Flemish Government portal wins e-Gov awards

10 December 2018

The public research portal Flanders Research Information Space (FRIS) won the 2018 e-Gov Awards! The portal, developed by Acolad Digital for the Department of Economy, Science and Innovation of the Flemish Government (EWI), was distinguished in two categories: “Best project” and “Open data”. The award ceremony took place on Thursday evening, December 6, at the Palace of Colonies in Tervuren, Belgium.

The awards are hosted annually by Agoria, the federation for the technology industry in Belgium, to reward government initiatives that improve public service through digital technologies. The jury assesses projects based on five aspects: user-friendliness, profitability, innovation, collaboration and 'open data'.

Johan Hanssens, Secretary General of the Department of Economy, Science and Innovation of the Flemish Government (EWI), commented on this recognition, “data is the raw material of the 21st century, and the sooner data becomes widely accessible and free to circulate, the faster citizens, organizations and companies can innovate and create prosperity. We are very proud of this e-Gov award, which proves that Governments too can be at the forefront of serving citizens, companies and researchers in Flanders and the world.”

FRIS is a regional research portal that aims to bring researchers closer together and accelerate access to information from Flemish companies and knowledge institutes. The portal gathers data from 75,000 researchers, 29,000 research projects and 300,000 scientific publications from no fewer than 13 institutions.

To bring to life the Flemish government’s ambition of making data from scientific research accessible to everyone, Acolad built the FRIS portal in Drupal 8 with an Apache SOLR backend. The SOLR search functionality was a central feature in the portal to ensure optimal search performance and usability. Scalability was another success factor for the project, as the retrieval of detail pages in the FRIS Portal needed to happen in real time from an underlying FRIS Platform using REST services.

“We have developed FRIS in such a way that information flows directly and daily from the systems of the knowledge institutions to our system, and we can also offer them immediately accessible, open and reusable data”, explained Leen Van Campe, FRIS Program Manager FRIS.

Since the first release of the portal in November 2017, Acolad has been working with the Flemish government on developing new features to further improve user experience as well as ensure the platform runs in a performant way. “Everything runs automatically and through standardized interfaces, which is a very unique approach, also worldwide, and we will continue to build on that in the future, for example by opening up more information such as our strategic research centers and colleges and by linking to international data sources”, Leen Van Campe added.

Award-winning success stories in the public sector

This is not the first time Acolad projects with governmental institutions have come to public attention for pioneering change and helping deliver better services for citizens. The EIC innovators community platform launched last September is expected to generate a Europe-wide positive impact on growth, trade and investment. Another example is the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, who has placed The Netherlands as a benchmark for next generation citizen engagement and online public services. Last year, the online heritage platform Erfgoedplus of the Province of Limburg, Belgium, won the prestigious Europa Nostra Award, considered the highest recognition in the cultural heritage field in Europe.

For Acolad, “achieving this level of recognition is testament to our people”, said Sylvie Versteylen, Executive Vice President Digital Experience. As Sylvie highlighted, “it’s always an enormous opportunity to help the government and public sector organizations with digital solutions that allow them to work more efficiently and to offer better services to citizens and businesses”.

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