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Executive Summary

James Backhouse, LSE 


Interoperability is a term that only recently crept into our consciousness and as yet finds few entries in dictionaries and books of reference. However the advance of the information society has forced citizens, businesses, governments and consumers all to come to grips with this neologism.  Information systems began as stand-alone systems, but with networking and improving telecommunications they rapidly encountered the need to link with other systems, such as databases, security systems, and archives. Hence the current drive to achieve the benefits of interoperability.  Linking up with other repositories greatly adds to the value of the information already held. This report marks the first output from the FIDIS Network of Excellence on this important topic.


This report presents the three layer framework for analysing information systems that contains technical, formal and informal elements and argues for its use in this first FIDIS examination of interoperability issues. This threefold perspective is referred to constantly throughout the remainder of the document and functions as a strong logical thread conferring both coherence and integrity to the variety of contributions that follow. 


The contributions that comprise the report can be divided into those on the one hand that search for concepts and formative notions for interoperability - reviewing the pre-existing and ongoing work in interoperability of identity and identity management systems (IMS) - or reflecting on social aspects of interoperation, and those on the other hand that examine current examples of such systems in a variety of administrative contexts, including e-commerce and e-government, as well as the more futuristic context of Ambient Intelligence (AmI).  


Overall, the aim of this report is to set out the stall for the activity of Workpackage 4, testing the ground that will be covered in terms of the practical applications, such as credentials systems and e-commerce, as well as the intellectual terrain that will be worked over from the different disciplinary perspectives.  The contributions derive from work in social science, privacy protection, computer science, law and law enforcement, public administration, to name just some, and this report acts as an early marker showing how such disparateness may nevertheless be a source of strength and rendered coherent through the development of a common framework and integrative themes.


A key element in this deliverable is the construction of the bibliographic database including the most relevant 100 papers on the topics of “interoperability” and “identity” that were found. These papers are rated for their relevance in regards of their technical, legal and formal or social and cultural perspective.


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