I think I ‘met’ first time the term ‘framework’ in my first years of my professional ‘career’. Anything that was too vague to be of immediate practical use, too general to be regarded as a methodology (or a method), something that might be offering insights to different perspectives (or ‘planes’) of a problem, something that might be a preliminary or a first attempt towards a conceptual model, could be safely characterized as a framework. People would (lukewarmly, sometimes) accept this.
Several years later I was involved in an ambitious project where we aspired to model enterprise-wide communications in the form of information supply chains – and as we were all young (and naïve…) we wanted to model them in the form of fractals. Again there the term and the notion of a framework came to the rescue. At that time we had studied a lot and borrowed some ideas from LISI, the Level of Information System Interoperability framework and also the C4I Systems interoperability framework, built for defense systems purposes but with a potential to use for other purposes as well. And some few years later, as part of some e—government research project, one of my partner colleagues fell in love and then developed an almost compulsive obsession with the Zachman framework for information systems interoperability, that is a type of an ontology offering a fundamental structure for enterprise-wide information architectures.
So there may be something that makes us humans get attracted to frameworks – I think I now know what it is: they help us put some order in the domain we are going to deal with. Chaos rules the world, but as long as one has their own framework to organize concepts and relations and notions, then they can sleep safely in the nights. This might read ironic, but I don’t mean it this way. Same as researchers express a need to build their own ontologies as part of a research action – they need to establish a basis that is commonly accepted within a project team and the consortium that will guide discussions and work for the entire lifetime of a project.
The CS-AWARE framework is designed based on the existing technologies of the partners and outlines the information flow between the components, making it more of an implementation guideline during the development phase. A generalized standard shall be derived of this framework towards the end of the project.
In CS-AWARE we had the good luck to have a framework that has been developed almost in the beginning of the project: by month 6 we had a first version of the framework that appeared as work of one of our colleagues, Veronika Kupfersberger from partner University of Vienna. I am sure that there is a team at the Vienna University research group that may have contributed to Veronika’s work, and also collaborations that had taken place before CS-AWARE even started, such as the research that Vienna University team had with partners University of Oulu and CARIS Research.
I am fully aware that many projects conclude claiming having as one of their major outcomes a framework. Many other projects build on an ad hoc – or even worse: in a reverse engineering mode – ‘something’ that they call framework and which is, to put it mildly, some type of unpopular doodle.
The question for me now is, now that we have in a relatively early stage of our project a ready-to-use framework, what is to be done?
We can and shall of course apply our framework to the two use cases we study in our project. But a framework – any framework, needs more than the feedback we shall get from the two cases in Roma and in Larissa. The best way to proceed is to try spread the word and make as many potential adopters of the framework become aware of it, and also incentivize them to provide us with feedback and all types of input – even non constructive criticism is, at this stage, I am afraid more than welcome as it will help us increase the value of the framework and make it ready for being applied in a Europe-wide scale by all types of Local Public Administrations.
I am not sure which the best way to proceed is: we can try build a community of users or stakeholders. And try involve other Local Public Administrations than the two ones that participate in the CS-AWARE project. And we can also try liaise with other projects that have similar pilots with ours. And we can always try come up with the idea of standardization – see how to come close to the work and practices of the three European Standardization Organizations, CEN, CENELEC and ETSI and if it might be useful to establish a CEN Workshop that will eventually lead to the establishment of the CS-AWARE framework as a CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA).
While all the above are options and alternatives we have and need to study, there is also another option: try communicate the framework to the real target audience using any type of communication channels will be efficient and effective. I doubt if Local Public Administrations will care at all if after two years our framework will become a CEN Workshop Agreement. Till that time they may have faced many cyberthreats and attacks. And it might take a full decade (or, as it is usually the case, more than a decade) to make a CS-AWARE framework become a ‘standard’ like GDPR is now.
Personally, I prefer if we take a grass-roots innovation approach, trying to mobilise those parts of the society that will benefit more from the application of a framework like ours. This might need us to adopt unconventional practices to approach our end users. Guerilla-marketing is always an option. All in all, the CS-AWARE framework is too good to only use for publishing some papers based on it, presenting in a few Conferences and then … nothing!
University of Passau