Department of CJM and publiq connect culture players with data-driven platform
Connecting cultural houses, museums and event organizers with the entire Flemish public through historical data and personal interests. That is the ultimate dream of the Flemish Department of Culture, Youth and Media (CJM). But before they can use insights to launch new services, data must first be shared. For that purpose, ACA Group is helping the department to implement a platform based on a data mesh architecture.
We would like to outline the desired scenario. A Flemish resident with an interest in culture will soon be able to explore the global cultural offer with his smartphone. This cultural offer is location-based, shows interesting information and takes into account availability, interest (historical or set), history and crowds. The offer is presented with services related to transport, food, reception, etc. All based on real-time information. The user can immediately book a ticket and receive immediate confirmation, all from one app.
Benefits for the cultural sector
In addition, there are a number of possible USPs (unique selling propositions) that not only make the platform interesting for current cultural providers, but should also enable new providers and new and better services:
- Unburdening and joint management of the infrastructure, platform development and hosting of a culture platform
- Encouraging and open sharing of data will lead to new insights and innovative services
- Near real-time insights into cultural participation and availability
- Data insights, suggestions and predictions to better align culture with needs
- Parties can have complete, partial or anonymized data delivered or consulted securely
- Share data via OSLO linked data standards to other departments or players
Targeted Digital Transformation
The cultural world has had a hard time during the past pandemic. To revitalize the sector, heavy investments are being made in digital innovations. An important part of this recovery plan is the 'Targeted Digital Transformation' (DDT) program, with which the Flemish Department of Culture, Youth and Media (CJM) wants to bring the cultural offer to the right target audience and feed back insights to the event organizers. Ultimately, this should also increase general cultural participation in Flanders.
Stimulate collaboration with a data-driven approach
The department's ultimate goal is to support the digital transformation in the cultural sector through a data-driven collaboration. Most culture providers still work in their own silos, which means there is virtually no flow of data. This makes it almost impossible to generate analytical insights, let alone develop innovative services based on data. Another consequence is that users often have to enter the same information repeatedly.
With a data-driven approach, the CJM department wants to merge the fragmented data landscape of the cultural sector on one platform. Not with an approach where everything is managed by a central data team, but with a working method that is scalable for the entire sector and allows different parties to share and reuse datasets themselves.
Data mesh architecture
The answer lies in data mesh, an innovative architectural style that makes it possible for teams to develop data solutions coherently, yet each from their own domain. It is the ideal solution for complex organizations with numerous individual parties, such as in the Flemish cultural world. A decentralized approach in which every player can work independently is much more logical and efficient than having all data solutions for the entire sector centrally realized and managed by one data team.
For the implementation of this architecture, the CJM Department awarded the contract to ACA Group because of their strong case. Not only does ACA have experience with data mesh and microservices, it also has extensive knowledge of cloud-native technology and Kubernetes, the software on which the platform is built.
Flexible, cost-efficient and secure
Data mesh encourages cultural players to view their data as a product that they want to share and make discoverable by other parties. Since no central data team is needed to exchange data, this data can be exchanged directly between the 'producer' and the 'consumer' using self-service tools. No matter how many players participate in the future, the data architecture can be scaled very flexibly.
Once the foundation is in place and cultural sector players have access to data products, they can very quickly generate analytical insights, which can be the starting point for the design of innovative services. The system will also guarantee that repetitive data entry is eliminated, such as when creating an event or applying for a subsidy. As this solution is collectively utilized across the sector, individual investments in technology and infrastructure are unnecessary, thereby reducing the total cost of ownership.
Anyone discussing data should of course prioritize security. The platform employs KMaaS, which stands for Key Management-as-a-Service. Consequently, data encryption consistently relies on keys furnished by the Flemish government.
Broad landscape of data products
The long-term potential of a data mesh solution for the CJM Department and the cultural sector became evident during the project's initial stages. Following consultations with various stakeholders, ACA Group successfully identified an extensive landscape, comprising approximately forty known applications and roughly sixty related data products. This, however, represents only a fraction of the possibilities, as we have not yet fully explored the entire cultural sector.
During the summer of 2022, a dedicated project team initiated the development of the solution. Implementing data mesh requires a multidisciplinary approach, so ACA Group assembled a diverse team comprising a project manager, analysts, architects, cloud engineers, data engineers, and software engineers. This composition allowed for ongoing cross-pollination throughout the development process. The CJM Department's decision to partner with ACA was significantly influenced by their ability to bring together these diverse skill sets in-house and leverage their expertise in data mesh practices and knowledge.
A new way of experiencing culture
The platform demo received a positive response from project stakeholders in late 2022 and mid-2023, with the platform set to launch in the autumn of 2023. Following implementation, the system's operation will be overseen by publiq, with ACA Group providing support to ensure a seamless transition by the end of 2023.
In the years ahead, the sector will embrace a more digital approach thanks to this platform. It will facilitate numerous sector-specific use cases. Firstly, by connecting visitors with cultural events or activities that align with their interests. Access to data will enable features like historical-based recommendations and one-step ticket ordering. Secondly, organizers themselves will benefit from receiving feedback, such as insights into the audiences attending similar events and strategies to reach those individuals. The ultimate goal is to provide a hypermodern cultural experience through personalized offerings, driving Flemish cultural participation to unprecedented heights.
In the meantime, other government organizations are also discovering the potential of data for innovative services to citizens. Here too, a data mesh architecture has a lot of potential.
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⭐ Project team in the spotlight
The people behind this major project for the Flemish Government, and digital transformation within the Culture Sector.
Hans Van der Linden - Program Manager Digital Transformation
Hans advises on the management of the digital transformation of the cultural sector and operationalizes the vision statement “Towards a powerful cultural sector in digital times”. He was involved in determining the business case and elaboration of the DDT program.
“The DDT project is an important stimulus for the digital transformation of the cultural sector. By setting up this exchange platform utilizing data mesh technology, and powered by OSLO standardization, the CJM department, publiq and ACA are creating a basis for an open, data-driven ecosystem that shapes the principles we embrace to drive the digital transformation of the cultural sector towards success.”
Leander Price - Head of Division Knowledge and Policy Dep. CJM
Leander is responsible for the Knowledge and Policy Division within the CJM Department. The DDT program was started and monitored from his division. With 13 years of experience working for the Flemish government across different departments, he has been serving as the Head of Division Knowledge and Policy since 2020. In this role, he focuses on strategy and the execution of diverse projects and innovative solutions.
“Data is the driving force for the digital transformation within the cultural sector. The CJM department and publiq are developing, in collaboration with ACA, a data exchange platform that stimulates the sharing and reuse of data within the sector. Through this building block, new innovative services and products can be developed for the cultural participant and the cultural sector gains better insights into the public interests in cultural activities.”
Bart Temmerman - Secretary General Dep. CJM
Bart is no stranger to the Flemish Cultural Sector. He was at the helm of publiq for 14 years and launched products such as UiTPAS and museumPASSmusées. In addition, he realized various organizational changes such as the merger with CJP and the integration with Vitamin C. Since July 1, 2023, he has been Secretary General for the CJM Department and continues to expand the vision and future of the department as a passionate leader and inspiring motivator.
“A government is well placed to provide incentives to stimulate the digital transformation of the cultural sector. The data exchange platform that the CJM department and publiq developed together with ACA is an important step in building a digital ecosystem that can perpetuate the (digital) relevance of the cultural sector in the future. In other words, it is an important step to make the cultural sector effective in digital times.”
José Rotsaert - Program Manager Dep. CJM
As a DDT program manager, Jose has monitored the entire project from the preliminary study, product and platform development, and go-live preparation. Jose has built up a broad experience in the media sector and started 2 years ago as an external Program Manager DDT for the Flemish Government.
"The new cultural ecosystem that we are building with ACA through the DDT project must meet a number of important criteria as demanded by both the department and publiq. The data mesh architecture supports an open ecosystem in which data producers and data consumers can participate. Through the use of OSLO data standards, the interoperability of data within the cultural sector is achieved. The platform is built on the basis of open source components and cloud-native technology to maximize the benefits of scalability, flexibility and independence without sacrificing security. A future integration with SOLID data vaults ensures that citizens retain control over their personal data."
Sven Houtmeyers - CTO publiq
Sven has been working at publiq vzw for 18 years and knows publiq's technical stack like no other. Recently, he has assumed the role of CTO at publiq, where he will steer the company towards technological and innovative horizons, as well as oversee the DDT Platform under his purview, assuming full responsibility for its management.
“For a year, publiq has been working with ACA on this challenging project, and in fact the relevance and value of “uitwisselingsplatform.be” (exchange platform) is still growing every day. Because for publiq, this platform, based on the Data Mesh principles, is one of the building blocks of the future. By utilizing the power of Cloud Native components and the full potential of Linked Open Data, we can generate a clear web of data products from which the entire sector can realize added value. With this platform, data product developers, inside and outside publiq, can place their data on the platform in an accessible way, transform it and make it available in a Kubernetes cluster in just a few minutes. With the option of different output ports, the data becomes reusable in a stable, high-performance and interoperable way for numerous use cases, where we want to optimize existing processes, but above all dream of new projects such as 'The Audience Finder', a new search engine for culture and youth infrastructure, a 'Last Minute Ticketing' application and much more. And thus once again fulfilling publiq's mission, namely offering participants information and inspiration, and turning seekers into finders.”
Peter Jans - Strategy, Cloud & Innovation Advocate ACA Group
Peter has worked in various roles and companies, mainly as a leader, coach, strategist and innovator, helping projects and customers to make a difference in the market. With his technical background and passion for cloud-native, software, infrastructure and data, he and many colleagues have converted the DDT project and program into a working result that lives on as “uitwisselingsplatform.be” (exchange platform).
“DDT has become a challenging and innovative project. Together with the various stakeholders and the ACA team members involved, we have worked hard to create a safe and reliable platform that will be able to realize the objectives and use cases in the short and long term. A platform is never finished, and further development will be necessary and useful, but I am very optimistic that we will hear a lot more about this. The now proven cloud native and data mesh platform approach will also have potential for other stakeholders and within other departments of the Flemish government to realize their challenges. ”
Tom De Wolf - Data Mesh Expert, Architect & Innovation lead ACA Group
Tom has a very broad background in architecture and innovative solutions. Based on expertise in Data Mesh, Domain Driven Design, Evolutionary Architecture, and Platform Engineering, Tom has developed the architectural vision, approach, and solution for the DDT program and, together with many colleagues, converted it into a working result. As the founder and organizer of the Data Mesh Belgium meetups, he is very active in the broader data mesh community.
“As ACA Group, we always strive for innovative solutions to deliver maximum added value to our customers through innovation. Applying Data Mesh across an entire sector is a challenge that we have taken on together with the Department of CJM and publiq. The result is impressive and has the potential to support a data-driven cultural sector and to market various innovative services.”
Of course, a complete team is necessary to effectively achieve something, and the following colleagues were certainly involved in providing analysis, feedback, development, sponsorship, acting as a sounding board, and managing the project. This achievement wouldn't have been possible without their contributions!
From the CJM Department numerous involved employees
From the cultural sector numerous involved employees
From Digitaal Vlaanderen numerous involved employees
From publiq (among others)
Hans, Stan, Erwin, Kristof, Paul, Frederik, Sven, Karen
From ACA (among others)
Bram, Bregt, Carl, Jan, Joppe, Leonardo, Matthias, Peter, Thomas, Tom, Ugur
And many others. Thanks everyone! 🙌
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