Saturday, September 24, 2005

Subject: new open standards initiative - three more links/stories

The report on open technology standards released today at the World Bank, was the result of a meeting convened by the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School, with participants from 13 countries and a collaboration with IBM and Oracle.

The report itself is here: Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems and the web site for the project is here: a story from InfoWorld: urges IT open standards in World Bank report Participants claim open standards are critical to economic growth and innovation By Nancy Weil, IDG News ServiceSeptember 09, 2005

A road map aimed at guiding governments and companies in the development of open information and communication technologies is being presented Friday at a World Bank meeting in New York by a group comprised of academics, government officials and industry representatives. The Open ePolicy Group contends that the adoption of open standards is vital to global economic growth and innovation.
"Almost by necessity, a new openness, fueled by a wave of information and communication technologies (ICT), is evolving and unlocking the efficiencies, standardization and flexibility needed to propel the transformation of governments and businesses," says the report, which included input from representatives of 13 nations and is spearheaded by the Berkman Center of Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp. have also been involved in the project leading to the report.
Open standards are defined by the group as those that are not proprietary, or owned by any one company, and that are published and freely available for use by developers. However, the road map does not focus on any one aspect of what the group calls an open "ICT ecosystem," but covers various components. Such an ecosystem "encompasses the policies, strategies, processes, information, technologies, applications and stakeholders that together make up a technology environment for a country, government or an enterprise. Most importantly, and ICT ecosystem includes people -- diverse individuals who create, buy, sell, regulate, manage and use technology."
An open ICT system allows for interoperability across "diverse architectures," is user-centric, collaborative, sustainable and flexible, according to the report, which emerged out of a meeting arranged last February by the Berkman Center and which has led to ongoing work by meeting participants. Open standards are not the same as open-source software, the road map says. Both open-source software and proprietary software are components of an open-standards approach, according to the report.
A standard is open when it has six elements, the report says. Such a standard "cannot be controlled by any single person or entity with any vested interests" and further evolves and is managed is a "transparent process." Such systems also are "platform independent, vendor neutral and usable for multiple implementations," as well as being "openly published," and "available royalty free or at minimal cost." The standard also is open if it is "approved through due process by rough consensus among participants."
Though the report says proprietary software can be part of an open-standards systems, the ePolicy Group's road map comes out at a time when Microsoft Corp.'s Windows is under increasing pressure from open-source advocates worldwide. In an effort to lower costs, enhance open systems, enhance security and promote local developers, national and municipal governments around the world have started drafting policies that call for adoption of open-source software.
The ePolicy Group report says that governments should be among the participants in the process that leads to open standards and "play a critical role in the adoption and endorsement of open standards," and contends that government policy should mandate choice in technology.
Bolstering the role of government, the report outlines specific open ICT ecosystems employed by various nations, including Denmark's eBusiness initiative, aimed at creating a centralized ordering and invoicing process that is expected to save the country €160 million (US$198 million).
Denmark's initiative uses work by the OASIS Universal Business Language Technical Committee and the open standard UBL specification. The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, or OASIS, is a nonprofit international consortium focused on e-business standards. The group includes more than 4,000 participants that represent over 600 organizations and other members, including Sun Microsystems Inc., Oracle, IBM, SAP AG, Nokia Corp., General Motors Corp. and Microsoft.
"For many governments, open ICT ecosystems are becoming a key element of their economic development strategy. They see a virtuous cycle of openness increasing access to technology and market opportunities for local industries," the report says. Open systems also foster competition, which is good for users as well as to drive economic growth, and the same is said for innovation and efficiency. "Open technologies lower barriers in the marketplace and in the community," the report says. "Open standards, in particular, allow any company or person to build on existing protocols and procedures, and to innovate on top of them."
Such systems evolve over time, says the report, which offers examples showing how open ICT systems can be developed.
Interestingly, the 33-page report opens with a recounting of last December's tsunami that sounds eerily akin to similar issues that arose after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast not quite two weeks ago. "Responding agencies and nongovernmental groups are unable to share information vital to the rescue effort," the report recalls of the government in Thailand in the tsunami's immediate aftermath. "Each uses different data and document formats. Relief is slowed; coordination is complicated. The need for common, open standards for disaster management was never more stark or compelling."
The government in Thailand created a common Web site for registering missing persons and also made open file formats "an immediate national priority," the report says.
The road map is meant to be a starting point for consideration and "a catalyst for changing mental models globally about ICT ecosystems and pathways to innovation," wrote Jeff Kaplan, director of the Berkman center and founder of the Open ePolicy Group, in an introduction to the report. The group's Web site is

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