Relieving the burden on IT specialists in local authorities – with the OZG Cloud

The OZG-Cloud is a pioneering project to advance the digitalization of administration in Germany. The platform, which was commissioned by the state of Schleswig-Holstein and the IT-Verbund Schleswig-Holstein (ITV.SH) and developed under an open source license, offers local authorities the opportunity to process applications from online services. The advantages: Reduction of workload, collaboration option between individual municipalities and forwarding of digital applications to specialist processes. The connection to the OZG cloud also means less work for IT specialists. Christian Thomsen, OZG Cloud project manager, explains why this is the case and how long the connection usually takes in an interview.

Short & concise:

  • Connecting the OZG Cloud requires little effort on the part of IT staff.
  • Interfaces to various technologies are already implemented as standard in the OZG Cloud.
  • Central management with highly automated scripts and technologies saves maintenance work and the installation of updates.

Editorial team: What exactly do I have to do as an IT officer when my municipality is connected to the OZG Cloud?

Christian Thomsen: The effort for the IT managers in the municipalities is actually very low. In the very first step, we only need the name of the municipality and the type of administration, i.e. whether it is a city, a district, an office or a ministry. We also need the name and e-mail address of the administrator or other responsible person. Then we only need the corresponding IP addresses of the administrators who can access the production environments in order to activate them. In this way, we prevent third parties from gaining access to the login. As soon as we have this information, we set up the namespace. The administrator can then log in directly, create users and assign roles. If all the information is available, it takes around 36 hours to fully connect the OZG Cloud.

All that remains to be done is to create the applications in the system – for example from IntelliForm, Form Solutions or Form Cycle. Of course, we are happy to help with this at the beginning. After a short time, the local authorities will be able to do this themselves. Other services can also be easily connected.

Editorial team: Are there any other technical requirements?

Christian Thomsen: All you need to work with the OZG Cloud is an up-to-date Internet browser. There are no other operational tasks. Nothing needs to be set up or installed.

Editorial team: What is the technical architecture behind the OZG Cloud?

Christian Thomsen: Since the launch of the OZG Cloud at the beginning of 2023, the range of functions has expanded significantly. First of all, there is the processor interface. This enables local authorities to connect external systems, such as smaller systems for sending applications or the associated data. The processor interface can be installed accordingly when working with data in a third-party system. Work on this is currently underway and is not yet part of the basic scope. A proof of concept (POC) is currently underway. However, we are certain that the processor interface will be an integral part of the OZG Cloud in the future. And this is where the municipal IT specialists themselves must become active if they want to integrate their own solutions.

The same applies to the creation of notifications. There is an interface for various tools here – we primarily work with Smart Documents. If a local authority has set up a Smart Documents license, the applications are sent there and then sent back. Here too, if you want to connect your own system, you have to do it yourself. The interface is already in productive use in a local authority in Schleswig-Holstein. There are already other interested parties for subsequent use.

Editorial team: Are there currently any other interfaces?

Christian Thomsen: Another innovation we are working on is the DMS connection. This is different in every federal state, but in Schleswig-Holstein it runs via the so-called XTA intermediary at Dataport. The applications are sent via this and the local authorities have to feed this into their DMS systems. Here, too, we have a general interface that we operate and if individual systems are connected, the local authorities have to take action themselves.

Editorial team: And can these three interfaces already be used? Are they included as standard in the OZG Cloud?

Christian Thomsen: The processor interface and the interface for creating notifications can be used at any time. The DMS interface has not yet been finally implemented.

Editorial team: Is the OZG Cloud a “living construct” that is still being developed with the help of the municipalities?

Christian Thomsen: So far, the municipalities have actively driven the project forward based on their needs. The processor interface and the creation of notifications, for example, were specific requests directly from the local authorities, which we were then able to implement very quickly. The DMS connection, i.e. the long-term archiving of documents, is an absolute necessity for local authorities. They therefore also have an interest in a solution that can be connected quickly.

Editorial team: Are there any other innovations for the OZG Cloud?

Christian Thomsen: We are currently working on an application room, which is a very important technology. It enables the processing department to communicate directly with the applicants, i.e. citizens or companies. For example, in the event of queries or if notifications are missing. In Schleswig-Holstein, citizens can reply directly via the OSI mailbox. Other mailboxes, such as the Bund-ID, are not yet able to do this. That is why we are now building a tool that allows them to exchange information very easily. In the long term, this will be developed into a digital communication platform between the administration and citizens.

Editorial team: What advice can be given to municipal IT specialists when connecting to the OZG Cloud?

Christian Thomsen: The most important thing is that nobody needs to be afraid of connecting to the OZG Cloud. No maintenance is required and no updates need to be installed. Everything is managed centrally using highly automated scripts. This means that the applications can be installed and maintained in the existing data centers of the federal states. The technical effort required for maintenance is therefore very low for IT specialists. Particularly in times of scarce resources in the municipalities, our aim is to relieve the burden on IT specialists as much as possible. And we are in a position to administer the entire system centrally with just a few people – not only at local authority level, but also nationwide. This is the only way we see a chance to counteract the shortage of IT specialists in the long term.

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