A Cooperative Directory Based Responsibility Finder for Germany
The task of finding the right agency is often a problem for citizens and for businesses which only occasionally come into contact with the public sector. Therefore a special dedicated service is needed. It should outline the relevant areas of responsibility whilst remaining understandable and informative.
Since October 2007, the high performance portal research group which is funded by the Fraunhofer’s internal program ATTRACT and by FOKUS has been doing research into designing the architecture for a directory based responsibility finder, exploring the possibilities in depth and developing a concept to create the elementary directories. A directory based responsibility finder will deliver the most exact search results.
The goal is to find a solution using open architecture which could open up new possibilities whilst working and communicating with existing solutions; a solution that has potential for further development and at the same time avoids redundancies and doubling up the workload.
A directory based responsibility finder determines spheres of responsibility with the help of carefully designed directories and queries. To do this it needs to have access to at least a public sector service directory, an agency directory and an area directory. These have to be linked in a responsibility directory. If this is set up in achievable expansion stages, further directories could be integrated into the approach.
The possible types are differentiated according to the volume of the directory’s contents and their localised reference. The types range from "local responsibility finders" that would exclusively provide information about the local government for example within a municipality, to a directory based "national responsibility finder" for Germany, a nationwide finder which would include all levels of government within the Federal Republic. Various technical approaches could make the concept more complex.
Beside the directory based responsibility finders being worked on here, other approaches to the problem focus on search engines, content management systems and wikis as well as the central responsibility finder as a directory service. Some of the experience gained from these approaches could be used for the development of directory based responsibility finders.
Directory based responsibility finders only serve their purpose if the directories are constantly updated, without costs for service and editorial support becoming too high. The necessary data can be gathered centrally, regionally and also locally. The databases can be consolidated virtually. The most realistic solution for Germany appears to be a federation of local and regional responsibility finders. The results concerning editorial support for such directories and their use in practice gathered thus far show that a hybrid of a centralised main editorial office and local technical editors would be most suitable.
The EU Services Directive and the citizen’s telephone portal D115, both of which need national responsibility finders, have essential demands which could be supported by this development. It is therefore imperative to approach the establishment of a collective directory based responsibility finder in a scientific manner and to organise it according to the public sector’s needs.