Sunday, 31 October 2010

Commission announces EU standardisation reform for early 2011 – Communication on industrial policy

Last Friday the European Commission published its next Communication for one of the flagships initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy – the Communication on “An Integrated Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Era: Putting Competitiveness and Sustainability at Centre Stage” (COM(2010) 614). It was prepared under the leadership of DG Enterprise and is available at the DG ENTR website.

I gave it a first quick reading over the weekend – focussing on the passages and statements where standardisation and innovation are addressed. This means, for sure, in particular chapter 4.4 that is explicitly dedicated to standardisation.

This section on standardisation seems to have been drafted very carefully in order not to create any further uproar or protest with anybody – we all know the noise that was made against any reform over the last months. This has the downside that the text remains very high level and does not go much into detail. For “early 2011” the Commission commits to “present through a standardisation communication and legislative proposal a strategy to promote a stronger role for European standard setting in a rapidly changing world and society” (p. 12).

Regarding the ICT sector the Communication outlines that one aspect for change is the “rapid adoption of the best available global standards, where global standard making practices are well established such as in the ICT sector” (p. 12). This is surprisingly unspecific given the outstanding work DG ENTR has done on modernising the ICT standardisation policy in the EU since the start of the ICT Study which continued into the development of the recommendations that are laid down in the ICT White Paper of 2009 and that have broad support from industry across all sectors. The key messages on the needs of the ICT sector for reform of European standardisation were reconfirmed in the Digital Agenda – and quite frankly I would have expected them to be more clearly stated in the Communication on industrial policy, as well. After all, global, open ICT standards are of critical relevance for an effective industrial and innovation policy in Europe. For almost of all of the “big issues” that are listed and where standardisation can be of critical relevance global ICT standards from so called fora and consortia, above all the internet standards, are indispensable. There is simply no way to realise a smart grid without using TCP/IP, HTML, XML, and many such like.

The issue of fora or consortia standards is not addressed in this document. It addresses standardisation at European, international or national level. In addition, the document claims that “markets themselves often generate factual standards through technological leadership, market agreements, and/or market dominance” (p. 11). I believe the term “factual standards” – similar to “de facto” standards – is not clear enough here. It puts global open standards from well-established organisations (fora/consortia) on the same level like proprietary technologies with huge market dominance. Quite frankly, the latter should be totally out when talking about standards and standardisation.

The general direction which is given on standardisation is very good:
“For the manufacturing industries, the overall goal in the decade to come is to develop a standards system for Europe that will meet the expectations of both the market players and European public authorities. This needs to be achieved in a rapidly changing world and society, and should preferably also promote European influence beyond the single market in the globalised economy.” (p. 12)
What is not quite clear to me is why this statement is limited to the “manufacturing industries” – to me this is too much a limitation given the fact that economies are increasingly adopting post-industrial structures and are transforming into globally integrated economies where standardisation plays a key role on the level of process innovation and in the integration of technologies for developing smarter solutions for the things we do. It is exactly this role of standardisation that is of high importance on the context of sustainability. This is very clearly seen and addressed in the section on innovation:

“Improved use of ICT for industrial competitiveness, resource optimisation and innovation will be essential for future competitiveness too, as set out in the Europe 2020 flagship on the Digital Agenda. […] a more innovative use of ICT throughout industrial value chains needs to be encouraged to streamline business transactions for example by e-invoicing, and boost overall competitiveness through demonstration projects” (pp. 12-13).

Earlier in the document the Commission already addresses the topic of services and announces “set up a High Level Group on Business Services to examine market gaps, standards and innovation and international trade issues in industries such as such as [sic!] logistics, facility management, marketing and advertising (2012)” (p.9). This is very worth supporting. The services sector is clearly a growth sector for Europe with an enormous potential for further innovation and growth. This, by the way, again includes the ICT sector. Think, for instance, of all the SMEs across Europe that build their business on the internet – o providing services related to the world wide web. In this way, they very much benefit from using global open standards and from innovating on the level of the use and implementation of these standards.

Finally, I'd like to point at the passages dealing with Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The Commission very clearly says: “Improvements in the European system of intellectual property rights are essential and long overdue, especially an effective EU Patent and patent litigation system.” (p. 9). No doubt, the EU Patent would be a major achievement. The Commission continues to outline that proper enforcement of IPRs is also necessary and touches on the negative effects of piracy and counterfeiting. What is not yet addressed in this Communication but what I think will have to be considered soon in this decade when talking about IPRs are aspects of open innovation, of flexible IPR systems that allow for different rules to be chosed in different contexts, of crowd sourcing and open source development, etc. Again, business models are changing and collaboration and co-creation are increasing – at least in certain areas. These are new challenges to the patent system. In the ICT sector they are vital already and have led to a very differentiated view on IPRs, e.g. by concluding that standards in the area of software interoperability should be available on a Royalty-free basis and under such terms and conditions that allow open source to use and implement them.

