The Region of Sicily opens to European and global trade

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Two co-funded projects of the CEF Telecom program have just been successfully completed, which sees the Region of Sicily at the forefront of digital infrastructures and services development to facilitate trade with other EU countries, encouraging growth and competitiveness.

A press conference called “Sicilian Region: innovations in the digital sector” was held at the headquarters of the Sicilian Region, in Palermo, during which the advantages that some innovative implementations will bring to small and medium-sized enterprises were illustrated, in addition to the progress of European spending in the digital sector in Sicily.

The goal of the Musumeci Government is the digital transformation of Sicily and this path has already been undertaken by investing European resources in the best possible way and introducing innovative services such as those presented today“- said Gaetano Armao, Vice President of the Region and Councilor for the Economy.

The first project concerns Action 2018-EU-IA-0068 – “Cross-Border Uptake of eInvoicing and Innovation” – which aims to support public administrations in complying with the Directive on electronic invoicing which mandates all public community administrations to receive and process eInvoices compliant with the European standard (EN 16931). The Directive aims to facilitate European trade by reducing the effects of the lack of interoperability between different national formats.

The Region of Sicily has worked to align itself with European standards and policies on digital procurement by integrating eOrders and eInvoices modules into its eProcurement platform and supporting Sicilian SMEs with an eBusiness portal for the receipt of electronic orders and the issuing of eInvoices in the European standard. Both solutions are connected to the regional Peppol Access Point accredited by AGID, the national Peppol Authority.

Peppol was born from a project promoted by the European Commission for interoperability in digital public procurement. Peppol makes it possible to connect companies and public administrations through Access Points that enable the secure and interoperable exchange of standardized electronic documents such as invoices, orders, despatch advices, catalogues, etc. The use of the Peppol network has already been approved in many European countries and also in Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. Japan is undertaking the necessary activities to adopt Peppol for eInvoicing. In Italy, the first region to adhere to Peppol standards was Emilia Romagna. The Sicily Region is the second. At the national level, the use of Peppol is already foreseen for electronic orders (mandatory in the health system).

Celeris Advisory has developed the Peppol Access Point and the eBusiness portal for the Region of Sicily. The role of Celeris was also fundamental in the second successful project which included the Sicilian Region: “Einvoicing4Islands” whose objective is to demonstrate the interoperability of eInvoicing services between Malta, the Region of Sicily and Ireland.

For this action, on behalf of the Region of Sicily, Celeris has developed a private blockchain that integrates with the Peppol Access Point and the eBusiness portal in order to enable automated reconciliation of order and electronic invoice data. This will allow to dynamically view the status of the tender up to the related invoices. The blockchain solution will offer greater security of the information exchanged on the Peppol network.

The results of the two actions were possible thanks to the teamwork of all the stakeholders involved. The infrastructure and solutions developed connect Sicily to a global network used in countries, such as Norway, also for commercial transactions between companies. We would like to continue adding value to the Sicilian Region for even more ambitious projects“- stated Carmen Ciciriello, CEO, Celeris.

Sicily Region has managed to develop digital skills thanks to the foresight of its Administration and the great contribution of a pool of partners involved in the projects. These include Maggioli SpA – responsible for the integration of the eOrders and eInvoices modules in the eProcurement platform – and Sicilia Digitale, the IT in-house company of the Region which coordinated the interoperability tests and, by the end of 2021, will manage the solutions developed by Celeris as part of the project activities.

eProcurement Analytics Pilot

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Digital public procurement today is still facing challenges related to lack of quality data, insufficient sharing and re-use of data, inability to match related data from different databases and systems preventing effective data-driven decisions. Shortage of skills that could leverage emerging technologies for advanced analysis of the data available is also a show-stopper.

Against this backdrop, AGID recognised the need to have a common European approach that could address some of these challenges that many EU countries are also facing. In October 2020, AGID submitted the first Italian proposal to the ISA2 (Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations) Committee, the eProcurement Analytics initiative, which identified the key components for a EU-wide solution. The proposal was approved and, as a result, the European Commission has launched a pilot to implement it.

The initiative is coordinated by the European Commission in collaboration with AGID (Italy) and the pilot members including ANAC (Italian National Anti-Corruption Authority), Consip (Italian national purchasing body), and IMPIC (Portuguese Institute of Public Procurement, Real Estate and Construction) acting as data providers. The objective of the pilot is to establish a common framework and infrastructure for monitoring public procurement in the EU, through a set of analytical services and tools based on a common data model, in order to foster effective government spending, active common policy-making and competitiveness.

In particular, existing data in different formats (Open Data (csv) from the ANAC BDNCP – the Italian National Database for Public Contracts; RDF data from Consip, and Json OCDS from IMPIC) together with data from TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) are being harmonised, mapping them to the eProcurement Ontology. TED publishes 746 thousand procurement award notices a year, including 235 thousand calls for tenders which are worth approximately €545 billion. The data analytics tools to be developed will be made available and will allow for a more granular analysis and monitoring. These data will be used to carry out analysis to ensure a better understanding of market dynamics in the European public procurement context and also improve operational aspects of digital procurement.

This pilot puts Italy at the forefront of the developments in the European digital public procurement context. We should be very proud of the significant effort being made in particular by the Italian data providers, ANAC and Consip, that through this pilot are paving the way for the establishment of the European Data Space for Public Procurement”. – stated Carmen Ciciriello, CEO, Celeris Group.

