Interview with Ann Verhaegen, head of AKOV
Why was the LED database created?
Ann Verhaegen: “The idea of the LED database arose within the framework of the policy of former Minister Vandenbroucke, then responsible for education and work. He wanted to centralise the information about the level of education of the Flemish people, among other things because within O&V financing mechanisms are sometimes based on the level of education."
How does the database work?
Ann Verhaegen: “LED is becoming a large authentic source for anything related to certificates of learning or professional competence. Citizens and customers can – within the limits of their authorisation - consult data regarding training certificates from this source through web services.
Currently, the VDAB, Syntra, the Higher Education Database and secondary education provide the necessary information regarding the level of education of the Flemish people. The number of suppliers will probably still increase.
The MAGDA platform – Flemish Crossroads Bank for Individuals (VKBP) service – plays an important and central role in LED, as it is impossible to get data directly from the database. When a supplier adds data to the database, MAGDA first checks these personal data with regard to their authenticity. Only after this check, the MAGDA platform transfers the data to LED. On the other hand, customers such as the VDAB also have to register with MAGDA. A customer has the right to retrieve data for those clients that grant permission to retrieve these data. The VDAB requests the information from MAGDA; MAGDA retrieves the information from the database and transfers it to the VDAB. A citizen can also retrieve or check his/her own data in the database.
Moreover, MAGDA updates the State Register numbers by regularly sending mutations.
Access control is carried out through the ACM platform (Access Control Management) of the Government of Flanders. The ACM platform is based on strong authentication. Logging in is possible by means of the eID or the federal token.”
What will LED be used for?
Ann Verhaegen: “LED supports in the first instance the service provision of the VDAB. When guiding customers, the VDAB can directly retrieve the diploma, which results in an administrative simplification for the customer. Moreover, the database is an instrument supporting an improved labour market policy. The aggregated data from the database allow the VDAB to follow up more efficiently the number of graduates and their training programmes.
Other authorities – including the federal authorities – show great interest in LED. The structure of the database makes it possible for other entities, within and outside the Government of Flanders, to plug in. The Privacy Commission and the ‘Vlaamse Toezichtcommissie’ (Flemish Supervisory Commission) have to grant permission to that end, as it concerns personal data. That is why currently only public authorities can join, and no private companies are granted access to LED.”
Critical success factors?
Ann Verhaegen: “Such a comprehensive project requires a strong project leader who coordinates the activities of the entities concerned. Someone who has the required IT knowledge to steer the consultation with e-IB (CORVE) and the supplier in the right direction.
The involvement of the senior civil servants is important as well. That is why we report to them every month. It is necessary to keep LED on the agenda, especially in times of limited financial resources. Soon we will also start the external promotion by means of a website and a broad communication campaign.”
Ann Verhaegen: “VDAB and Syntra are no customers of the Common ICT Service Provision, but instead have their own ICT systems that had to be connected. However, the main challenge was to create a taxonomy, an umbrella classification system for all diplomas. All partners indeed have to speak the same language and use identical concepts – in order to avoid misunderstandings in the communication between the different entities.”
Ann Verhaegen: “LED offers enormous extension opportunities in terms of both suppliers and customers. In time, the examination board and Narik will join. These bodies are responsible for the recognition and equivalence of foreign diplomas. The Education and Training Department will use LED as well. In time, staff members in the education sector will probably no longer have to send in their diplomas. On the basis of the LED data, one will indeed know exactly which training a teacher followed, which courses he/she can teach and which wage scale he/she will come under.
What advice do you have for your colleague senior civil servant?
Ann Verhaegen: “When launching such a project, you must first look around to see what is already available: whether there are ICT building blocks you can re-use, in order to avoid double payment for components that already exist. Make sure you use existing standards and do not have any new ones developed. All of this fits in perfectly with decisive governance, one of the breakthroughs of ‘Flanders in Action’.
Moreover, it is interesting to consult user groups about several IT themes: web services, shared platforms, ... in order to keep up to date with the progress and plans in those areas.”