As I said in the beginning, this is a first snapshot on my side only after briefly reading through the Communication. The document is extremely rich and contains a lot of details – and thus provides a large amount of food for thought.

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.

Interoperability was key topic at EU Digital Agenda Stakeholder Day

On Monday this week I participated in the EU Digital Agenda Stakeholder Day organised by DG INFSO. To begin with, this was a real workshop – and that's why I said participated above rather than attended. The point is: you could not just attend, you had to participate. The organisers had outlined this beforehand in the methodology for the workshop which was published on the Digital Agenda website. Participants had to move around, discuss the various proposals that had been submitted a while before the conference, had to convince others about their proposals, had to vote and select the top projects. This is what took place in the morning sessions. The afternoon then was dedicated to presenting the top projects to the Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Vice-President Neelie Kroes and the Director-General of DG INFSO, Robert Madelin.

I liked this set up and methodology very much and I should say it was extremely successful. It really made people move and get engaged. It provided the proper disruptions that are needed to stifle creativity and innovative thinking. And after some warming up amongst all participants my impression was that everybody well accommodated to the workshop and its methodology.

Regarding the proposals that were submitted and discussed during the day, what was astonishing to me was the pervasive agreement on the high importance of interoperability. I would say in more than every second project proposal interoperability was a key element. This shows that its critical values are widely acknowledged and seen – interoperability is of high importance for fostering innovating, competitiveness and growth. And this naturally goes together with standards – open standards – that are an indispensable enabling force for interoperability.

Regarding the actual project proposals some were really interesting. Personally I took a lot of interest in the proposal on driving the use and development of standards around public sector information. This proposal even made it to the round of the top projects that were presented in the afternoon. I also liked the idea about making public procurement more transparent and driving that open standards and interoperability are major requirements in public procurement while referencing of specific products should not be a reality anymore. And I liked one project proposing the elaboration and implementation of an OASIS standard for reaching a meta-identifier working across the sectoral, vertical identifiers as used, for instance, in SWIFT, ODETTE, etc. This could really help in cross-sectoral eBusiness.

The stars at the end of the event were two guys who argued for better conditions in Europe for supporting young, digital entrepreneurs. Their cause is totally right. For my personal gusto they were a bit too critical about Europe. I know a lot of digital entrepreneurs who are very good and successful in Europe, e.g. in the region where I live. There are many such similar success stories of SMEs in Europe that have started around the internet and have very successfully established on the market. We should not forget about them in such debates.

To sum it all up: the Digital Agenda Stakeholder Day was, in my opinion, a very successful event. Very thought provoking and inspiring. I am curious to see the further results coming out of it.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

EU Parliament to adopt report from the IMCO Committee on the Future of European Standardisation

Tomorrow, October 21, the European Parliament will discuss the report produced by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) on the Future of European Standardisation. The document is was recently adopted by the IMCO Committee and is available both on the IMCO website and on the agenda for the Parliament for tomorrow. Both listings also contain the Opinion of the ITRE Committee (Committee on Industry, Technology and Research) which is very worth reading and in several instances more straight and forward looking than the full IMCO report.

A couple of weeks ago I commented on the draft version that had been published by IMCO in mid August listing some issues that I still saw missing from the report – most notably around the specifics of the ICT sector.

Now the final report has much improved in this respect and takes full account of the specifics and the needs of the ICT sector in addition to the broad and impressively concise perspective taken on European standardisation at large. In general the report is overly balanced. It addresses all stakeholder interests as well as the different sectors and the processes that have developed within the sectors for developing standards and specifications. Perhaps with one exception: I find that ETSI comes a bit short in the report. But clause G clearly mentions the different processes that are part of the European Standardisation System in its totality including direct membership in ETSI.

Out of my perspective I see a number of items in the report that are particularly worth noting:

1. The different structures in ICT standardisation require action:
The Committee clearly identifies the different structures and processes in the ICT sector where a large amount of standards is developed in global open fora and consortia. And IMCO stresses the relevance of these fora/consortia standards for innovation as well as for interoperability which, in turn, again is a trigger for innovation. (clauses 64-67). In its recommendations the Committee puts a clear emphasis on improving the cooperation between fora/consortia and the formal standards organisations. Yet, the Committee also clearly “welcomes the Commission white paper on ‘Modernising ICT Standardisation in the EU – The Way Forward’; calls on the Member States and the Commission to implement the key recommendations outlined in the white paper” (clause 6). It supports the set of attributes that is proposed in the ICT White Paper (clause 8). And it “Stresses the imperative need to adapt ICT standardisation policy to market and policy developments, which will lead to achieving important European policy goals requiring interoperability” (clause 67).

