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Gov Talk

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e-GIF

Q. What is the e-GIF?

A set of policies and standards to enable information to flow seamlessly across the public sector and provide citizens and businesses with better access to public services.   

Q. Why is the e-GIF necessary?

It is the technical cornerstone of the e-government policy for joining up the public sector electronically and providing modern, improved public services. 

Q. What are the benefits of the e-GIF?

It is a pragmatic, Internet based approach for reducing cost and risk. It frees up public sector organisations to concentrate on serving the customer through value added information and services.  

Q. Who should be interested in the e-GIF?

All those stakeholders who need to understand how to comply with e-GIF, such as e-business strategists, systems owners, project managers, project approval bodies including funding officers, government procurement officers, suppliers, and project auditors.  

Q. When did the e-GIF become mandatory?

The e-GIF first came into force when Version 1 was announced in the House of Commons in 2000.  

Q. What document types are required by the e-GIF

This depends on the channel being used for delivery of the service. For delivery to low end functionality devices like PDAs, Smartphones, or older PCs documents must be viewable using low functionality browsers supporting the file types defined in Table 7 of the Technical Standards Catalogue. For delivery to the higher end capability channels such as modern Personal Computers, the document type must be either capable of being view by a normal browser, viewed using a free download or a plug-in. The files should be exchanged using the file types defined in Table 6: Specifications for Computer Workstations of the TSC.  

Q. Where can I find information on products using document file types?

PRONOM is a registry of file formats, see http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/PRONOM/default.htm. PRONOM provides information on which software products support which formats, allowing users to plan migration pathways for electronic records by file type. It also lists the support periods of the products.   

Q. What does e-GIF support for .doc, .xls, .ppt and .pps file type mean?

It means that these file types may be used as e-service access standards when using computer workstations. Such file types can be imported and exported into applications running on MAC and Linux workstation. The e-GIF does not favour any particular operating system or application product.   

Q. Is the use of Open Office and their Files types’ compatible with the e-GIF?

Yes, definitely they are freely available as downloads. Open Office is also compliant to the governments open source policy. The native Open Office File types can be used when exchanging files for Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Picture, and Presentation between consenting parties. Otherwise, when exchanging files or when providing downloadable documents the files should be exported/imported using one of the file types defined in Table 6: Specifications for Computer Workstations of the Technical Standards Catalogue.  

Q. How does the use of PGP to encrypt or decrypt files fit in with the e-GIF?

The e-Government Security Framework document set can be found on the Cabinet Office website. It presents details of the functional security requirements appropriate for the delivery of e-Government services by, and on behalf of, government. If you deem necessary that the security controls you need to put in place are for protecting data at Level 3 then it should be protected by a CAPS BASELINEproduct such as PGP for HMG. If you decide that the security controls to protect your data are Level 2 then you can protect it with a FIPS 140 product. PGP has been through the FIPS 140-1 process. The certificate is number 64 and can be viewed. The promotion of interoperability through e-Gif V.5 provides three encryption algorithm standards that encryption products should adhere to, these are 3DES, AES and Blowfish.   

Q. Is Adobe acrobat (.pdf) a suitable data exchange format?

Adobe Acrobat files (.pdf) are listed in the e-GIF as an approved file type for document presentation. This is to enable a user to view information using a Web browser as opposed to processing that information. XML is the mandated standard for the exchange of processable data and hence without a complementary XML exchange .pdf files are not e-GIF compliant for information interchange.  

Q. What electronic forms products are e-GIF compliant?

Forms that are e-GIF compliant must be able to exchange data in XML or export data into XML. The applicability of the XForms specifications (as defined by W3C) to the e-GIF and other potential XML forms solutions will be addressed in a future version of the e-GIF.   

Q. What are Web Services?

"Web Services" should not be confused with the concept of getting served via the world wide web using a browser. Web Services are more about ways of coordinating data and resources (services) to provide other services. There is not a single definition of "Web Services" that has universal agreement, however in technical terms it provides a standard means of interoperating between different software applications, running on a variety of platforms and/or frameworks (i.e a common set of APIs that can be called remotely). In user terms, it provides a means of drawing on content and functionality from remote providers, in real time, that can then be incorporated into the services that are delivered to the end user.  

Q. What is and where is it appropriate to use Web Services?

Web services are likely to become more prevalent as government services move to a Service Originated Architecture (SOA) and the departments corporate in providing common services. However, web services have some immediate relevance to e-Government, examples are:

• Syndication
• Rule Engine
• Joining up internal architecture
• Hand

Syndication
This is where the services of a single Agency are to be aggregated with that of others and delivered by a third-party. This approach is supported y the introduction of common vocabularies and category lists such as the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary (IPSV). A potential example would be DirectGov.

Rules Engine
Where a number of Agencies are dependant upon the rules set by another agency, and where those rules are complex and likely to change. A Web Services ‘call’ can be embedded into an application to perform calculations and return results into local data.

Joining Up Internal Architecture
Where an Agency operates enterprise technologies, such as Workflow, Records Management, Middleware, Content Management. This approach avoids embedding API(s) from one component into another. The potential to create Web Services wrappers around proprietary technologies leads to the ‘swapability’ promoted by the e-GIF.

Handshaking with other Agencies
Where an Agency wishes to interact with another Agency (G2G). This may be in terms of: Creating Workflow Instances, Making Appointments, Shared CRM facilities. Access to Data.  

Q. What is ebXMLRegistry and when do I need one?

The ebXMLRegistry is a standard defining a Registry Information Model and a Services Specification of an extensible registry/repository. The ebXMLRegistry has a wider scope than the web service discovery functions of UDDI, yet it is another enabling technology for Web Services. The wide scope of the repository defined by the ebXMLRegistry specifications allows it to be used for end user business applications and to manage such relationships as well as a generic repository for web services.   

