Data Virtualization as the Enabler for the Single Digital Gateway (SDG) in the EU
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In 2018, the European Parliament decided to enable unified digital access to EU administration resources with Regulation (EU) 2018/1724, calling for the creation of a  Single Digital Gateway (SDG). The goal is to introduce digital offerings for public services. Offerings which should be citizen-oriented, user-friendly, and available on a single portal. One specific example is the German “Online-Zugangsgesetz” (OZG, “Online Access Act”) which implements the demands of the SDG locally. Since then numerous digital services and portals have been introduced. Such as “BAföG Digital” – online service to apply for student state funding – and the “Bundesportal” – federal administrative portal for digital public services in Germany.

Digitization is an important prerequisite for promoting innovation, growth, and new jobs in the EU. Therefore, the European Parliament has decided to expand existing portals, websites, data platforms, services, and systems. Linking them with central, national data platforms to reduce barriers for users and facilitate their access to the market. 

EU regulation 2018/1724 names 88 areas that are relevant for this purpose. These include topics such as “employment and retirement within the Union,” “consumer rights,” and “establishment, management, and closure of a business.” To achieve the regulation’s central goal of fully cross-border access to data, procedures, and support services, three deadlines were specified. The first two concern the provision of information, but most importantly, the third one in December of this year stipulates that all member states need to provide digital and cross-border services connected to the EU-wide Once-Only-Technical-System (OOTS). With the help of the OOTS, the exchange of legal evidence between authorities should be automated throughout Europe.

Full Speed Ahead

Public administrations within the EU will be in the process of implementing the demands of the SDG by the end of this year. A vast number of services and processes have to be digitized. Tens or hundreds of systems and data management platforms have to be integrated, combined, and adapted to fulfill all prerequisites. At the same time, obligations related to data security and governance must be applied. Many public services organizations lack an overview of their data landscape, or don’t have direct access to required data sources. A unified, homogeneous pathway to relevant systems also presents a challenge for many public organizations. Since they have historically grown infrastructures without a single data management platform. Yet, while managing numerous different access paths and protocols.

A good example of these obstacles is the above-mentioned portal “BAföG Digital.” The process from application to approval and receiving the first payment from the state now takes even longer than before. The work effort for the federal authorities has been increased because the whole process hasn’t been fully digitized. Several steps are still manual and on paper, due to incompatible systems. Electronic files are still missing, and official notifications have to be sent via postal services.

A Seamless Solution

Data virtualization  can solve issues like these. It’s the enabler for a more efficient, leaner, and more responsive public services sector. One that delivers services with speed and quality that citizens expect, and helps employees reach their full potential. Data virtualization is a central data management layer that logically integrates all the data siloed across disparate systems. Irrespective of its format or structure, and creates a homogeneous data environment enabling a single source of truth. It enables organizations to manage data security and governance requirements in one place, and delivers data to users in near real time. 

Data virtualization overcomes complexity and lack of interoperability that can be seen in aged, legacy applications and data management platforms. Logical integration means that access to data is accomplished through a logical abstraction layer that connects to all of the necessary sources in real time and combines, transforms, and aggregates the data based on rules during execution time.

The data remains stored in the sources and is not replicated to a new location or platform. This alternative to “lifting and shifting” data performs many of the same functions as “traditional” processing methods such as ETL processes. Additionally, data virtualization offers the possibility to deliver data in a wide variety of ways via different protocols. End users can access the data virtualization platform with the tool of their choice –Tableau, PowerBI, or even Excel to name a few – and data can easily be made available via APIs like REST or SOAP, for application integration.

Data virtualization offers a faster, more agile, and less costly approach for the Single Digital Gateway than legacy solutions, especially in disparate data landscapes, and this is why it is often found in public services organizations.

Jan Ulrich Maue