Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Relevant link of today: Interview with Vint Cerf in German newspaper FAZ

The German newspaper FAZ publishes today an interview with Vint Cerf. It is available on the online edition of the FAZ.

It is a fairly short but good interview - touching on all the relevant aspects currently discussed in the context of the world wide web. Vint Cerf, for instance, stresses that cloud computing is the key paradigm for the internet:
"Beim Cloud Computing bleiben Anwendungen und Daten „in der Wolke“, also im Netz. Dadurch können die Daten topaktuell gehalten, Sicherheitskopien erstellt und die Anwendungen leicht simultan genutzt werden. Auch erscheinen Updates der Anwendungssoftware bei allen Nutzern gleichzeitig, so dass jederzeit Kompatibilität gewährleistet ist. Die Anwendungen „in der Wolke“ können zudem auf die Leistung und Kapazität der Großrechner zugreifen, die Notebooks oder Desktops nie haben werden. [...]"
Other topics discussed include IPv4 vs. IPv6, the issues around copyright, etc. It is certainly worth reading the full interview at: http://www.faz.net/s/Rub4C34FD0B1A7E46B88B0653D6358499FF/Doc~ED8506D3023CA4535916C949085CDDB7C~ATpl~Ecommon~Scontent.html

Monday, 27 July 2009

French Interoperability Framework

The French government recently published the first version of a Référentiel Général d'Interoperabilité, a National Interoperability Framework for ensuring interoperability in eGovernment services.

It is an excellent document outlining the necessity of interoperability and putting it into perspective for public authorities and the development of public administrations' infrastructures and eGovernment services. The document takes a clear stance on the need of standards for achieving genuine interoperability and on the benefits of standards for fostering innovation. And it puts this National Interoperability Framework into the broader context of the European Interoperability Framework and its objectives.
"La référence à des normes et standards externes permet auy pertenaires d'un échange d'aller au-delà de simples arrangemetns bilatéraux, de réutiliser des spécifications existantes e donc de limiteer des coûts liés à la réalisation de solutions spécifiques.

La stratégie européenne pour la croissance et l'emploi prćise qu'une standardisation forte et dynamique est un des instrument pour encourager l'innovation. Elle considère la standardisation comme d'intérêt public, en particulier lorsque la sécurité, la santé, l'environment et les performances sont en jeux (cf. EIF)." [p. 6]

In its detailed passages this interoperability guide lists concrete standards to be implemented for achieving specific functions. This is built up along six different levels of interoperability: political, legal, organisational, semantic, syntactic and technical.

And the document makes very clear that for IT infrastructures and eGovernment services it is essential to take standards and specifications from global open standards development organisations (fora/consortia) which complement the work of the official, formally recognised standards organisations. The principal global bodies taken into consideration are OASIS, W3C, IETF, Ecma, OMG and WS-I [p. 14]. The standards and specifications from these organisations complement the work of the formally recognised organsiations:

"En complément des organisations officielles, le secteur des technologies de l'information et des télécommunications se caractérise par un foisonnement d'organismes qui contribuent à l'évolution des standards." [p. 14]
In this respect, this French interoperability document also underlines the necessity of the changes to the European standardisation framework and the European ICT standardisation policy which the Commission outlined in its White Paper on ICT standardisation earlier this month. See my blog posts of Jul 6 and Jul 7. It is paramount that these legal changes are implemented fast so that the full potential of such strategies like the French interoperability strategy can fully flourish.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Moving up the age of retirement

A new idea has been spread in Germany: to move up the age of retirement to 69. Not immediately, but some time in the future, e.g. in 2060. See, for instance, the respective article in the German newspaper FAZ.

A couple of years ago the German parliament decided to move the age up from 65 to 67. The change process was decided to take place over a period of roughly 20 years, adding 1 month per year. The main reason for these proposed changes are that our current social welfare system is not fully capable of coping with the increase in average life time of people and that the birth rate has fallen dramatically since the 1970s. In effect, in a couple of years there will be far more old age people compared to people being employed and paying taxes and bearing the cost of the pension scheme.

Now, regardless of whether this is true or false, regardless of whether people will really continuously grow older, live longer, enjoy health and happiness longer than before, etc. - there remains one critical question to me: Why introduce the changes in 20 and more years only?

The problems are around already today. And the future impact can be forecast today pretty accurately, as well. In terms of justice and solidarity between generations: Wouldn't it be appropriate to move up the age of retirement right away and use the additional money to be got for accrued reserves for future generations?

