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Webinos at the Digital Agenda – Interoperability and standardization workshop

18 Jun Posted by in Blog | 3 comments

Nick Allott and I were at the first Digital Agenda assembly  in Brussels this week and it was indeed an interesting experience.

Firstly, The European Commission and Neelie Kroes should be commended for the Digital Agenda program and hopefully this program will become a channel for long term discussion on policy issues

The interoperability and Standardization workshop had the agenda:

This session will discuss two different subjects related to standards and interoperability.

Firstly, how can public authorities ensure that best use is made of existing standards in public procurement in order to avoid lock-in into proprietary technology and enhance interoperability (Digital Agenda action 23)?

Secondly, how to boost interoperability (and innovation) in the absence of formal standards, e.g. through the licensing of interoperability information (Digital Agenda action 25)?

Making use of standards in ICT systems will enhance interoperability and therefore stimulate innovation and lead to more choice and better products for IT consumers.

My initial comments were:

a)     The definition and agenda for the workshop defined the discussion – ie the emphasis on public procurement and lockin are important but are still only a subset of the overall Open standards discussion. While this is a limitation of the format and the time, the agenda sets the stage and the output as well

b)     The experiences of the Swedish, Italian and Dutch governments were interesting because they were based on real experiences

Most importantly, most of the discussion centered on last decade’s battles. The next decades will be determined by a completely different paradigm for example: considering Webinos – Why don’t we use Open source as a collaboration mechanism instead of Open standards? Ie standards are slow. If you wanted to get collaboration, you could share a common code base and depending on the OS license, you could still maintain proprietary extensions

In other words, I would have liked to see the issue of standards linked to collaboration and also innovation



Ajit Jaokar


Ajit Jaokar is the founder of the London based publishing and research company futuretext focussed on emerging Web and Mobile technologies.

In 2009-2010, Ajit was nominated as part of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of the Internet by the world economic forum. Ajit chairs Oxford University’s Next generation mobile applications panel and conducts a course on Web 2.0, Social networking, Mobile Web 2.0 and LTE services at Oxford University. Ajit’s thinking is widely followed in the industry and his blog, the OpenGardens Blog, which was recently rated a top 20 wireless blog worldwide.

Media appearances include BBC – Newsnight – 3phone launch; CNN money; BBC digital planet. Ajit’s latest books are Open Mobile, Social Media Marketing and Mobile Web 2.0. His recent talks and forthcoming talks include: MobileWorld Congress(2011, 2009, 2008, 2007); CTIA 2011, CEBIT 2009; Keynote at O Reilly Web20 expo (April 2007);Keynote at Java One; European Parliament – Brussels – (Electronic Internet Foundation); Stanford University’s Digital visions program; MIT Sloan;Fraunhofer FOKUS ; University of St. Gallen (Switzerland)

His consulting activities include working with companies to define value propositions across the device, network, Web and Social networking stack spanning both technology and strategy. He has worked with a range of commercial and government organizations globally including The European Union, Telecoms Operators, Device manufacturers, social networking companies and security companies in various strategic and visionary roles Ajit lives in London, UK, but has three nationalities (British, Indian and New Zealander) and is proud of all three. He is currently doing a PhD on Internet of Things, Privacy and Reputation systems at UCL in London. Ajit is a fan of animation especially Tom and Jerry, Tintin and Asterix and likes the music of ZZ Top and other rock bands.

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Representing: Futuretext

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  • Nick Allott

    I largely with Ajit's comments.

    To add to this and at the risk of focussing on the criticism (how it could be improved) rather than the positive.

    1) I feel the agenda was dominated by the procurement open source vs closed source agenda, with staged set pieces by the usual vendor suspects. I little more "straight speaking" around the real commercial pressures behind the debate, would have probably made for a more fruitful, and certainly more lively discussion.

    2) The issue of FRAND (fair reasonable and non discriminatory) vs RF (royalty free) standards got no air time. I personally believe this to be THE most important debate in the interop and standards space. There was an excellent submission by Glyn Moody on this subject, which unfortunately received no attention.

    3) As Ajit mentions, the interplay between Standards and Open Source: picking the right strategy at the right time. Looking at new models where open source precede standards – are the topics worthy of a forward looking setting of future agenda. I think these topic need more education.

    I did try to bring up point 3 in the session untitled – interoperability without standards.

    The point I tried to make is if we want successful, quickly adopted interop we should look at success stories. Bittorent is "best in class" here.

    * It currently accounts for over 50% of all European internet traffic
    * There is not formal standard body behind it
    * It adoption curve is fantastic
    * It has enormous numbers of 100% interoperable clients

    The implication being – the early release of open source implementations, have greatly improved the speed and number of interoperable clients.

    A European strategy of improving interoperability should be looking into these detailed dynamics to see what we can learn and reuse.

    Unfortunately, my explanation at the time was weak, and I do not think anyone understood the point :(

    Despite all of this, the workshop was definitely worth attending, well run, and given the massive challenges of structuring such enormous topics I would say largely successful.

    I will follow up later with some personal thought on recommended concrete action points on the standards and interop topics.

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