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In recent years I’ve been  following  the development and adoption of open standards internationally, and few months ago, I began to notice some strange movements and on behalf of them decided to write this article.

There are two undeniable facts in the information technology industry today, which often end up being forgotten in our day by day activities:

Corporations are monopolistic by nature and technological dependence is at the base of the  information technology industry  economic model.

The development of standards always tends to commoditize the industry and this is why they usually are developed by companies that dominate the market, and they do so in a preventive manner. When they don’t take the standardization initiative, they end up seeing their competitors mobilizing  the “long tail” to jointly develop the standard and this alternative scenario tends to be the typical scenario of the open standards development.

Governments around the world are usually represent the largest demand at the information technology industry and their inductor power in this industry is cruscial.

That’s how we saw a boom on the open standards development in the past years, demanded by many governments around the world (with emphasis on the European  Union), who realized the high level of lock in that they were in, and put in most companies and citizens on their countries.

The industry moved quickly and we saw several committees in recent years working on open standards development in IT world, which led to real worldwide standards wars.In some countries, the open standards adoption were more accelerated while others still debating about which standards to adopt, and we all know that this delay on the debates serves some important economic interests.

What I note with great sadness is that there is a “Battle Won” feeling in the air of several governments and this has led them to not consider further the open standards adoption as a priority,but as a commonplace activity, as if everything had been completed. I’m tired of seeing people talking out there: This is a won battle …

The result of this feeling in industry, is that many companies don’t treat  the development of open standards as a priority anymore and therefore, we run the serious risk of seeing standards that took years to be developed and adopted to be abandoned in the next years.

The claim that I most hear from companies about this, is that governments should work for the maintenance and development of standards, and from the government side,  I often hear that standards development is a primary function of the industry … This is how we are going to a dangerous cat and mouse game !

For this reason, I would advise the governments around the world to demand even more the adoption of open standards from the IT industry, and also fulfill the governmental role of promoting the development of  open standards, mainly sharing use cases and real world demands with open standards development bodies and committees.

I remind you that companies usually only care about financial profits,  while governments should care about their social profit, and without the adoption of open standards in IT world, the equal access to public services and information through electronic means aren’t possible.

It’s also important to remember that in times of cloud computing, the open standards are more essential than ever, since the imprisonment trap here is at the exit door.

The development of truly open standards demands more time and resources than the development  of proprietary standards, and they also commoditize the industry, making it difficult to get easy and immediate profits. If you leave this decision to corporations, do not be surprised with the final outcome.

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4 Responses to “An alert to governments about Open Standards”

  1. George

    This has always been the way though, logically you’re suggesting that we should all be exchanging email over x400, and designing our systems against a seven layer stack. Standards expire, the industry moves on.

  2. Jomar Silva

    Have you noticed that the standards for e-mail and network protocols that we use today are both Open Standards ?

    Industries that move on and are smart, update their standards (Internet is a good example of that).

  3. Kristofer Pettersson

    The fix is not to attempt to develop standards for every conceivable protocol which very quickly will become a bottle neck. Instead you focus the energy towards the root cause: copyright, patents and immaterial property laws.

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