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Why is interoperability important? A view from standardisation bodies

What is interoperability in the context of crisis management? Interoperability refers to the ability of diverse systems and organisations to work together. In the context of crisis management this means the interoperability of various management processes for building resilience in and against crises. A crisis may be approaching, ongoing, or ending. However, regardless of the phase, it is essential to have a set of interoperable guidelines, practices, and techniques for effective crisis management.

The STRATEGY project will address both the need for interoperability and gaps in the standardisation landscape, as well as challenges that come with implementing new regulations in this field. The project brings together various stakeholders, including end-users, public authorities, research institutes to standardisation bodies, to improve interoperability in the crisis management domain.


Why is interoperability important?

Interoperability is crucial in the field of crisis management because there are increasing instances of cross border crisis, like COVID-19, international terrorist threats, and climate change, as the whole world continues to become more interconnected.

Moreover, cross-border collaboration is particularly important when it comes to crisis management, because success can be potentially measured by saved human lives. The fact that different stakeholders are not able to cooperate with each other across borders might result in the inability to effectively manage crises. This is why it is important to develop interoperable systems, tools, and procedures that allow for a harmonised, pan-European approach to disaster response.


Achieving interoperability: what is the role of standards?

In order to achieve a pan-European approach to crisis management, it is essential to develop a harmonised set of crisis management standards. In essence, a standard is an agreed way of doing something. It could be about making a product, agreeing on the terminology, managing a process, delivering a service, or supplying materials in a crisis.

Developing EU-wide standards will enable organizations, on local, regional, national, and European level to be effectively coordinated and to cooperate with other organisations before, during and after a destabilizing or disruptive event.

However, there are a number of challenges to developing a set of European standards in the crisis management domain.


What are the challenges to achieving interoperability?

Firstly, when developing harmonised European standards, there may be political challenges. The field of societal and citizen security, including the crisis management domain, is under strong, sovereign control of individual countries. This in itself is not a bad thing, but it might give rise to doubts about the usefulness of EU-wide standards.

Secondly, the field of standardisation is not accessible, and can be very difficult to understand. The landscape of standards and standardisation can be confusing. There are thousands of security related standards and they all differ in nature. For example, there are management system standards, product standards, guidelines, technical specifications etc. This makes the topic inaccessible and may prevent effective exploitation of standards and standardisation.

Thirdly, there may be economic challenges. There is lacking economic incentive to create crisis management standards. The diverse and wide audience that is the whole European society, seems to have difficulty understanding and identifying the benefits of these standards. This is especially true considering direct economic benefits, that indirectly affect everyone. When we combine these three obstacles, we can start to understand why the disjointed and poorly self- or market-driven topic is not easily standardised.

The STRATEGY project will address these challenges. The project partners will work to assess the current standardisation landscape in this domain and identify gaps and areas for improvement in order to develop a pan-European, pre-standardisation framework that will improve the efficiency and efficacy of cross-border disaster response.


For more information about STRATEGY visit the project website and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Author: Janne Kalli, SFS


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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 883520