Australian Government Technical Interoperability Framework
3. The Framework
Interoperability is about operating in a heterogeneous environment in which policy priorities, business strategies, administrative procedures, information requirements and technology systems differ between agencies.
This means interoperability is about addressing multiple domains. Figure 3 outlines three broadly defined domains.
|Business process domain||This domain comprises the commercial, legal, organisational and policy elements that facilitate interactions between agencies.|
|Information domain||This domain comprises elements that agencies use to align business processes and document payloads, and therefore generate common content interpretations. Elements include reference taxonomies and processes, code lists, data dictionaries and industry specific libraries. A Working Group has been established to progress this agenda.|
|Technical domain (This domain is the focus of this Framework)||This domain comprises elements used to deliver content
across a community of interest. Elements include transport protocols, messaging standards, security standards, registry and discovery standards, syntax libraries, and service and process description languages.
Figure 3. Interoperability domains (endorsed by the IMSC in February 2004)
While this Framework recognises the interdependence of these domains, its scope is limited to the technical domain.
The Framework does not seek to address the standards, policies and procedures that affect the information and business process domains. This is due to the context-specific nature of these domains in which agencies operate in different policy portfolios, engage different sets of stakeholders, and often have different information and business requirements.
AGIMO is currently working with stakeholders to coordinate a number of initiatives that are addressing issues within the information and business process domains.
The Framework only applies to the Australian Government jurisdiction. The Integrated Transaction Reference Group of the Online Council is considering a proposal to establish a national government interoperability framework, which aims to aggregate and harmonise Commonwealth, State and Local Government technical interoperability frameworks.
3.2 Conceptual Model
The Framework divides the technical domain into a series of groups.
The intent is not to prescribe an architecture but to provide a way to categorise a wide number of standards and to recognise linkages to the network and service layers. The groups are represented diagrammatically in Figure 2.
|Metadata for Process and Data Description|
Figure 4. Technical domain - standards groups
To support agencies in applying this Framework a number of case studies have been provided. These will be updated over time and eventually supplemented by a ‘how-to’ guide.
The Security category covers standards and technologies whose primary role is for supporting secure interoperation. Included in this category are standards and technologies for the encryption of data, public key infrastructure standards supporting the use of public and private encryption and decryption keys, digital signatures, and secure transmission protocols such as IPSEC.
The Interconnection category covers standards and technologies for connecting systems. Included within this category are basic connection protocols such as HTTP and FTP; the Web Services message exchange protocol SOAP and the service description language WSDL. Alternative distributed computing middleware such as J2EE (including Java RMI) or CORBA would also be located here. Asynchronous messaging standards such as JMS would be considered interconnection standards.
The Data Exchange category contains standards and technologies for the description of the structure and encoding of data for exchange. These include protocols such as the email protocols SMTP and X.400, resource syndication protocols like RSS, as well as data markup languages such as XML and SGML. Basic character-set encodings would also be positioned here.
The Discovery category covers standards and technologies for supporting the discovery and location of resources. These include metadata standards and thesaurus standards for supporting consistent description of resources. Also included are directory standards such as LDAP and X.500.
The Presentation category covers standards related to the presentation of information. These standards allow data to be interpreted and presented in consistent ways when shared between systems. Such presentation standards include HTML (and XHTML) as well as selections from the wide range of image and streaming media formats. Also included would be the document encoding format RTF and a range of specialized markup languages, including markup for mobile devices.
Metadata for Process and Data Description
These standards are concerned with the sequencing of operations and their execution dependencies. Common amongst these standards are a range of workflow definition and description languages and the emerging Web Services coordination and choreography languages such as BPEL4WS.
The standards under this heading also support the description of the meaning of data elements, data structures and the interrelationships between data elements. Included within this fairly broad range of modelling standards are the UML, ER Diagrams, and flowcharts. Also covered would be XML Schema supporting the definition of XML instances.
The naming category covers the basic primitives for defining consistent names for resources. Standards in this category could perhaps be included within the data exchange category; however, given the importance of consistent naming schemes, it is worth distinguishing as a separate category.
In practice, there is often no neat and clean separation or categorization of standards. A given standard may belong in more than one category depending on the context or application. In this document, we attempt to position standards within the category that is most applicable and include cross-references from other categories where appropriate.
