Potentials and Challenges towards Citizen-Centric Services
Ivo J. Garcia dos Santos and Edmundo R. Mauro Madeira
Institute of Computing, University of Campinas (UNICAMP), P.O. Box 6176, Campinas SP, Brazil
e-Government, Grid Computing, Web Services, Middleware.
The demands for integrated and efficient public services have increased worldwide over the recent years, due
mainly to the proliferation of the Information and Communication Technologies. In order to develop these
new e-Government applications, many challenges are being faced, including higher interoperability claims,
scalability and security issues. Grid computing can be considered an interesting middleware solution for
supporting e-Government thanks to its high computation and massive storage capabilities added to its recent
convergence towards service-orientation. This position paper intends to investigate the state of the art and
the challenges concerning the use of Grid technologies as a support platform for Citizen-centric Services and
An increasing demand for the delivery of integrated
and efficient public services has been observed world-
wide over the recent years and applications in the area
of e-Government, e-Democracy and e-Participation
are gaining momentum. A recent UN (United Na-
tions) report stated that the strategic and meaning-
ful application of Information and Communication
Technologies for the purpose of improving the effi-
ciency, transparency, accountability and accessibil-
ity of government is possible if the ultimate objec-
tive of e-government is to promote social inclusion
(Ahmed, 2006).
Grid computing intends to provide a vehicle for
high computation and massive storage, and no single
application domain can be excluded from its potential
benefits (Maad et al., 2002), being scalability the most
cited one. In addition, the convergence between Grids
and Service-oriented Architectures (SOA) is trans-
forming the Grid into a powerful solution for the inte-
gration of heterogeneous cross-domain applications.
This position paper intends to investigate the state
of the art concerning the use of Grid technologies
in e-Government scenarios, the strategies, challenges
and what still demands further research. It is or-
ganized as follows: Section 2 presents a discus-
sion on e-Government, its applications and require-
ments; Section 3 introduces Grid computing and
shows how it could serve as a supporting platform
for e-Government applications; Section 4 critically
presents the current challenges and open issues to-
wards a full Grid support for e-Government; and fi-
nally Section 5 presents our final remarks.
The term Electronic Government (e-Government), as
an expression, was coined after the example of Elec-
tronic Commerce. It designates a field of activity that
has been with us for several decades and which has
attained a high level of penetration in many countries
(Lenk and Traunmller, 2002). E-Government can be
defined as being all processes which serve decision-
making and services in politics, government and ad-
ministration and which use information and commu-
nication technologies (KBSt, 2006). What has been
observed over the recent years is a shift on the broad-
ness of the e-Government concept: the demand now
is not anymore to deliver traditional services on-line,
but to deliver new and dynamic services, which are
J. Garcia dos Santos I. and R. Mauro Madeira E. (2007).
E-GOVERNMENT AND GRID COMPUTING - Potentials and Challenges towards Citizen-Centric Services.
In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - SAIC, pages 144-148
DOI: 10.5220/0002419401440148
citizen-centric. In addition, the need for citizen par-
ticipation in governmental processes and decisions is
gaining momentum as a way to enforce governments’
transparency and legitimacy, a phenomenon called e-
A citizen-centric government can be simply de-
scribed as one that treats citizens and businesses like
customers, so that their needs come first, rather than
bureaucracy or other imperatives inside the govern-
ment machine. It considers the following principles
(GOV3, 2006):
1. Treat citizens and businesses as customers of the
government as a whole (and not only of a specific
2. Use a government-wide service-oriented architec-
ture to support all interactions;
3. Develop a single place for citizens to get all gov-
ernment information and transactional services;
4. Don’t expect to get it right first time, but aim to
move quickly and learn from experience.
2.1 Applications
The e-Government applications can be classified into
the following categories:
e-Services: On-line delivery of traditional ser-
vices for citizens (tax declarations, document re-
quests etc) and initiatives like One-Stop Govern-
ment Portals;
e-Democracy / e-Participation: Applications to
improve citizen participation in the government
decisions, including e-Voting, pools and discus-
sion forums. Also, tools that increase the public
administration transparency, like budget reports,
are important in this category.
e-Business: All on-line interactions between the
public and the private sector, ranging from e-
Procurement initiatives to legal and fiscal trans-
e-Archiving: Services for storage and retrieval
of public documents, reports, and also public li-
These application can be also classified according
to three interaction levels (KBSt, 2006):
1. Information: covers the provision of information
to people, businesses and other elements of soci-
ety. Users on this level merely act as recipients of
2. Communication: interactive and participation ser-
vices which enable the exchange of news, mes-
sages and information. These services range from
simpler solutions, such as e-mail or web-based
discussion forums, right through to more complex
applications, such as video conference systems;
3. Transaction: represent the highest interaction
level and include, for instance, the electronic re-
ceipt and processing of applications or orders as
well as the provision of forms which can be filled
in on the computer and directly sent to the correct
recipient. Electronic payment or tendering sys-
tems also belong to this category.
