XML portal in the works
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Dec 03, 2000
A working group of the federal CIO Council plans to launch a portal next
month to promote and coordinate the use of a technology that will help agencies
more easily exchange data internally and with one another.
The council's XML Working Group is putting the final touches on XML.gov,
which will be a resource and demonstration site for Extensible Markup Language
(XML) technology. A prototype of the portal exists now, and the
group hopes to take the site live in January.
"We hope that XML.gov will be the focal point for all government agencies
to go to to learn XML and to experience XML and share XML experiences,"
said Marion Royal, an agency expert at the General Services Administration
and co-chairman of the XML Working Group. "Some agencies have spent time
and investments in XML that we'd like to leverage."
Other agencies can see how they can apply XML to meet federal regulations
such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires agencies to
make office equipment and Web sites accessible to people with disabilities,
The XML specification makes it simpler for applications to exchange
information by defining a common way to identify and package it. Interoperability
is easier, however, if agencies agree on common definitions. As a result,
the XML.gov site may someday host an online registry that contains XML definitions
agencies use, Royal said. "The registry also allows agencies to make sure
they are in alignment with industry registrations, XML schemas and data
elements," Royal said. "But first we will decide whether or not it's necessary
to have one."
Industry registries may exist that government can use without making
its own. Meanwhile, the Defense Department is developing XML registries
for an XML.mil site.
GSA and the working group first plan to identify core elements that
exist on forms commonly used across government, said Owen Ambur, co-chair-man
of the XML Working Group and a U.S. Fish and Wild-life Service official.
There is an opportunity for agencies to define some of these elements, such
as name and Social Security number, the same way using registry definitions.
"XML can help facilitate communication between different systems and
also provides a means to reconcile those differences so we have one common
schema for government years down the road," Ambur said. Many agencies — including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, DOD and GSA — have already
begun using XML.
USPTO began accepting online patent applications in October. The applications
use XML, which makes them easier to publish and process. "We can access
the data in the documents for use in our internal systems without having
to re-key or convert the data using optical character recognition," said
Deron Burba, manager of USPTO's Patent Re- engineering Systems Division.
Share and share alike
The CIO Council's Enterprise Inter-operability and Emer-ging Information
Technology Committee has chartered the XML Working Group to undertake four
* Identify pertinent standards and best practices.
* Establish partnerships with industry and public-interest groups.
* Establish partnerships with governmental communities of interest.
* Coordinate education and outreach.