal definition, the notion of shareable data universes is
a concept that allows federated pools of data (and / or aggregated for temporal or
permanent usage where applicable and appropriate) to be able to seamlessly exchange
typical Creating Reading Updating Deleting (CRUD) ‘operations’ (and others) via enterprise
service buses, service oriented architectures and interface schemes based on de-facto
industry standards. This approach creates the opportunity for the discrete elements (or
planets in the universe, i.e. domains or line of business solutions) to evolve according to
their own ecosystem requirements as well as pace, in a fully autonomous fashion.
Service oriented architectures are architectural styles that package discrete functions as
a set of de-coupled, atomic and shareable services, which are offered for consumption
via open standards. The Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) concept is based on “set of
infrastructure capabilities implemented by middleware technology that enable an SOA.
The ESB supports service, message, and event-based interactions in a heterogeneous
environment, with appropriate service levels and manageability.” 4 Data services provide
the appropriate processing logic that is required for performing the necessary CRUD and
/ or other operations 5. Integration is a process and approach which allows disparate
and heterogonous information systems and their data to be integrated together in a
seamless fashion. In all circumstance, all these techniques and approaches shall only be
employed in such a way that solely open standards are in use.
This approach embodies four important attributes that are essential to deliver a sound
architecture for such a complex and highly dynamic environment, namely 6 :
Choosing the appropriate technical implementation only tackles one perspective of the
information sharing challenge. Government services and underlying processes play in
an important in role in the information sharing lifecycle. The effective management and
sharing of data across government will result in information being used more efficiently
and effectively. This leads to a number of significant benefits, including:
- reduced costs of information collection and management through
streamlined, processing and storage;
- improved decision making in the context of policy and business processes,
resulting in an increasingly integrated planning and enhanced government
- improved timeliness, consistency and quality of Government responses –
information will be easily accessible, relevant, accurate, and complete;
- improved accountability and transparency;
- reduced costs and added value for government through the reuse of
existing information, sharing infrastructure and designing integrated,
collaborative methods of delivering services;
- improved national competitiveness; and
- improved national security.
The following data provisioning principles have been identifed as key and which lead to
an effective information sharing lifecycle contributing to a better quality and accuracy of
information. These include:
a: Data should be made available and maintained by the respective legal owner
and/or authorised custodian. This should be done directly at source;
b: Data manipulation (such as create, update, delete operations) should be
mapped to real life event driven processes;
c: Services should be designed on the basis that business processes and
technical implementations should result in the provision of consistent,
reliable, secure, trustworthy and re-usable data;
d: Data context should under normal circumstances be applied at the time of
consumption to safeguard the data authenticity and integrity;
e: Where Open Specifications that define data persistence, interchange and
presentation exist, these must be used;
f: Initiatives and directives of Pan-European scope should be activley
considered for the relevant principles, methodologies, approaches and
g: Data Interchange services should be implemented using Service Oriented
Architecture 7 principles;
h: Data objects (‘packaged’ through services, interfaces or otherwise) should
be uniquely identifiable. The scope of uniqueness is defined by the target
audience and usage.
Designing IT for business innovation.
Service Oriented Architectures are
architectural styles that package discrete
functions as a set of de-coupled, atomic,
re-usable and shareable services
Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) enables service consumers and providers to
exchange data and interoperate in a consistent, flexible way regardless of rapidly evolving
enterprises, diverse information, solution architectures and technologies involved. SOA
is not only able to mitigate the challenges associated with such issues but also able to
standardise and unify processes as well as align IT architecture with business drivers.
From a technology perspective, SOA can be considered as a software design methodology
that implements a set of design principles which enable the development of loosely
coupled services that scale and can flexibly change in an efficient and controlled /
governed manner. Through SOA, services have contract and policy metadata associated
with them that govern the relationship between the service providers and consumers,
promoting an environment that could change and scale in a controlled manner.
SOA’s key drivers include:
1. Encapsulation – process and behaviour of a service are packaged and consolidated
2. Loose Coupling – services maintain a relationship that minimises dependencies
and only requires that they maintain an awareness of each other.
3. Service Contract – services adhere to a communications agreement, as defined
collectively by one or more service contracts.
4. Abstraction – beyond descriptions in the service contract, services hide logic
from the outside world and consumers
5. Reusability – the services is developed so as to promote re-use
6. Compensability – collections of services can be coordinated and assembled to
form composite services.
7. Service discoverability – services are designed to be outwardly descriptive so
that they can be found and assessed via available discovery mechanisms
From an implementation perspective, essentially, SOA is a software architecture that
starts with an interface definition that defines the protocols and functionality of the
service, and builds the entire application topology as a topology of interfaces, interface
implementations and interface calls. This software architecture is commonly related
and enabled through enterprise service buses.
