Friday, 29 October 2010

Broad consensus on the need for ICT standardisation reform in order to promote innovation

On Wednesday this week I was invited as a speaker at a breakfast briefing of the European Internet Foundation on “The Role of Standards in Promoting Innovation”. The second speaker this morning was Antti Peltomaki, Deputy Director General of DG INFSO.

The event was absolutely impressive. Very well organised by the European Internet Foundation and very kindly introduced and hosted by Mme Catherine Trautmann, MEP. It was a lively discussion with two short and crisp introductory speeches from Mr Peltomaki and myself. No slides were shown. I had a slide deck prepared that the European Internet Foundation kindly handed out to all participants – I posted it on slideshare and you can browse through it below.

Essentially I made three points in my introductory speech:

First, I talked about the different types of innovation in relation to standardisation: Bringing some basic new technology into a standard on the one hand. Versus innovating by making use of standards, by putting innovative solutions and technologies – intelligence layers – on top of standards based infrastructures, on the other hand. These different aspects need to be kept in mind when talking about effective innovation policy since they require different approaches, e.g. to IPR requirements.

Secondly, I elaborated on the importance of open standards in the area of software interoperability for fostering innovation. The world wide web, global integration and solutions for a smarter planet and for eco-efficiency are key examples here. And the integration of technologies and the combination of standards provide a huge potential for innovation and are key for promoting and driving such innovations. They should, therefore, be high on the agenda of the Commission when dealing with industrial policy.

And thirdly, I outlined that what is important is that relevant global open standards are available for use and implementation in Europe. This, for sure, touches on the current political reform agenda of the Commission. A large amount of highly relevant standards in ICT is developed by global fora and consortia. No ICT-system can be implemented without these fora/consortia standards. And it is, therefore, important that the recommendations made by the Commission in the ICT White Paper – and reconfirmed in the Digital Agenda – are implemented. These complementary changes to the European Standardisation System will allow the direct referencing of fora/consortia standards in EU policies and public procurement on a strict by-need basis and subject to a case-by-case assessment of the respective fora/consortia standards against a set of openness criteria as outlined in the ICT White Paper.

As mentioned above we had a very good and constructive discussion. There was full consensus that the changes proposed by the Commission in the ICT White Paper need to be implemented. Mr Peltomaki also had this in his speech as vital for the Digital Agenda.

Two people also made comments about the term “open standards” and whether to use it. In my opinion, it is a term widely used in the market place, its concepts have broadly been adopted by leading ICT standards bodies (fora/consortia) e.g. in the area of the internet, and it is used by many national governments in their policies and interoperability frameworks throughout Europe and beyond. So not taking notice of the term and concept won't work – and won't gain credibility. It is important to clearly differentiate in what contexts open standards are important – as, for instance, when we talk about software interoperability where open standards are essential for promoting innovation.

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