Friday, 4 May 2012

UK Open Standards consultation - workshop on IPRs

It was shortly before last week's second workshop organised by the UK cabinet office in the context of their consultation on open standards when the announcement was made that the first workshop would not be considered. The reason for this nullification was a potential conflict of interest of Dr. Andy Hopkirk who had been moderator of the workshop. As the cabinet office pointed out in their update:
"However, at the time he [Dr. Hopkirk] was engaged to facilitate the Open Standards roundtable, while we were aware that he represented the National Computing Centre on the Microsoft Interoperability Executive Customer Council (along with 40 other CIOs/CTOs across the public and private sector who participate in a voluntary capacity) he did not declare the fact that he was advising Microsoft directly on the Open Standards consultation."

As a consequence, the deadline for submitting comments was also extended by one month.

The workshop itself last week was pretty straight forward. The majority of the people were clearly in favour of openness, of open standards and of enabling a level playing field for open source technologies via a clear open standards procurement policy. Cabinet office reconfirmed that the policy is about software interoperability only and that they intend to follow the principle of "Comply or declare"; thus they indicate the basic direction and give recommendations but do not dictate.

One of the points that came across most clearly at the meeting is that the telecommunications sector thinks and operates very different from IT. And it could be clarified that all the concerns that were raised out of the perspective of the participants representing telcos are not applicable for software interoperability.

Regarding the high value and benefit of an open standards policy it was widely stressed that lock-in situations will be avoided by mandating open standards, i.e. governments will have more choice and will be able to replace old technologies by new, innovative ones with reasonable effort. In other words: exit cost are kept low when open standards are used and lock-in is avoided.

The final advice to cabinet office was to continue along their clear direction: have a clear policy mandating open standards whenever they are available; install an open standards advisory council for selecting the actual open standards and specifications; if needed deal with problem cases on a case-by-case basis as they occur.

A very good accurate report of the workshop was published by Mark Ballard in ComputerWeekly.

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