DEAR MS. GABRIEL,
DEAR COLLEAGUES FROM THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
DEAR FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you today and launch the eighth edition of this truly important conference. Let me go back a few years, to the first edition of SEMIC in Brussels, in 2011. This year’s conference has almost three times as many attendees as the first one – we have over 250 participants from 38 countries. This is a testament to the importance of this forum and today’s discussions bind all of us to our work.
First of all, I would like to welcome you with the Bulgarian „Добре дошли“ (Dobre doshli). I deeply appreciate the support of our friends from the European Commission and all our colleagues from member states whose efforts made this event possible. I want to also thank all guests from far corners of the world who flew thousands of kilometres from various continents to be here today. Once again, thank you for all you have done!
However, we have not gathered here today just to celebrate yet another major European event, even though it certainly is one. The purpose of SEMIC 2018 is to discuss and work above all for the people and the businesses of the countries we represent, not for the organisations and institutions each of us represents.
Semantic interoperability may sound like a technical, narrowly defined field, but in reality it addresses key issues of utmost importance in the modern world – namely, how we produce and interpret data and what they mean. Because if two or more parties are in a discussion together, but do not understand each other, there is no communication – there is only disembodied talk. Because in order to understand each other, we need to speak a common language with common meanings.
This is why I believe today’s conference is destined to be a platform for sharing. To check in to see to what extent we are actually speaking the same language. If I may put it this way, to check the code system we use to understand each other.
The end of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU coincides with the 18-month anniversary of the establishment of the State e-Government Agency whose purpose is to work for a faster implementation of e-governance in Bulgaria. One of the core issues in the State e-Government Agency’s domain is semantic interoperability. And not just in the aspects we will be discussing today – it is a key priority in terms of reducing the administrative burden on citizens and businesses, including application of the Once-Only principle of data collection, and relieving citizens and organisations from having to flit between various institutions.
This is why we are gathered here today – to continue our work in service of our citizens and above all to rise to their expectations, to discuss all options, to see what else we need to do to connect our systems, especially cross-border, so they can communicate with one another.
Interoperability on all levels – on a semantic, legal, technological, and organisational level – is a part of our battle with bureaucracy. This is the objective of our efforts – not to lose our focus and work for “live”, functional, accessible electronic services and systems that meet users’ demands.
Yesterday, at a different event held here in this hall about the General Data Protection Regulation, it was said that data is the new most valuable resource. We process, collect, protect data. However, they will not have much value if we do not make them available, including for repeat use, through the public services we offer people and businesses. So that wherever we are, we would not have to think about the services that we have, that we receive from our institutions.
In the 2017 Tallinn Declaration, all EU member states pledged that in the next 4 years we would ensure that people and businesses may interact digitally with institutions in the European Union. There is a vision for establishing the European digital market. There are national legislations that are aligned with EU law. It is time now that we also ensured interoperability on all levels, knowing as we all do that it is a long and difficult process that requires our best efforts. Because without ensuring the compatibility of our base registers, it would be very hard to apply the basic principles we aspire to, including our ambitious pan-European digital programme.
The interconnection of primary registers in member states has enormous potential which will be unlocked, including for implementing the Once-Only principle of data collection. And not only that, but also for working with Big Data and AI.
Interconnected public registers are a core component of e-governance, and in order to achieve digital transformation on a European level, we also have to pursue digital interconnection between public administrations in Europe.
All of these processes which I merely touched on here must develop simultaneously. At the same time, levels of development vary significantly between EU member states. There are, however, adequate mechanisms to limit these variations and to introduce a common policy, so that all of us, citizens and organisations in EU member states, can get what is due to us from our governments.
Today we will have the opportunity to discuss these and other issues on an expert level. So I would like to encourage you to take initiative and share openly with everyone.
Thank you for coming and have a successful conference!