Q. Is XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) e-GIF compliant?

XBRL is an XML 'standard' for company financial reporting being pushed by the big accountancies and accounting organisations.It is sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (see: http://www.xbrl.org/) and supported by; the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, accountancy institutions of other countries, as well as leading suppliers of accountancy systems. XBRL is an open specification, which uses XML-based data tags to describe financial statements for both public and private companies. XBRL is evolving, but currently has an explicit, and very simple, XML-schema description of its three basic elements (, and ).

In the assessment of the e-GIF Interoperability Working Group, XBRL should be considered consistent with the e-GIF and the policy requirement for supporting XML. However, as it currently cannot be proven that XBRL meets the market support criteria of the e-GIF standards from an implementation perspective, it should not be directly referenced in the current version of e-GIF.   

Q. Will the Ministry of Justice adopt Legal XML as standard for their schemas?

The Ministry of Justice will not be adopting the current Legal XML schemas as its standard. The current Legal XML schema have been developed for the USA market and as such are not entirely compatible in business terms with the England and Wales requirements. This does not preclude use of the work done by OASIS and Legal XML as a basis for an England and Wales equivalent. However, there are no current plans to carry out this work.   

Q. What work is the Ministry of Justice undertaking to develop XML schema for data interchange across the legal system?

Currently the Ministry of Justice has developed XML schemas for two systems:

1. Court Service schemas being used for the Xhibit-CJS Exchange interface.
2. LIBRA schemas proposed for LIBRA-DVLA and LIBRA-Police interfaces.

In both instances the schema sets are application specific and build on the elements of the DTG GovTalk schema standards. For example the Address and Personal Details standards have been used. As each schema has been developed to meet the needs of the specific interface it governs, there is no intention, currently, to make the schema widely available. This decision will be reviewed should the documents passed across the interface become of wider interest.

In addition the Ministry of Justice has been working alongside Criminal Justice IT (CJIT) to develop data standards that will be adopted by all the major criminal justice organisations (CJO). These standards will be incorporated into any new IT system build to allow the sharing of data through the Criminal Justice System Exchange (CJSE). The standards will be supported by XML schemas currently under development by CJIT and will form the basis for schemas being used by each CJO.

The Ministry of Justice is committed to introducing the CJIT data standards and XML schemas into their various legacy and developing IT systems. These are Xhibit in the Crown Court and Libra in the Magistrates Court . Any schemas included in this development programme will use the XML schemas developed by CJIT expressly for the purpose of sharing data through the CJSE.   

Q. Is the e-GIF likely to specify open standards for distributed computing?

The e-GIF specifies standards for Web services; it focuses on technology which is broadly consistent with standards used within the Internet. As a government wide service level architecture matures, further standards for web services and common application services will be evaluated for inclusion in future version of the e-GIF.   

Q. Is e-GIF likely to come down on the side of J2EE rather than .NET?

The current short answer is NO. The e-GIF will select such standards in accordance with a market led selection criteria. This issue will be addressed in more detail in future versions of the e-GIF.   

Q. Is the use of Java Applets compatible with the e-GIF?

Yes, you can use Java Applets to deliver e-services. The e-GIF allows the capability for browsers to run them. However, the local security arrangements should be taken into account in doing so.   

Q. What is SOAP and when do I need it?

SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) is W3C standard protocol for web services. Fundamentally it provides a message exchange envelope for web service payloads. It provides the means by which application-specific information (the web service) may be conveyed in an extensible manner and supports the switching of SOAP messages by providing a full description of the required actions taken by a SOAP node on receiving a SOAP message. Most deployments of Web services will require a SOAP envelope to transport the web service payload; they may or may not require the switching features of SOAP. Interim system may use Http or Http-s PUT, but should migrate to using SOAP. 

Q. What is WSDL, UDDI and when do I need them?

Web Services that are available can be "Discovered", information about the available Web service can be obtained from a "registry", the standard for the Web Service registry function is UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration), and the standard for describing web services within the registry is WSDL (Web Service Description Language). WSDL and UDDI provide the equivalent of a tailor-made directory service for the dynamic discovery of web services, such dynamic discovery may be required to provide particular services to end users. Initial deployments of Web services may be implemented with static configurations and consequently will not require Web Service discovery standards.   

Q. The ITSO specification has the status of "recommended" in the current version of the e-GIF Technical Standards Catalogue, specifications for smart cards. Will it be mandated in future?

Future versions of e-GIF will adopt and mandate the ITSO specifications. ITSO was established for the public transport sector, but applications developed using these specifications can reside in other government and multi-application cards. The specification already satisfies e-GIF standards for interoperability, scalability and openness.   

Q. What must I do to be e-GIF compliant at the simplest, most basic level?

When working with another system, your system should:

1. Be accessible through a browser (but not dependent on only one or two browsers).
2. Store and process data using XML (using GovTalk specified schemas and following GovTalk guidelines for that XML).
3. Use metadata for content management (following e-GMS for the format and use of the metadata).
4. Adhere to World Wide Web Standards when making connections. 

Q. When will e-GIF v7.0 be available?

The fact that there hasn't been an update to the e-GIF recently reflects the shifting priorities of the Delivery and Transformation Group. The standards agenda will be driven in future by the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Council, which was set up by, and is answerable to, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council.

Until there is clarity concerning what the CTO Council requires in relation to the standards agenda, there will not be a new version of the e-GIF, though an interim update may be published.

The current focus of the CTO Council's work is the cross-Government Enterprise Architecture (xGEA). This identifies common business functions, supports sharing and the reuse of services and components, improves agility, increases efficiency and reduces costs.