Whatever the burden needs to be, in a just society it cannot all be put onto future generations, can it? Otherwise all such proposals and decisions of politicians and officials made a couple of years before they go into early retirement sound rather cynical and egotistic. What is needed is not sexy headlines in the press, but a solid concept how society can manage the required transformations over the next decades in a joint, common and reasonable way.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Relevant link of today: Adjusting EU ICT standardisation policy to the realities of 21 century

This is the European Commission press release to the whitepaper on ICT standardisation I blogged about yesterday: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/09/1085&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=fr

In this press release the Commission stresses again the need for the proposed changes in order to better cope with the needs and challenges of Europe in the globalised world so that innovation, competitiveness and growth can best be achieved. Interoperability is key as well as the ability to be well positioned for responding to "changing societal, market and policy needs", as Vice-President Verheugen put it.

At the beginning of the press release the Commission highlights:
"The landscape for ICT (Information and Communication Technology) standardisation has dramatically changed over the last decade. Alongside the traditional standard stetting organisations, specialised and mostly global fora and consortia have become more active and several have emerged as world-leading ICT standards development bodies, such as those responsible for the standards covering the internet and the World Wide Web."
Read the full press release at the Commission website.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Major EU Commission move towards modernising the European standardisation system

End of last week the European Commission adopted and published a whitepaper on “Modernising ICT Standardisation in the EU - The Way Forward”. The document is available on the Commission website.

This whitepaper is a first step towards a reform of the European standardisation system. It focusses on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and the proposed reform steps might best be described as means for making Europe better equipped to benefit from and operate within the global ICT standardisation ecosystem – to the benefit of innovation, competitiveness and growth in Europe.

I am very supportive of the whitepaper and the proposals therein. In my opinion the Commission tackles the right issues and makes many good suggestions that go into right direction. Some highlights:

  1. The Commission recognises the need for a process for collaborating with global open standards development organisations like W3C, OASIS, IETF, etc. Under the current legal framework these organisations are outside of the European standardisation system and their specifications can not directly be used and referenced in support of EU policies or in public procurement. The proposals in the whitepaper aim for a major improvement in this respect;

  2. The Commission introduces a set of criteria (called attributes in the whitepaper) for ensuring openness of the specifications used and referenced in the public sector. This is the right approach towards ensuring best quality standards – even though there might still be some glitches in the wording of one or the other attribute definition. The criteria are closely derived from the WTO criteria for best practices in standards development. And the Commission's list will ensure that no closed, proprietary standards will be used in the public sector. What is extremely important, in my opinion, is that the criteria include the aspect of implementation – good, open standards need to have been implemented in several, competing implementations.

  3. The Commissions looks at improving the relation between research and development (R&D) and standardisation and the transfer of R&D results into standardisation. This is particularly important for R&D activities on the level of infrastructures and architectures. Every action to facilitate the transfer of such R&D results into open standards will be helpful – for making such work available for open ecosystems design and innovation on top of these results.

  4. The Commission makes an excellent analysis of the current status regarding the intersection of standards and intellectual property rights (IPRs) recognising that new approaches regarding IPR policies in standards organisations are under way and are needed for better fostering innovation and the exploitation of technologies for the benefit of competitiveness and growth. The actual proposals made by the Commission go into the right direction, but probably need to be extended and made more concrete, e.g. regarding industrial policy for fostering innovation and regarding the improvement of certainty regarding terms and conditions and the availability of patents for licensing.

  5. The Commission lays down the importance for standards based public procurement and, at the same time, enables public procurement to directly reference global open standards.

  6. The Commission proposes to implement a High Level Strategy Platform as an advisory committee to the Commission on ICT standardisation. This will improve communication and cooperation around ICT standardisation. The list of tasks for this platform as described in the whitepaper is excellent. It will be important for the Commission to ensure that all stakeholders are properly represented in the platform.

What is important next is that the proposals made in the whitepaper will be implemented into EU legislation fast. This means, first of all, that Council Decision 87/95 will be revised – or, more likely, be replaced by a new Council Decision. In addition, some of the ideas and proposals should further be taken up in the context of an overall revision of the European standardisation system (concerning Directive 98/34) and within competition law, patent law as well as in industrial policy in general.

To summarise: I am positive of the benefits of the proposals made by the Commission. This whitepaper responds to urgent needs of many stakeholders, be it industry, SMEs, users, and, above all, the public sector iteself. It is a major step towards gaining a leadership position for Europe in ICT in the globalised world. The whitepaper deserves strong support.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Relevant link of today: London Stock Exchange to abandon failed Windows platform

See Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' blog at Computerworld:

"It's not often that you see a major company dump its infrastructure software the way the LSE is about to do. But, then, it's not often you see enterprise software fail quite so badly and publicly as was the case with the LSE. I can only wonder how many other Windows enterprise software failures are kept hidden away within IT departments by companies unwilling to reveal just how foolish their decisions to rely on archaic, cranky Windows software solutions have proven to be.

I'm sure the LSE management couldn't tell Linux from Windows without a techie at hand. They can tell, however, when their business comes to a complete stop in front of the entire world."