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Archive for December 11th, 2012

Good News From the UK Government: Launch of the Open Standards Principles

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 December 2012

In April 2012 I wrote a post entitled Preparing a Response to the UK Government’s Open Standards: Open Opportunities Document which summarised my experiences of support for open standards in JISC development programmes since the 1990s and encouraged others to participate in the UK Government’s consultation exercise.

A post by Simon Wardley entitled The UK’s battle for open standards which began:

Many of you are probably not aware, but there is an ongoing battle within the U.K. that will shape the future of the U.K. tech industry. It’s all about open standards.

motivated me to write a follow-up post entitled Oh What A Lovely War! in which I described the language which was being used to describe this consultation exercise:

In brief we are seeing a “battle for open standards” that will “shape the future of the UK tech industry” in which we are seeing “UK Government betrayal” which has led to a “proprietary lobby triumph” . The ugly secrets of “how Microsoft fought true open standards” have been revealed and now every man must do his duty and “get involved”! Who said standards were boring?

Yesterday I received the following email from Linda Humphries of the Government Digital Service, Cabinet Office.

Thank you for your response to the UK Government’s Open Standards: Open Opportunities public consultation. The consultation ran from 9 February to 4 June 2012. At the close of the consultation, we had received evidence from over 480 responses and we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing your views and helping us to formulate new policy on this topic.
As you may know, the consultation process concluded with the publication of a government response and a new policy – the Open Standards Principles – on 1 November 2012. The government response covers the process we followed, a review of the key themes that emerged in the consultation, how they have been taken on board and the next steps for open standards in government IT.

Online submissions were published during the consultation period to encourage debate and we have now also made available the written responses submitted through other channels. The only exception to this is any submissions which explicitly requested confidentiality.

Two independent reports commissioned by the Cabinet Office from Bournemouth University have also been published and are available on the Cabinet Office website – an analysis of the consultation responses and an evidence review of aspects of the proposed policy. The responses, reports and new policy are all available here.

In the new year, we shall be setting up the Open Standards Board, as described in the Open Standards Principles. We look forward to your continuing engagement through the Standards Hub during 2013.

Kind regards,

Linda

Linda Humphries
Government Digital Service
Cabinet Office

government standards consultation

The Key Documents

The key documents which have been published are Open Standards Principles (PDF, MS Word and ODT formats), Open Standards Consultation – Government Response (PDF, MS Word and ODT formats), Statistical data (PDF, MS Word and ODT formats), An Analysis of the Public Consultation on Open Standards: Open Opportunities (PDF, MS Word and ODT formats), Open Standards in Government IT: A Review of the Evidence (PDF, MS Word and ODT formats) and B (PDF, MS Excel and CSV formats).

The first document summarised the key principles:

Open Standards Principles

These principles are the foundation for the specification of standards for software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT:

1. We place the needs of our users at the heart of our standards choices
2. Our selected open standards will enable suppliers to compete on a level playing field
3. Our standards choices support flexibility and change
4. We adopt open standards that support sustainable cost
5. Our decisions on standards selection are well informed
6. We select open standards using fair and transparent processes
7. We are fair and transparent in the specification and implementation of open standards

The introduction to the document states that:

This policy becomes active on 1 November 2012. From this date government bodies [1]
must adhere to the Open Standards Principles – for software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT specifications.

The other documents summarised the responses which had been received to the consultation (which included feedback from Adam Cooper, JISC CETIS, Rowan Wilson, JISC OSS Watch, Rob Englebright, JISC and Tony Hirst, Open University in addition to myself and several others from the university sector).

The document Open Standards in Government IT: A Review of the Evidence which provided an independent report for the Cabinet Office by the Centre for Intellectual Property & Policy Management at Bournemouth University concluded:

Although there is a lack of quantitative evidence on expected cost savings from adopting open standards, abundant examples exist where an open standards policy has been adopted with various consequent benefits, and the literature identifies few downside risks. The challenges appear to lie in the manner of implementation so that potential pitfalls, such as adopting the wrong standard, are avoided while potential gains from increased interoperability, including more competitive procurement and benefits to SMEs and citizens are maximised.

Perhaps some unexpected good news from the Government for Christmas? Might we be able to announce that the standards battle is now over and cry out “Peace in our time”? Time to read the documents in more detail, I feel. But I’d welcome comments from anyone who may already had read the documents and digested the implications.


[1] Central government departments, their agencies, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and any other bodies for which they are responsible.


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