The Crossroads Bank for Enterprises: E-government and administrative streamlining
The Crossroads Bank for Enterprises is a register that stores all basic data regarding enterprises and their individual business locations. It incorporates data from the former national register of legal entities, the former trade register, the VAT register, and the Social Security Administration, and it is kept up to date by the authorised organisations that input the data. All the existing data from the above-mentioned sources was combined by the Federal Public Service for the Economy in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (CBE), which provides a truly centralised "crossroads" of data on companies.
The CBE stores enterprise identification data in a uniform manner and it makes this information available to all authorised departments and organisations from a central source. This has many advantages. For government departments, the predominant advantage is that they can be sure of having the most current and correct data. Besides the advantage of obtaining correct information, there is a reduction in time and effort because enterprises no longer have to deal with a variety of departments and agencies as in the past.
The advantages for enterprises are even greater, because now they only have to supply their identification data to the government once. After an enterprise has been allocated an identification number, stating this number is all that is required to allow public service departments to request the information from the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises. That's administrative streamlining on a major scale.
In conjunction with the CBE, it was also decided to modernise the Trade Register. Consequently, the procedure for registering as a commercial enterprise has been refashioned. From now on, anyone who wishes to register a commercial or trade enterprise can go to any desired 'enterprise counter' to have the enterprise registered in the Trade Register and complete the formalities necessary to be admitted to the business or vocation.
CBE Public Search
To give citizens an opportunity to obtain information on their enterprise number, the Federal Public Service for the Economy, SMEs, the Self-Employed and Energy developed an Internet application called ‘CBE Public Search’. This allows citizens to view certain other data in addition to enterprise numbers. All of this is limited to public data.
The developers of this program were obliged to comply with several legal restrictions regarding privacy, and for this reason it is not possible to view all of the data. Developing an application that provides convenient public access while taking legal restrictions into account was not a simple task.
The application allows users to search for an enterprise using its enterprise number (its VAT number preceded by a ‘0’) or a search word (the name of the enterprise), optionally accompanied by a postcode.
These search options allow the data to be queried in a simple manner. Citizens can request corrections if necessary by filling in special forms, which are available on the Public Search website.
Software from SAS®: a reliable partner for demanding requirements
From the ICT perspective, developing this application was a major challenge with a high risk content. One of the factors was the strict deadline of 1 January 2005, the date when enterprise numbers became obligatory for all communications with government bodies. That meant that CBE Public Search had become the predominant source of information for looking up an enterprise’s own number and the numbers of customers, suppliers, and other parties.
Another factor was the initial load, which was difficult to estimate. Unlike ordinary websites, which experience gradual growth, the on-line launch of CBE Public Search was combined with an enormous marketing campaign, including a press conference, mailings, and so on. That meant that an immense number of site visits would occur during the first few days, which could be as much as ten times the load level reached after one month of service.
These requirements led us to choose a full SAS solution. The daily extraction, transformation and data loading can be handled very quickly in SAS. The data structure was thoroughly optimised and tested, with the result that the average elapsed time for a single request is only 54 milliseconds. Furthermore, a standard SAS n-tier configuration was selected with Java Server Pages and SAS middleware (AppDev Studio™). The latter proved to be a very flexible and high-performance tier for load balancing. If necessary, additional mid-tier or back-end servers can be switched on within a fraction of a second to meet an initial peak demand.
And last but not least, the system features up-to-date weblog reporting every half hour, real-time monitoring, and a mobile phone alert system: in the event of an anomaly, a text message is sent to the webmasters within three minutes.
Creation of the 'Crossroads Bank for Enterprises', a register that stores all basic data regarding enterprises and their individual business locations
Administrative streamlining on a major scale