3.3 Presentation Guide
The Framework presents each standard against the following information.
Name & Version: The common name and most recent version under use for a given standard or technology.
Rights Model: Values in this column are: “Open” for freely available standards; “Proprietary” for standards whose use is controlled by a commercial organization; “Commercial” for standards that require payment for use; and “Government” indicating the item is a public sector resource.
Overview: A brief definition or description of the given item.
Custodian: The agency responsible for the item.
Usage: The current usage of this item. Either Fading; Current; or Emerging indicating the status of the item within a usage lifecycle. Fading refers to standards and technologies that, while still used, are receiving less support or are being superseded. Emerging refers to standards that do not currently have widespread use, but which are expected to receive more usage in future. Current refers to standards that have strong and ongoing support at this point in time.
Reference: A URL referring to definitive information relating to the item.
Comment: Any further comments that may be pertinent to the item or its use.
3.4 Standards Selection Criteria
The standards in the Framework are either currently used by, or are under consideration for use by, Australian Government agencies.
There are different types of standards that aid interoperability. Those that are an enabler for the description of content used by a “community of interest” are different in nature to the standard that is the content described. For example, the ISO 11179 Metadata Registry standards are used to create a registry of standard concepts and data items for the Health community within the AIHW Health Knowledgebase, similarly an Environmental Protection Authority might create a registry of Noxious Chemical Substances, and many others.
Clearly, interoperability activities will rely on the availability, status, reliability and common use of such information. The Framework focuses on the enabling standards. An ever increasing range of “content” standards is likely to emerge. Their use will depend upon the status they have in their “communities of interest”. Over time, this will vary as the market forces relating to their acceptance and use play out.
The Framework catalogues both open and proprietary standards. Where feasible, preference is given to the deployment of open standards as these require no royalty payments, do no discriminate on the basis of implementation, allow extension, promote reusability, and reduce the risk of technical lock-in and high switching costs.
3.5 Policies for Data and Interconnection
This Framework draws on and incorporates previously established key policies for data definition and protection and for systems interconnection, as defined below:
For Security: Australian Government Protective Security Manual (PSM) issued by the Attorney-General’s Department. It is the principal means for disseminating Australian Government protective security policies, principles, standards and procedures to be followed by all Australian Government agencies for the protection of official resources. The PSM is the Australian Government’s top-level framework for physical, information
and personnel security. An outline is available at http://www.ag.gov.au/www/protectivesecurityHome.nsf/ 
The PSM refers to ACSI33:
Australian Communications-Electronic Security Instructions 33 (ACSI33) available at http://www.dsd.gov.au/library/infosec/acsi33.html  maintained by the Defence SignalsDirectorate.
Between government agencies, where connection is over the Internet, the use of Fedlink(http://www.fedlink.gov.au/ ) encryption routers will ensure confidentiality.
For Authentication: The National e-Authentication Framework (NeAF) encompasses the electronic authentication (e‑authentication) of the identity of individuals and businesses dealing with the government, on one side of the transaction, as well as the authentication of government websites on the other side. For further information go to National e-Authentication Framework.
For Privacy: Australian Government agencies are bound by a regulatory framework, administered by the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner. A paper issued by the Office (Privacy in Australia – August 2002)
(http://www.privacy.gov.au/publications/pia1.html ) has an overview of privacy regulation in Australia, and covers some of the important privacy issues in Australia.
For Procurement: Australian Government agencies should refer to the guide Government Framework for National Cooperation on Electronic Procurement June 2002, by the Australian Procurement and Construction Council http://www.apcc.gov.au/docs/APCCFRAMEWORK2002.pdf 
For Data definition: Policy is to use existing standards - where formal Australian standards exist (such as AS 4590 - the Australian standard for interchange of client information, or the Australian Government Locator Service http://www.naa.gov.au/recordkeeping/gov_online/agls/cim/cim_manual.html  for Commonwealth use of metadata) they should be used, or if considered not exactly suitable, then steps taken to update the standard.
For Government Domain Naming: The policy is set by the Online Council and managed by Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) http://www.domainname.gov.au/register.html 
Contact for information on this page: firstname.lastname@example.org