Ellen Levy

The National Information Exchange Model, with its XML Schema for Information Exchange Package Description messages that took root three years ago, has become a bona fide community. That point was reemphasized by Donna Roy, the Department of Homeland Security executive director for NIEM, at NIEM’s recent national training event.

With about 500 in-person attendees and about 200 remote attendees, this is a community that is trying to connect the dots between its members like LinkedIn does for its members according to Ellen Levy, vice president strategic initiatives, LinkedIn Corp.

While the NIEM community views itself as a significant player in the standardization of messages for interoperability, it realizes it is only a small island in the sea of social messages that people use to connect the dots between themselves and world events using message formats and tools such as Twitter.

In addition, I understand why EPA, my former employer, was reluctant to endorse NIEM, because it had already done this type of activity in building its National Environmental Information Exchange Network.

Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires recently praised the NIEM community in an article republished on Breaking Gov from CIO.gov and said:

“NIEM is now the DHS enterprise architecture standard for how we interconnect systems” and that he has not seen a better return on investment for our taxpayer dollars than in supporting NIEM.

However, I found the content itself to be difficult to access. So I decided to apply data science to samples of the NIEM community content to create an interoperabilty interface–a kind of NIEM clearinghouse, that I believe is still needed.

It would include the following elements:

  • The NIEM IEPD Clearinghouse is a Web database;
  • The NIEM IEPD submission form is a Word Document;
  • The NIEM IEPD Clearinghouse Help is a PDF file; and
  • The NIEM Training Event Agenda is a PDF File, and NIEM Exchange Partners is a text file.
The term interoperability interface comes from the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) Report on Designing a Digital Future (December 2010) and consists of the following according to this data scientist:

  • A dashboard of adjacent objects in a similar format that are data services (e.g. like the iPhone and iPad);
  • Data tables in Linked Open Data Format; and
  • Relationships between multiple data services that can be managed for mashups and statistical analyses.
The Spotfire dashboard created by the author using samples of the NIEM community content illustrates this. The full details of this work are found elsewhere. The author’s has done similar work to improve the accessability and integration of the National Information Exchange Model and the Universal Core Semantc Layer.

I am advocating that NIEM take the next steps of moving its clearinghouse to the cloud and implementing dynamic case management to better connect the dots than it does presently and showing that with four different kinds of their content in an interoperability interface (which happens to be a Spotfire dashboard).

Putting NIEM in the cloud is much more than just where you put it (e.g. AWS Gov Cloud), but how you put it there. They should put their clearinghouse and everything else they want people to know and use in a format and interface so that users can connect the dots between their different sources of information and keep it updated with dynamic case management.

More specifically, in order to connect the dots with both messages and data, the NIEM community needs to start using what Gartner and Forrester call Dynamic Case Management Tools that use semantic web standards and state-of-the-art semantic technologies based on those standards like Be Informed that the author recommended recently to the European Commission’s CIO Francisco Garcia Moran. The community would also be well-advised to adopt a Service Oriented Architecture – see for example recent 12th SOA for eGovernment Conference.

Dynamic Case Managment would: support the process to get the messages to the clearinghouse, enhance the functionality of the clearinghouse, build a fusion center, and support the data fusion process for “turning information into knowledge.”

Be Informed has done this for the Dutch Immigration Service and recently won an International Architecture Award and Gartner and Forrester recognitions for it.

A few years ago when I led the Federal Semantic Interoperability Community of Practice (SICoP) I was asked to create a demo of a searchable semantic knowledgebase of NIEM IEPD messages which I did. Now I can take that one significant step further with a new tool (Be Informed) that can use a semantic knowledgebase to make a dynamic case management system.