Information Governance Design information landscapes sustainably

The processing of information has always been a core function of public administration. However, the increasingly networked data and services in e-government now bring new challenges. While the increasing automation in the exchange and processing of information, and federated structures offer potential, they also present risks.

Under the label of «e-government», considerable efforts to create new services and optimize the cooperation among authorities are currently underway on various levels of the public administration. E-government is driven by new technological possibilities as well as the changing needs of citizens, businesses and governments. The large number of parties involved with often conflicting interests and different positions brings great challenges. For how can in a networked information landscape be ensured that public administration can maintain an overview and focus on its core tasks?

Information Governance sets Guidelines

Core activities of an information governance program

With e-government services becoming more important, new systems emerge, often spanning several administrations. However, since guidelines across authorities are missing, these federated systems are designed with regard to project-specific objectives. From the perspective of the individual project, this is efficient. However, from the perspective of the entire public administration it may complicate or even make a sustainable design and use of the information landscape impossible.

At the same time, the technological («Big Data») and sociopolitical («monitoring») recent developments show clearly the value and potential of a networked use of information. After the «Fichen» scandal in 1989, the Swiss authorities have already established a sensitive handling of information. However, the processes should be reviewed regularly to take current developments into account.

The so-called Information Governance (IG) controls the handling of information and allows to identify and minimize risks early, to provide new services quickly and to optimize existing ones. Therefore, it should be regulated across sectors and closely aligned with the IT strategy and architecture.

Since information demonstrates its true value only while used by the specialty departments, it is often the business representatives, who initiate the efforts to introduce an IG. The agreed measures, such as the consolidation of applications, can still result in IT projects.

Consistent Content

An important issue in federated e-government systems are the consistency and semantic unambiguity of information. For example, in the self-service, the attribution of a citizen with his data record must be accurate and complete — or unambiguous. With data quality, for example, it’s often unclear who is responsible: Is it IT, because they provide the technical means for data storage, or rather one of the departments involved? In addition there are questions regarding the lifecycle of information. Who collects, saves and deletes it? How will this be handled across departments? The nomination of information owners can in this case ensure first successes and facilitate these projects fundamentally.

Sensitive data in Federated Systems

A particular challenge is the handling of sensitive data.This requires binding standards, defined, enforced, and audited by a higher authority. In the banking sector, the FINMA regulation for the special protection of Client Identifying Data (CID) will enter into force as of 2015. Similar standards will also be necessary for other sectors.

Binding Framework across Organisations

The convergence of information to federated systems requires binding regulations across organisations. Only political entities such as federal and cantonal authorities can play that part. The eCH-standards are pointing in the right direction. Furthermore, federal and cantonal authorities are called upon to establish standards for Identity and Access Governance (IAG), while exercising a healthy pragmatism.

For such a complex project, a structured approach is best suited (see chart). A broad support by the decision-makers and the commitment of all parties involved are also essential. As a general rule, the focus should always be on the ultimate objective: Enable a lasting, efficient and safe use of information in e-government by applying Information Governance.

AdNovum IT-Consulting

The AdNovum IT Consulting team is happy to be your competent partner for taking forward your Information Governance strategy and implementation.