2011-05-27

International alarm rings over UK ICT policy

This is an interesting article drawn to my attention by SALTIS. The position taken by ISO/IEC and its advisors seems at odds with the benefits brought about by open standards from bodies such as the IETF (think 'internet' and 'world-wide-web').

International alarm rings over UK ICT policy - Public Sector IT: "promise"

Of course, failure to deliver on the open standards strategy is likely to reduce competition and drive up costs, but perhaps the strangest part of this is the monopoly governments give to the national standards bodies in the first place.  Perhaps simply opening up the world of standards itself to competition will be enough to bring about the changes required.

There are parallels with academic publishing here as it is not the authors getting rich from the charges levied on the purchase of standards documents: I love this article from the ACM in 1995: Standards, Free or Sold?.  ISO now lumps publications income with 'other services' in their financial statements and there is still no easy why of looking at the publication costs,  but clearly these could be reduced to a minimum by adopting royalty free re-distribution policies.   Either way, most of the funding required to develop the standard is donated by the sponsoring organizations or is supported indirectly by government programmes to help industry.  ISO's FAQ points out that publications income actually helps balance these larger interests but this argument seems obscure.

In my personal opinion, even if the UK government fails to compel standards to be made available openly this time around (as the EU did when it caved in over royalty free distribution earlier this year) the desired changes can still be brought about by encouraging the use of standards from de facto bodies like W3C, IETF  - after all, you are probably reading this article via http!