It is interesting to compare the sometimes a bit obscure and circuitous wording of the IMCO report with the Opinion of the ITRE Committee which is much clearer and more to the point. The ITRE Committee gives two clear directions on how to proceed:

“27. Calls on the Commission to introduce into the legal framework the possibility of referring, solely in the field of ICT and solely on the condition of compliance with certain basic standardisation principles, to deliverables of fora and consortia;
36. Calls on the Commission to put in place a mechanism for recognising specific standards developed by industry fora and consortia which could have a significant impact on filling standardisation gaps and on international cooperation in ICT standardisation matters;”

Taking both the IMCO report and the ITRE opinion together rounds up the picture and gives the right direction where to go.

2. Correlation between standards, interoperability, innovation and competitiveness:
The report leaves no doubt that standards are essential for interoperability and both are an important trigger for innovation and competitiveness. Thus, the Committee “recognises that interoperability is key to innovation and competitiveness, especially in the ICT sector” (clause 66).

3. Short but clear statement regarding IPRs:
Clause 63 touches on IPRs in relation to standardisation as well as innovation. What I like is that the Committee keeps this short. IPR is a complex topic and can easily overshadow any discussion on standardisation. The Committee concentrates on the right issues: First, there are different aspects that need to be considered in the debate, namely whether the focus is on the transfer of basic research into standardisation for technology exploitation and market access or whether it is on the availability of standards for use, implementation and innovation on top of the standards. And secondly the Committee clearly states that care needs to be taken when using proprietary technologies to make sure that they are available later on to all users. What is perhaps missing in this respect is a consideration of Open Source and its needs. After all, Open Source technologies are of high relevance to the public sector.

4. Modernisation of processes is needed:
The Committee is very clear on the need for the National Standards Bodies and the ESOs to review their processes and drastically increase the use of modern ICT technologies for a modernisation of the way they work and operate. They see the opportunities this will bring for more openness and transparency, for better stakeholder involvement – including above all SMEs and societal stakeholders. And I would like to add to this: standards bodies should use standards based solutions when moving into this direction.

5. The power of public procurement:
It is only a short mention in clause 58 but it is of utmost importance: public procurement needs to use standards “in order to improve the quality of public services and foster innovative technologies”. I ignore the fact that there is a bit patriotism included in the clause as it only talks about “European standards”. This raises the questions of what is a European standard, what about international standards, what about fora/consortia standards etc. Nonetheless, public procurement is a powerful element of governments to drive the implementation and use of standards and thus to ensure interoperability and drive innovation and competitiveness.

So far the points I would like to highlight in the report out of my very personal perspective. Now there are also some aspects where I think the report could be improved.

First, I already indicated above that I think the report is in general a bit too conservative – meaning protectionist of the current system. If I may say so, some passages read as if nightmares of a complete overhaul of the European standardisation system had haunted the respective authors. While I fully share the basic position that the European standardisation system works well and has entirely fulfilled its purpose and function over the last two decades, above all in supporting the internal market, I also see that modern times require some adaptions and changes. Only at one point, for instance, does the report mention globalisation (clause I), which, however, is a major challenge for Europe and for European standardisation as well as a major driver for change.
The report overemphasises the preservation of the current structures. What I am missing is some forward-looking on flexibility and changes that might be needed for the future system in Europe. Not that I would expect the Parliament to come up with the exact proposals for such changes. But the report should have identified the need and given directions to the Commission and the Member States to consider such aspects.

Secondly, there seems to be a general assumption in the report as if standardisation and standards bodies were a governmental institution. Standardisation is above all for the market, and standards bodies are tools for market players to develop the standards the market needs. The element of developing and using standards in support of regulation is, compared to that, fairly small. On the other hand, this is the part of standardisation where public authorities are concerned. But it could have been made clearer in the report that there is a broader aspect of standardisation and this is the market.

And thirdly a final point where I believe some improvement could be made: the report entirely avoids the term “Open Standard”. Yet, “Open Standard” is such a powerful and widely used concept in the global market as well as widely used term adopted in various policies throughout Europe and beyond that it should at least be mentioned at some point to show that the Committee has taken notice of its existence and has given it some reflection.

