GCN Insider | Products & Trends that affect the way government uses technology
FORM: European agencies use UBL for transactions.
In the past few years, European agencies have been putting the Universal Business Language to work in a major way. Should U.S. agencies take a closer look? It just might be worthwhile.
UBL is an Extensible Markup Language-based schema for documents used for business transactions, such as standard fields for ordering products, billing and invoicing. Last December, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards approved Version 2 of the UBL.
In 2005, Denmark mandated that all public-sector billing be done in the UBL format. It is now tapering off its practice of exchanging business documents through Electronic Data Interchange-based Value-Added Networks. More than 440,000 Danish businesses are now e-mailing more than 1 million UBL-based invoices per month to government agencies, a number the government hopes to increase to 190 million annually. By doing so, the country should save more than $265 million annually, said Mikkel Hippe Brun, chief technical adviser of Denmark's National IT and Telecom Agency at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. (For a summary of this implementation, go to GCN.com/751.)
'In Denmark, we could save 10 minutes handling time on each invoice. It really adds up when you have 18 million of them,' Brun said. 'Our vision is that it should be as easy to exchange business documents as it is to send an e-mail.'
In addition to Denmark, officials from Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom are contributing to the further development of UBL, said Jon Bosak, who is chairman of the OASIS UBL technical committee.
'There's no doubt that Europe has taken the lead in e-commerce initiatives such as UBL,' Bosak said. He is seeing advancement in the United States, though. The Transportation Department is testing UBL for its Electronic Freight Management pilot, an attempt to bridge closed inventory systems among freight carriers and manufacturers. Also, he noted that UBL 2.0 has been registered at ET.gov, and a Federal UBL Community of Practice is being formed with plans to get UBL inserted into the Federal Enterprise Architecture Technical Reference Model. So, one day soon you may be getting invoices and receipts via the format.