The Pilot represents the first implementation of the EU Public Procurement Data Strategy (as already foreseen in the European strategy for data) focused on the development of an infrastructure where data from various sources, such as TED and Member States’ systems are harmonised and then made available for re-use and analysis. In a first development phase, the European Commission is planning to use data from TED as its main data source, taking into account the migration from the current standard forms to the eForms, the new standard for sending notices to TED. The eForms have been introduced through the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1780 that will mark a major improvement in terms of data quality and will become mandatory from October 2023.

The European Commission is monitoring the developments in Member States and has established the eForms subgroup within the Expert Group on eProcurement, which is led by French representatives and DG GROW.

eDelivery for Fintech

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The eDelivery for Fintech project funded under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) – action No: 2018-IE-IA-0069 – has been successfully completed. The project partners included IT Sligo, as Project Coordinator, Lighthouse BCS, an Irish fintech, and Celeris Advisory Ltd, a consulting firm providing specialised technical support.

The project focused on incorporating an eDelivery component into an existing Fintech solution. The eDelivery is one of the building blocks of the European Digital Infrastructure that provides technical specifications and standards, installable software and ancillary services to allow projects to create a network of nodes for secure digital data exchange. The eDelivery included the deployment of an Access Point and a Service Metadata Publisher (SMP).

The implementation has allowed Lighthouse BCS to receive electronic invoices and credit notes for processing them automatically in their internal IT environment. The deployed Access Point and SMP are conformant with CEF eDelivery specifications and their functionality has passed the connectivity testing with the eDelivery core service platform. “Lighthouse is delighted to now have the ability to accept invoices from any PEPPOL enabled organisations and we believe that this will greatly increase the adoption of Supply Chain Financing in the new digital economy.” – stated Donal Sullivan, Director, Lighthouse BCS

Celeris offered significant support for the eDelivery implementation thanks to its long experience in the implementation of eDelivery components. One of the critical aspects has been the security configuration, such as dealing with certificates, keystores and truststores. Another challenge has been the AS4 PMode (processing mode) configuration. Celeris provided a PMode template to reduce errors. “We are happy to be part of this project contributing to an increase of the EU digital building blocks adoption in the fintech industry” – stated Carmen Ciciriello, CEO, Celeris Advisory.

IT Sligo were delighted to project manage, coordinate and offer their technical expertise for this project. It also gave us another evidential platform to further disseminate the interoperability capacity of the eDelivery specifications and tool set.” – commented Padraig Harte, Project Coordinator. Presentations were given achieving interoperability using the eDelivery specifications to Public bodies in Ireland and to SMEs and Service Providers across the EU.

Ultimately, the implementation has shown how the Fintech industry can benefit from having an eDelivery Access Point for receiving structured documents within a secure network and from known sources, thereby improving the quality and trust of the processed data, which are used as a basis for eInvoice payment and Supply Chain Financing.

The Water Health Open knoWledge (WHOW) project

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The WHOW project, launched in September 2020 and ending in August 2023 under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) framework, represents a significant step towards achieving the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular Goal #6 on Sustainable Water Management and Sanitation.

By promoting actions at the regional level, the UN Agenda urges countries to integrate Goal # 6, along with its target and indicators, into their national development plans by focusing on the issues regarding water management. Furthermore, it suggests an all-inclusive and strongly co-operational approach.

Relying on the data available in the United Nations Global SDG Indicators Database, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) released the 2021 assessment of SDG progress in the region. The Progress Index reports that the region will fully achieve 23 of the 169 SDG targets by 2030, while  progress needs to accelerate on another 57 targets, and for 9 targets, the current trend needs to be reversed. “With 80 targets out of the total 169 that cannot be adequately measured by official statistics, it is also a reminder of the magnitude of the work still ahead of us to measure the complexity of sustainable development in an internationally comparable manner.” – UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova stated.

The WHOW project will address the issue of data quality and harmonization. The project intends to create the first European knowledge graph on water consumption and pollution, with data sources coming from different administrative levels. It will link this environmental data to health data on disease diffusion. The WHOW project partners will integrate datasets from Italy and other European countries, as well as through data available on the European Data Portal (EDP) and the Copernicus Space Infrastructure, making them available for re-use.

WHOW promotes a set of actions aiming at designing fully distributed systems that are sustainable over time, managing large amounts of data available in real time, opening data (currently not publicly available) in compliance with the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) principles and building common semantics compliant with reference standards sector that can contribute to harmonized and standardized data at the European level. These actions will be coupled with the capacity building activities within the partners’ organization and an external engagement programme for interested communities and users from the public and private sector.

The Action will support the development of the European service infrastructure for Public Open Data fostering the development of products and services based on the re-use and combination of environmental data and health data on disease diffusion.

Celeris Advisory Ltd (Ireland) is  the Coordinator of the project, while other partners include the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), the Innovation and procurement regional Company of Lombardy Region S.p.A. (ARIA) and the Italian National Research Council – Institute of cognitive sciences and technologies (CNR-ISTC).

“WHOW is an ambitious and challenging project as it aims to address a key global issue.  It consists in achieving higher data quality and comparable data for the SDG Goals. Our efforts will be focused on data harmonization for selected SDG #6 indicators. This is our contribution to filling the current data knowledge gap to the benefit of the EU and the international community.” – Carmen Ciciriello, CEO Celeris Advisory and WHOW project Coordinator.

These challenges demonstrate a strong need for international cooperation and a fertile ground to combine efforts and find effective solutions within a sustainable timeframe. The UN Agenda requires countries and regions to achieve the SDG Goals by the end of 2030.