An enterprise which makes use of SOA principles will meet several challenges to manage
connections between services provided by diverse applications. When developing
new SOA applications, the connections (integration, interfacing and communications)
between the services will increase and the network will be more complex and more
cumbersome to manage. This is further complicated with every service created.
An Enterprise Service Bus8 (ESB) is considered a platform that implements a set of
features to realise a service oriented architecture, as it brings a set of concepts such
as transformation and routing to SOA as well as management of the diverse networks
resulting from multiple SOA solutions. An ESB provides abstraction for endpoints
which promotes flexibility at the transport layer and enables loose coupling and easy
connection between services which inherently promotes interoperability between
services. Furthermore, an ESB provides adapters for supporting integration with legacy
systems, based on standards such as Java EE Connector Architecture (JCA)9.
An Enterprise Service Bus enables the orchestration of connections between the
services and provides transformed services to the consumer. Consequently, the service
consumers will only have to integrate with the service bus and the network complexity
will be abstracted through the ESB.
Basic computing can be split into three components processing capability, storage and
I/O. Over the past years, MITA has experienced an increase in dedicated under-utilised
ICT assets. Systems are deployed with spare capacity for a number of reasons ranging
from erroneous computing resource requirement estimates to the unfeasibility of
upgrading on a regular basis. The management of these resources is costly and complex
and the inflexibility of physical computing resources makes it hard to meet business
needs quickly, frequently resulting in the deployment of additional resources.
Over the past few years xxxxx has been actively addressing this issue via Physical and
Application Consolidation. Physical consolidation reduces server footprint and offers
additional management capabilities however utilisation remains low. Traditional
application consolidation particularly on mainstream operating environments is rather
challenging. In this respect, a number of additional recommendations and actions have
been put in place in order to ensure that this challenge is appropriately tackled.
Virtualisation has become a key enabling technology. Virtualisation hides key physical
characteristics of a computing platform from users, presenting an abstract computing
view. Virtualisation is being applied at all technology dimensions. Separating storage
from computing in a virtualised environment for example allows for the creation of
virtual processing clusters which act as common execution environments for virtual
servers. Virtual machines that are centralised on shared storage arrays can be executed
on any of the servers in a cluster, thus enabling features such as live server migrations,
high availability, reserved service levels, replication of virtual infrastructure to secondary
sites and, to an extent, capacity on demand. In this context, xxxxx aims to have the
majority of its services implemented on virtual servers. Once application workloads
are placed in virtual machines, multiple workloads can be run on pools of virtualised
ICT resources. Each application workload runs in its own virtual machine, isolated from
any other virtual machines running on the system. The creation of ICT resource pools
following the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) a facet of cloud computing will result in a
number of benefits including but not limited to faster deployment time, maximisation of
ICT asset use as well as lowering facilities recurring costs.
The Information Systems Framework lays out a number of guiding principles on how the
Government intends to ensure appropriate levels of benefits realisation through re-use
The Information Systems Framework should be read in conjunction with other
complimentary initiatives developed by the Malta Information Technology Agency that
specifically deal with the development and support of Public Services including, but not
limited to, the National Interoperability Framework, the Information Technology Strategic
Plan, the ICT Governance Framework and the Compliance Management Framework
In Information Systems Framework context, the attribute Core is associated with service
A Service is a means of delivering value to Customers by facilitating the outcomes sought
without the ownership of specific costs and risks.
A Line of Business System is described as one which is intended to target a specific
A Vertical System also refers to a line of business system and both terms are used
Infrastructure refers to the basic underlying components which allow for the operation
and execution of information systems.
A Core Information System is primarily defined as a system which exhibits a number of
key attributes, namely
1. Revenue Generation Capability
2. Political Sensitivity
3. EU context
4. National Security Profile
5. Strong Social Impact and Reach
6. Investment critically
A Minor Information System is defined as a system which does not exhibit to any high
degree the attributes associated with a Core Information system.
A Shared Service is defined as singular instances of a set of resources which service
multiple consumers concurrently. A shared service can provide the ability to be used both
interactively (via an appropriate interface) as well as in a machine to machine context.
A Corporate Information System is defined as a system which is intended for the wider
Government. A corporate information system does not necessarily imply that it is a core
A Common System is defined as a single system which is applied and in use in multiple
eGoverment comprises the implementation of interrelated technology and processes to
support the continuous transformation of public services into ever more transparent,
lean, well-connected public administration. An eGovernment System is one which delivers
a guaranteed quality of service with the highest possible consideration to the quality of
life and competitiveness of people and businesses, as its customers, respective