The annual X-Road Community Event took place in Tallinn on 12th September 2018. During previous years the event has been organized by Estonia’s RIA but this year the responsibility was taken over by the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions NIIS. NIIS is an association founded jointly by Finland and Estonia in June 2017. Its mission is to develop e-governance solutions, kicking off with the X-Road technology.
Gofore acts as the NIIS’s ‘right hand’ as the development team working on the X-Road core. Currently, we are four developers working closely with NIIS’s CTO Petteri Kivimäki. The whole team was kindly invited to participate in the event and some of us were also given the opportunity to speak in the conference special tracks. So we travelled to Tallinn the previous evening and had some time to have a late dinner in the Old Town which was a very nice way to start the trip.
After an early night at the hotel, the next day the conference started with NIIS’s CEO Ville Sirviö opening the event. There were more than 150 participants from over 10 countries including Japan, the United States and Madagascar.
The event got an electrifying start when the host invited on stage representatives from the member countries Estonia and Finland and surprisingly Iceland too! Iceland joined the interoperability alliance as a partner and signed the partnership agreement on stage. This greatly strengthens the X-Road partnership and co-operative effort.
Next, the enthusiastic host invited Petteri Kivimäki on stage to present X-Road development model big picture and roadmap. NIIS maintains and develops X-Road core and provides support to its members. The advisory group evaluates business enhancement requests and approves new items to the product roadmap. The working group prioritizes product backlog, looks into pull requests and approves new enhancement requests to the backlog. X-Road Product Roadmap and Product Backlog are owned and managed by the NIIS. The current roadmap has Ubuntu 18 and REST support as the highest ranked items. It was also announced that the design of the next generation X-Road 7 will start during 2019.
There was a panel discussion about cross-border services between Estonia’s Siim Sikkut (Government CIO, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications) and Finland’s Anna-Maija Karjalainen (Director General, Public Sector ICT, Ministry of Finance).
Jarkko Moilanen (Senior Advisor, Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland) talked about API economy and best practices in API design.
Kristo Vaher (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Estonia) talked about Fact Driven Architecture. His vision for government services architecture includes a blockchain and the actual services are built on top of that.
Andres Kütt (Interforum OÜ) talked about X-Road design patterns. He introduced a set of recommendations and principles for integrating with X-Road.
There was another panel discussion about X-Road’s international use cases between Estonia’s Kaija Valdmaa (Project Manager of Estfeed, Elering AS), Iceland’s Einar Birkir Eirnarsson (Head of Division, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs) and Japan’s Masakazu Ohtsuka (Planetway). Valdmaa’s electricity company Elering is utilizing X-Road in reading meter data across national borders. Ohtsuka’s Planetway is evaluating X-Road technology in Japan’s private sector and hopes to expand its usage to Japan’s public sector in the future. Eirnarsson said they have evaluated multiple data exchange platforms including building their own solution but eventually they ended up with X-Road and the implementation project is currently ongoing.
After lunch, there was a Kahoot quiz about X-Road. People were distributed among specialized tracks based on their interests. The tracks were X-Road users, X-Road operators, X-Road developers and e-governance. Our team’s presentations were in users and developers tracks. Jarkko Hyöty (Gofore) presented the X-Road’s load balancing solution in the X-Road users track.
I participated in the X-Road developer track and gave a presentation about X-Road’s development practices.
The specialized tracks included a workshop encouraging the community to participate and create new ideas. The workshop I participated in was about future visions of X-Road. We were divided into groups where we figured out improvement suggestions and new features for X-Road. Finally, the ideas refined in groups were presented to everybody and collected together as suggestions for future work.
The conference day ended sky high on the 30th floor of the Swissotel overlooking Tallinn. Sparkling wine, people getting to know each other and nice discussions took place.
It seems that there is high demand for an integration platform like X-Road all over the world. It may be because different e-government initiatives require a common integration model to ensure cost effectiveness and ease-of-use of governmental functions. It also helps that X-Road is an open source solution and as such suits the needs of many nations.
Gofore has many years experience developing the X-Road core and related national e-government services. We are more than willing to help in any X-Road evaluation or implementation project.
Overall it was a very nice and well-organized event by NIIS. The X-Road community is already strong and getting stronger each year. Last year there were 70 participants and this year the amount doubled. It is now also a truly international event with participants and speakers coming from all around the world. I can’t wait to see how far we have come next year.