X-Road® is a open-source software and ecosystem solution that provides unified and secure data exchange between organisations. The basic idea of X-Road is that members of an ecosystem exchange data through access points (Security Servers) that implement the same technical specifications. X-Road is a digital public good, available free of charge.
X-Road was initially developed in Estonia in 2001 and is now used by different countries and organisations as a system to exchange data securely. Together with Finland and Iceland, the Nordic Insitute of Interoperability Solutions (NIIS) is responsible for the continuous development of the system. The Institute’s CEO, Ville Sirviö, explained in an interview with the IM+io magazine how such a high-security data exchange system for the public sector was built and the risks and benefits of having information systems connected to the Internet.
IM+io: Unlike Estonia, digitalisation in Germany’s public sector has been lagging behind. Could you explain what X-Road is and what it does?
VS: X-Road is a software solution with roots in Estonia which has been implemented by numerous countries around the world. Today Estonia, Finland and Iceland are working together on the continuous development of this solution. X-Road is a centrally managed, distributed data exchange layer that transfers data between information systems in the public and private sectors. It provides a standardised way to produce and consume services while at the same time placing a high value on security. The security features include machine-level authentication, transport-level encryption, timestamping, digital signatures of messages and logging of messages.
IM+io: How was the idea of this system born? What is your success story?
For many years governments in Europe have been using closed private networks to exchange official data between authorities. These networks usually are fully private and are not connected to the public Internet. A network of that type did not exist.
The solution the X-Road inventors in Estonia came up with was to set up a software-based system that uses