For tomorrow, I expect that the Parliament will not hold any debate on this report but in a straight forward voting adopt it. That's also what the agenda indicates. And after all, the report is good. It was accepted by a broad majority as was the ITRE opinion in the ITRE Committee. And it provides a very comprehensive basis for the further processes around the reform of the European Standardisation System.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Conference on Green IT - showing the relevance of open standards in the market place and for innovation policy

As I had blogged earlier in expectation of this conference on Green IT which is co-organised by the Belgian EU presidency and OASIS this is a great manifestation of the benefits Open Standards have in the market place. Open Standards drive innovation and competitiveness, enable SOAs and are, therefore, essential for  the development of sustainable solutions in creating a smarter planet.

And, indeed, the first speeches and panel sessions confirmed exactly this. Open Standards, collaboration are key. And even in areas like security the expert on the panel very clearly said that if you think to reach security by obscurity you are misguided.

I also touched on this issue in my presentation given in the first panel which was on developing open standards in support of sustainability. 

Monday, 11 October 2010

Open Standards are a reality in the market place – OASIS conference on Green IT

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.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The high impact standardisation makes for fostering innovation - European Commission Communication on the Innovation Union

On Wednesday this week the European Commission published a Communication on the Innovation Union which is one of the Europe 2020 Flagship Initiatives. This flagship initiative is led by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn who also presented the Communication. The document is available with some further introductory notes and links to the respective press conference on the website of DG Research.

In my opinion this Communication is a very good document. Regarding standardisation it addresses a wide range of aspects where standards are relevant for innovation. And it touches on and identifies some key issues that exist with European standardisation today:

“If not able to adapt, the European standardisation system risks becoming irrelevant with companies turning instead to other instruments (as could be seen in the ICT sector) or worse could start to work as a brake on innovation. A dynamic standardisation system is also a pre-condition for the EU to maintain and further reinforce its impact on the setting of standards at global level, where other countries are increasingly seeking to set the rules.” (p. 16)

I personally think this general criticism is a bit too harsh. The European standardisation system is not bad at all. It's basic structures are working fine and it has worked very well in supporting the development of harmonised standards for the European common market. Nonetheless, it is true that the system requires some reform. It needs to be more flexible for reacting to global developments. And for the ICT sector it needs mechanisms for allowing specifications from fora and consortia that meet a certain set of openness criteria to be used and implemented in Europe, i.e. to be available for direct referencing in EU policies and in public procurement.

This urgent need of ICT is, in fact, addressed in the Communication as well with a re-confirmation on the ICT standardisation reform – committed now for “early 2011”:

“In early 2011, as a first step, the Commission will present a Communication accompanied by a legislative proposal on standardisation, which will inter alia cover the ICT sector, in order to speed up and modernise standard-setting to enable interoperability and foster innovation in fast-moving global markets. This will be combined with a multi-annual programme to anticipate new standardisation needs and integration of standards into R&D projects in the research Framework Programme.” (p. 17)

Open Standards from global ICT fora and consortia are so important for fostering innovation so that this reform is of highest relevance. Open Standards ensure interoperability and thus provide a trusted base on which innovation can take place by implementing the standards, integrating them and combining technologies for developing new, smarter solutions.

For being effective in fostering innovation, the availability and the conditions under which standards can be used are, for sure, key. The Commission has clearly recognised this and stresses that “standard setting processes require clear IPR rules to avoid situations where a company can gain unfair market power by incorporating proprietary IPRs in a standard” (p. 19). And the Commission makes the right level of differentiation that is needed on the one hand for providing incentives for contributing technologies to standardisation and on the other hand for having technologies available for exploitation and innovation:

“This means, in particular, offering equivalent protection of IPRs, open access to interoperable standards, nondiscriminatory public procurements, and removing other non-physical barriers to trade, in line with international requirements.” (p. 27)

The reference to public procurement is very good, as well, because this is where public authorities have an actual tool to promote innovative technologies based on standards and thus making active use of all the benefits from open standards. So “faster setting of interoperable standards and strategic use of our massive procurement budgets” (p. 3) is for sure the right angle to look at. This Communication is very promising in this respect and is certainly another extremely important step the Commission has taken within its flagship initiatives.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The big impact of the EIF on European competitiveness

The European Interoperability Framework (EIF) in its version 1.0 which was published more than half a decade ago has been a great success, no doubt. I have said so before and keep repeating it. With EIF v1.0 Europe took global leadership on interoperability. And on openness.

EIF v1.0 took a clear stance on open standards for eGovernment services with a straight forward open standards definition. And it was very clear on the high relevance of open source technologies for public authorities. Accordingly, open source should be able to compete on equal footing with proprietary offerings.