2.2 Requirements
Considering the technological aspects, the SAGA
(Standards and Architectures for e-Government Ap-
plications) specification cites the following as key re-
quirements for the success of any e-Government ef-
fort (KBSt, 2006):
Interoperability: the administration processes
must be co-orientated so that the e-Government
applications implemented can interact with each
other. The interoperability can be further classi-
fied into three levels:
1. Organizational interoperability primarily de-
termines when and why certain data are ex-
2. Technical interoperability refers to the mere
possibility to exchange information, including
the definition of transmission routes and proto-
3. Semantic interoperability exists when two sys-
tems exchange data in such a manner that the
data is interpreted in the same way by both
communication partners and misunderstand-
ings are ruled out. This applies not just to the
form but also to the content of the data trans-
Reusability: reuse can take place on several dif-
ferent levels of abstraction, e.g. exchange of expe-
rience between agencies and the use of joint data
and process models, architecture samples and cen-
tral services.
Openness: applications should feature well-
defined and documented interfaces or be encap-
sulated in such a manner that they can be in-
tegrated via portals, and standards should be
adopted whenever possible;
Scalability: ensure the usability of applications
as requirements change in terms of volume and
transaction frequency;
Security: the applications and the supporting
middleware should guarantee that information
E-GOVERNMENT AND GRID COMPUTING - Potentials and Challenges Towards Citizen-Centric Services
can only be accessed, modified or published
in compliance with a predefined (and possibly
fine-tuned) security policy, preserving its confi-
dentiality and integrity. In addition, some e-
Government applications demand further security
requirements like user anonymity, identity-theft
protection and non-repudiation.
2.3 Approaches
Different approaches are found in the literature to
implement e-Government applications and platforms.
An approach for the semi-automated design of data
flows between Web Services that are semantically de-
scribed using different ontologies and data represen-
tations is introduced in (Barnickel et al., 2006). The
approach includes a rule-based mechanism for user
transparent mediation between ontologies and is in-
tended to be used in e-Government scenarios span-
ning multiple application domains. In (Medjahed
and Bouguettaya, 2005) the authors present a sys-
tem which automatically generates Web services cus-
tomized to citizens needs and also to government
laws and regulations. The project, called WebSe-
nior, proposes three levels of service customization:
the Citizen level, the Service level and the User in-
terface level. A metadata ontology, used to describe
e-Government services and operations, is also intro-
In (Senger et al., 2006) the authors propose the
adoption of a grid computing platform as an en-
abling infrastructure for the development of large, dis-
tributed, e-democracy applications, illustrated with
an example in the field of policy formulation. A
semantically-enriched and service-oriented middle-
ware for the support of e-Government applications is
the proposal of (Santos et al., 2005). In this project,
called CoGPlat, new services are dynamically com-
posed with the help of semantic descriptions and their
execution is mediated through a set of interaction
We consider a Grid to be a sharing environment
implemented via the deployment of a persistent,
standards-based service infrastructure that supports
the creation of, and resource sharing within, dis-
tributed communities (Foster and Iamnitchi, 2003).
These resources (for instance computers, applica-
tions, data) are owned by various administrative or-
ganizations and shared under locally defined policies
(this administrative domain is usually called a Virtual
Organization, or VO).
The Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA)
represents an evolution towards a Grid system ar-
chitecture based on Web services concepts and tech-
nologies. The Globus Toolkit (Foster, 2006) is a
community-based, open-architecture, open-source set
of services and software libraries that support Grids
and Grid applications. It addresses issues of security,
information discovery, resource management, data
management, communication, fault detection, and
portability. Its latest release, GT4, is fully based on
Web Services and represents a definite step towards
the convergence of Grid technologies and Service-
oriented architectures.
This convergence to SOA, added to the inherent
support for large scale processing and storage, makes
the Grid an interesting middleware approach for the
support of e-Government applications. In Table 1 we
present a relationship between the e-Gov application
requirements presented in Section 2.2 and how the
Grid infrastructures support (or not) them.
Table 1: e-Government x Grid.
Requirement Support No Support
Interoperab. Technical Semantic
Reusability Yes -
Openness If standards -
are used
Scalability Processing Reliable
and Storage Descentralized
Security Authentication, Specific e-Gov
Message Applic. Security
Protection Requirements
The interoperability requirements are satisfied by
the Grid mostly in the technical level, due to the
use of approaches like SOA and technologies like
Web Services. The lack of semantic support is fur-
ther discussed in the next Section. The reusability
requirements are much more related to the applica-
tion/service model itself than to the middleware in-
frastructure, but we believe the Grid, due to its coop-
erative and relative open environment facilitates the
reuse of services. Concerning the third requirement,
openness, the use of standards and well defined inter-
faces are supported by the latest Grid solutions, like
the GT4.
