Semantics of public service

Two major efforts to design and deploy a semantic data model of public service are currently underway:

Schema.org Government Services

In August 2013, Schema.org proposed a vocabulary for Civic Services that was “similar to the European Commission ISA Core Public Service vocabulary”. The hierarchy of schemas includes a vocabulary for Service and the specific subtype GovernmentService.

ISA Core Public Service Vocabulary Application Profile (CPSV-AP)

In 2013, the EC published a Core Public Service Vocabulary under ISA Action 1.1 Improving semantic interoperability in European eGovernment systems and reported on a pilot study of the CPSV  in four jurisdictions. The same year, the EC published a Federated Catalog of Public Services (FCOPS) under ISA Action 1.3 – Improving semantic interoperability in eGovernment systems.

Between November 2014 – January 2015, a Working Group is developing an ISA Core Public Service Vocabulary Application Profile (CVSP-AP) to refine the data model of business life-events and related public services. We will use the interim findings and recommendations of the Working Group to describe the data model of public services that is emerging from the EC’s ISA initiative.

CPSV-AP Graphical representation of classes and properties

Figure 1. Graphical representation of the relations among the classes and properties of the CPSV-AP.

A few definitions provided by the ISA may prove helpful before we compare the semantic data models of public service provided by Schema.org and the ISA:

Glossary
Public administration Public administrations are the competent authorities responsible for public services. They consist of national civil servants across the Member States and the European Commission. The federated catalog of public services will include all public authorities at supranational, national, regional and local levels.
Public administration portal A public administration portal is a portal owned by a public administration that provides information about what the public administration does and which public services they provide to citizens, businesses and other public administrations.
Point of single contact Point of Single Contact is a public administration portal (and a one-stop-shop) for service providers with two main goals: providing information and completing administrative procedures. It is necessary for the portal to describe the requirements, procedures and formalities which are necessary to perform or access the services within a Member State. It also needs to provide contact details of competent authorities, access to public registers, and online forms, and process the applications filed.
Service A service is a resource that represents the capability to bring a certain outcome and value to the service requester and is enabled by the service provider.
Public service A public service is a service rendered by a public administration to either business (A2B), citizens (A2C) or other public administrations (A2A).
Service model A service model is a semantic data model which describes how the public service is built. The description of the service is created by means of metadata (data about data) which identifies all the characteristics and specifications of the data structure of a service.
Services of general interest The concept Services of general (economic) interest (SG(E)I) is an official term used by the European Union for all services that are of specific interest to society. This includes all public services. The scope of the SGIs is broader than the scope of the public services in this document and can also include services which are often, but not always, in hands of private companies (e.g. water, electricity, mail).
Generic public service A generic public service is a service which is defined generically, i.e. it only contains information that applies to all the administrations that offer this service. They are typically defined by a coordinating body in a standardized way. These generic services detail the “what” but do not provide detail on “how” and “where” they are offered by a public administration. However, they can refer to the government level at which they are offered. Each service contains a number of fields to describe the content of the service (title, content and generic conditions, procedures, exceptions, documents and regulations). In addition, each service contains metadata; these fields serve to classify the service (competent authority/government level, authority/government level that delivers this service, theme, type and keyword). These services are constructed by a coordinating body as a unique list, agnostic of all public services offered by all executing public administrations. The outcome is a set of generic public services based on a standardized data model, taxonomy and ontology.
Specific public service Specific public services are the public services which are actually rendered by a specific public administration. A specific service may be linked to a generic public service (if the generic concept exists at Member State level). The specific service is the executable and actionable part of a generic public service offered by a public administration. The same generic service (e.g. issue and ID card) could be executable and offered in many local authorities in various ways (different local forms, different buildings and opening hours). In contrast to generic services, these specific services also detail the “how” and “where” they are offered by a public administration and how they can be rendered by business (A2B), citizens (A2C) or other public administrations (A2A). It will spell out in detail to which authority/building/office one needs to go, give contact details of the organisation that provides the service, forms that need to be filled in and how the service can be rendered electronically.
Catalog of public services A catalog of public services is a database or structured document that contains all the services which are provided by public administrations.
Federated architecture A federated architecture is a composition of autonomous (decentralized) organised systems. It is an approach to coordinate the exchange of information across the organised system. A mapping is created between the multiple autonomous systems which forms the federated architecture; this is achieved by defining guidelines and standardized mapping. In a federated catalog, content syndication is in place. The syndication will support the information exchange between the different systems.
Federated catalog of public services A federated catalog of public services is a collection of other catalogs of public services which are joined together in a standardized method. The database or structured document contains all the public services of the catalogs included.
Controlled vocabulary A controlled vocabulary is a code list which is used to organize or give structure to certain information. It contains predefined values for a certain subject. These vocabularies could be used for indexing schemes, subject headings, taxonomies, etc. These controlled vocabularies are used to give a structure to the federated catalog of public services and categorize the public services (generic and specific).
Taxonomy The taxonomy determines the classification of concepts, the division of ordered groups or categories. It is a science which defines a set of principles in order to classify concepts. In this case the definition of the controlled vocabularies could be seen as the taxonomy.
Ontology Ontology is the science of describing the relationship between concepts. This can be used to gain insight into a particular domain by modelling the concepts and ideas (conceptualization). The reasoning behind the federated catalog can be defined by describing the relationships between the multiple concepts (catalogs).
Semantic data model A semantic data model is a conceptual data model that represents data objects together with their properties and relationships and includes the capability to express information that enables parties to the information exchange to interpret meaning (semantics) from the instances, without the need to know the meta-model.
Interoperability Interoperability, for public service 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 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems.