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The U.K. Cabinet Office Solves the Open Standards Policy Conundrum

The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Governments certainly have more than enough to concern themselves with these days – financial crises, natural disasters and terrorism, to name just a few. Given that’s the case, it’s surprising that so many are finding the time to worry about what kind of standards the products and services they purchase comply with. But they are.

That’s the case in the EU, where the final terms of version 2.0 of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) were the subject of heated debate, resulting in a watered down definition of what should be regarded as acceptable standards for use in enabling communications between EU member nations. It’s also the case within those EU member states that are considering adopting definitions similar to the original formulation that appeared in the original, 2004 version of the EIF.

It’s somewhat ironic that this discussion is occurring not in the context of standards generally, but with respect to information technology (IT) standards, where the standards of greatest concern are those that enable interoperability. I say ironic, because once a standard has become universally adopted in the marketplace, customers – including governments – have little choice but to adopt it as well, because interoperability standards not only enable government IT systems to interact with each other, but also with the citizenry. Moreover, one great economic benefit that can be gained from procuring products and services that comply with widely adopted standards is that it protects the purchaser from becoming locked in to the proprietary products and services of a single vendor.