The fourth requirement, scalability, is definitely
considered the biggest Grid advantage over other mid-
dleware approaches, but it is important to note that
this scalability is only an advantage in terms of pro-
cessing power and storage space. The e-Government
process security requirements impose a limit to this
scalability in terms of process control, i.e., a fully de-
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
centralized control is not acceptable for most e-Gov
scenarios and therefore this represents a bottleneck
for the growth of the Grid (what is not true in other
application domains). The last requirement, security,
has very good support in the Grid environments when
we consider user authentication and message protec-
tion/cyphering. Next section discusses why additional
e-Government security requirements are still not fully
supported by the Grid.
In the previous section we discussed the relationships
between the Grid infrastructure and the middleware
requirements imposed by the applications in the e-
Government domain, showing what the Grid supports
and what it does not support. In this section we de-
tail our analysis focusing on the main challenges for
the requirements interoperability, security and scala-
bility (see Table 2 for a summary of the open issues
presented in this Section).
Table 2: Challenges towards a full Grid Support for e-Gov.
- Semantic descriptions + Ontol-
ogy Support
- Workflow (DAG) Support + effi-
cient fault Tolerance mechanisms
- Accessibility
- Fine-tuned information access
- Anonymity and Identity-theft
protection mechanisms
- Correct VO model choice
- Enhanced control mechanisms
- Traceability + Auditing support
4.1 Interoperability
The so-called Semantic Web Services have gained
momentum over the last years and are being consid-
ered as powerful (or even essential) mechanisms to
enable fully interoperable services (see Section 2.2).
The actual Grid implementations still lack support for
semantic descriptions and ontologies and this is cer-
tain an issue that is demanding efforts from the re-
search community.
In addition, most Grid platforms offer full support
only for ”Bag-Of-Task” applications, i.e., applica-
tions composed of independent tasks that do not need
to communicate within each other in order to com-
plete. That is for sure a big challenge to be faced, as e-
Government processes are usually described as work-
flows or DAGs (Direct Acyclic Graphs) and many of
its tasks are interdependent. There are already some
alternatives, like the use of a specific scheduler (e.g.
CONDOR over Globus), but they are still poor in
handling aspects like fault tolerance and recovery. A
scalable and autonomic management of the Grid (in-
cluding efficient fault handling mechanisms) remains
a goal, and experiences are being learned from solu-
tions implemented in approaches like the Peer-to-Peer
networks (Foster and Iamnitchi, 2003).
Last, but not least, middleware-level support for
mobile devices required by some e-Government ap-
plications, added to accessibility mechanisms for dis-
abled and senior citizens is still subject of research.
4.2 Security and Scalability
Due to the nature of the data and processes involved,
many e-Government applications have specific secu-
rity requirements, some of them determined by local
specific legislation. Though some Grid implemen-
tations like the GT4 have very good security mech-
anisms, usually focused on authentication and mes-
sage privacy, the support for demands like anonymity
and identity-theft protection still need enhancements.
Also, the support for fine-tuned information access
policies fully integrated to the service environments
needs to be improved.
If we consider Grid environments based on Peer-
to-Peer infrastructures and also opportunist Grid ap-
proaches, further security issues must be considered.
These issues are mainly related to the lack of control
over the tasks imposed by the inherent decentraliza-
tion of these approaches.
Besides that, a critical issue for a successful e-
Government support over the Grid seems to be the
correct modelling of the Virtual Organizations. This
is strongly dependent on the application category (see
Section 2.1), on the interaction model and also on the
participating entities. For example, if we consider a
global e-Procurement application, that can be clas-
sified in the category e-Business/Transaction, a VO
could be defined having as members all Governmen-
tal agencies together with all credited private business
partners/suppliers. On the other hand, if the applica-
tion fits in the category e-Democracy/Transaction, the
VO would be formed only by the Government depart-
ments involved in decision making processes.
Finally, the ability to follow on-line the status of
the different running processes and the possibility of
performing late auditing procedures is also required
by many e-Government applications as a way to in-
crease the public administration transparency. On one
hand, this requires both extra storage and processing
power, which might be successfully provided by the
E-GOVERNMENT AND GRID COMPUTING - Potentials and Challenges Towards Citizen-Centric Services
Grid. On the other hand, this represents an extra con-
trol issue that should be better solved in the middle-
ware (Grid) level and not left to the applications.
We believe that the proposal of effective solutions
to enable fully interoperability among heterogeneous
and inter-organizational systems remains a key is-
sue in the development of new citizen-centric e-
Government services. Grid computing’s promise to
provide a vehicle for high computation and mas-
sive storage added to its recent convergence towards
service-orientation has transformed it into an interest-
ing middleware solution for supporting these new ap-
On one hand many inherent characteristics of
the Grid middlewares are of great importance for
e-Government applications, namely processing and
storage scalability and also the support for technolog-
ical interoperability. On the other, there are some im-
portant issues that still need to be handled: support for
complex workflow-based processes, enhanced fault
tolerance mechanisms, specific security requirements
and support for semantic and ontologies for instance.
Nevertheless, we believe the potentials for the
Grid are very high and as long as these challenges
are faced, it may become a very solid and powerfull
middleware solution for e-Government applications.
The authors would like to thank the Brazilian agen-
cies FAPESP, CAPES and CNPq, and the project Gi-
gaBOT for the support.
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