Open Standards are still a controversial issue. See, for instance, the debate around the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) where opponents to the concept of Open Standards for software interoperability in the area of eGovernment have been lobbying for years with highest intensity. This discussion is largely held on a theoretical level and with a lot of emotion.
In my opinion the dispute is largely strange and off the facts of reality. Open Standards are successfully applied in the market place everywhere. Most notably, the internet would not have become what it is today – with all its effects on innovation and growth – without Open Standards. And many future tasks we are facing will be tackled with the support of Open Standards.
I think it's time to overcome this strange debate whether Open Standards are bad or good and whether the term can be used or should be banned. Perhaps the conference that takes place in Brussels this week can help in this respect. It is a conference on Green IT organised by the Belgian EU presidency in cooperation with the standards body OASIS. And it is exactly on the point where Open Standards benefit for sustainability and more intelligent and smarter ways of doing things.
I have hopes that this conference can shed some light on areas where Open Standards are applied and implemented and where they drive progress and trigger innovative ways of integrating technologies and improving processes. Everybody looking at the conference programme will easily see that Open Standards can't be overlooked. OASIS and other standards bodies in the area of software interoperability, the internet and process interoperability develop Open Standards. And the great thing is everybody uses them. And everybody gains in competitiveness – be it large, mult-national companies or small and medium sized enterprises.
For Europe the EIF in its version 1.0 had recognised the benefits of Open Standards and provided an good definition of what Open Standards are. See also my blog post from last week on this. And many national policy makers in Europe and abroad had followed and included the concept and the requirement for Open Standards into their National Interoperability Frameworks.
I am sure the conference on Green IT this week will prove them right by showing the practical side of Open Standards. And it will provide some good arguments for integrating the concept of Open Standards into the overall ICT standardisation framework for Europe which is currently under review. It doesn't all have to be Open Standards. But there are many policy areas where Open Standards make sense – above all where software interoperability is concerned (again: like with the internet). This is what policy makers are rightly seeing. And by using the powerful concept of Open Standards in their policies they create a good deal of drive and act as great pacesetters.