From my experience, EIF v1.0 has had a number of very positive effects – not only for interoperability, but for European economy in general:
  • Awareness: EIF v1.0 has created a wide awareness about the issues around eGovernment interoperability and openness. Many EU member states meanwhile created their national interoperability frameworks following the EIF v1.0. And the reach-out of the EIF goes far beyond the borders of Europe with several other countries following the basic EIF v1.0 principles.
  • Interoperability: EIF v1.0 has driven genuine interoperability and has helped to clearly identify issues and barriers for interoperability.
  • Innovation: With its strict open standards policy the EIF has provided a basic framework which fosters innovation by using and implementing the available standards.
  • Competition: By requiring open standards EIF v1.0 has created a basis for the design and procurement of technologies for eGovernment services that supports fair competition by all – including open source technology providers – and prevents vendor lock-in.
  • Competitiveness: EIF v1.0 has triggered many companies to start thinking about how to adapt to the new world of openness and which transformations to undergo for keeping competitive in a more open and globalised world.
The latter has largely been overlooked, I believe. EIF v1.0 has had an enormous effect on businesses and the economy in Europe in general. By acknowledging the new realities of openness in the EIF v1.0 it made companies re-think their strategies and business models. And several companies thus moved on and started a transformation process to be better equipped for competing in this new, globalised economy. They took up concepts like open innovation, developed a strategy towards open source with a good many of them even crowd sourcing work themselves.

A similar effect has been on governments - and especially the CIOs amongst them. The EIF v1.0 has been a pacesetter for government policy and process transformation. As a matter of fact, today more governments in Europe and beyond are better set up to operate in our modern world. They have adopted SOAs, have redesigned their systems and implemented open infrastructures that allow scaling, improving, and getting smarter and better. And they have adopted open procurement policies that help to increase competition and competitiveness, reduce cost and give a better chance for local SMEs and the huge number of highly successful Open Source companies in Europe to compete on fair ground.

SMEs in Europe also especially benefited from the aspect that the EIF v1.0 with its clear open standards, open source and open procurement policy promotes innovation. Open Standards give a chance to every market player to innovate and compete with their innovative technologies in the market place. Because open standards ensure interoperability and thus allow modular replacement of technologies against new, better, more innovative ones at low exit cost.

Yet, we are also all aware of the hostility with which some parties have been fighting the EIF v1.0. Their reasons are hard to understand. I believe there is a good deal of paranoia involved, coupled with pure protectionism and the hope that if openness is not recognised in the EIF, businesses could avoid it and keep trying selling silos to governments. Oh my goodness, are people really that naïve?

I never really understood why the Commission decided to go for a revision of the EIF v1.0. I cannot see anything in EIF v1.0 that needs to be revised. An update with some additions and further elements around architecture and infrastructure added would have been ok. And this was, in fact, what the first publicly available draft of the EIF v2.0 was about. It reconfirmed the basic principles of EIF v1.0 and complemented the document on the architectural side and by addressing additional levels of interoperability. And this first draft did not receive any major objections in the public consultation.

Since then I have seen several leaked documents where I don't understand the purpose and the objective any more. Openness was almost entirely taken out at some point. The term open standards is not used any more even though widely used in the market place as well as in public policies and national interoperability frameworks worldwide. Etc. An EIF in such a downsized way would be turned into a pretty useless document. I'm sure we can all imagine who would like to see that.

Then, recently, there were rumours that the latest draft that was accepted in pre-inter-services consultation contained relevant elements of openness again. This sounded comforting. Until a couple of days ago there are new rumours that the basic principles of the EIF that go re-inserted are under attack again.

Can you still follow? I couldn't blame you if you can't. Whatever the current status is – I still have hopes that the Commission will not give in to those who try to get back to “pre-modern” times and try to protect some old-fashioned, outdated way of making business. I still have hopes that the Commission will not allow that the revised European Interoperability Framework turns into a European Interoperability Failure 2.0.

The positive connotation of 2.0 alone, however, will not prevent that. EIF 1.0 was a product of courageous, forward-looking policy making. And the spirit of EIF 1.0 will certainly prevail. The Digital Agenda and the Innovation Union, for instance, continue along these lines. So let's not make EIF irrelevant in these important and challenging times. Europe can be more innovative than deleting what is the predominant concept of our times: openness. Openness most notably in the form of a clear open standards policy, of a commitment to considering open source on equal footing to proprietary offerings; and in the form of a clear open procurement policy. Such an EIF 2.0 would be able to build on the success of EIF 1.0 and further promote innovation and competitiveness in Europe.