Open Standards Policy
See also Standards Case-Studies
- Massachusetts Open Standards Policy and Enterprise Technical Reference Model
- Vermont Open Source Software and Open Standards Policy and Guidelines (PDF)
- New Hampshire House Bill 418-FN
- UK Open Source & Open Standards Policy
- eGovernment Interoperability Frameworks: A Survey of the Past Ten Years
- Talk Standards Blog on standardization for eGovernment
- Lessons for Open Standard Policies: A Case Study of the Massachusetts Experience, Published in the Proceedings of the International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV), Dec. 10-13, 2007. Written by Rajiv C. Shah, Jay P. Kesan, and Andrew Kennis
- “Data are not Information” - by the Center for Digital Information; A great analysis on the missing link in data, communications and information.
- There may be more worth analyzing on the EU Joinup Platform
The analysis below needs a lot of clean-up. Some of the information included may be unrelated to standards.
Definitions of Open Data and Open Standards
- Vermont cites Perens’ Open Standards Definition Principles
- Availability: Open Standards are available for all to read and implement.
- Maximize End-User Choice: Open Standards create a fair, competitive market for implementations of the standard. They do not lock the customer in to a particular vendor or group.
- No Royalty: Open Standards are free for all to implement, with no royalty or fee. Certification of compliance by the standards organization may involve a fee.
- No Discrimination: Open Standards and the organizations that administer them do not favor one “implementor” over another for any reason other than the technical standards compliance of a vendor’s implementation. Certification organizations must provide a path for low and zero-cost implementations to be validated, but may also provide enhanced certification services.
- Extension or Subset: Implementations of Open Standards may be extended, or offered in subset form. However, certification organizations may decline to certify subset implementations, and may place requirements upon extensions (see Predatory Practices below).
- Predatory Practices: Open Standards may employ license terms that protect against subversion of the standard by embrace-and-extend tactics. The licenses attached to the standard may require the publication of reference information for extensions, and a license for all others to create, distribute, and sell software that is compatible with the extensions. An Open Standard may not otherwise prohibit extensions.
- Open Standards - the City of Vancouver will move as quickly as possible to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps, and other formats of media
- Index, publish and syndicate its data to the internet using prevailing open standards, interfaces and formats to collaborate and encourage participation.
New York City, NY
- def.“Public data set” means any data set that is maintained by an agency that must be accessible for inspection by the public in accordance with any provision of law or that an agency shall decide to make accessible, excluding any data to which an agency may deny access pursuant to section eighty-seven of the public officers law.”
- def.“Voluntary consensus standards” means standards developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, both domestic and international. These standards include provisions requiring that owners of relevant intellectual property agree to make such intellectual property available on a non-discriminatory, royalty-free or reasonable royalty basis to all interested parties.”
- Data Specifications - Description of the data fields (Metadata) the public can use to analyze operations.
- Geographic data is presented in shape file as well as kml format, and GeoRSS feeds are available for live data. The use of appropriate and open data formats makes the DC data catalog available to the widest possible audience. They even include a feed for additions and updates to the catalog. This critically important feature to increase use of their data sets should seem obvious enough but is missing from many municipal open data sets.
“Develop a strategy to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps, and other formats of media”
This should be updated to reference the UK policy on open standards
- As highlighted by the Power of Information Taskforce, datasets should be easy to find, easy to license, and easy to re-use. Thus, HM (Her Majesty’s [to Queen Elizabeth II]) Government has started to publish data in RDF – enabling data to be linked together.
- The UK’s approach to http://data.gov.uk/:
- Work with the web;
- Keep things simple and aim to make the smallest possible changes that will make the web work better;
- Work with time and pace;
- Using open standards, open source and open data: these are the core elements of a modular, sustainable system; and
- Building communities, and working with and through the (both inside government and outside).
- “Local authorities should not wait for the process of agreeing standards or ontologies - they should publish now in line with the Berners-Lee principles noting the guidance we set out. By all means engage in standards setting processes, in the long term if you have the spare resources but the data should be published first…Local authorities do need to share understanding about how to publish data. “ (Adapted from “Avoiding a standards roadblock in releasing public data”)
This should be updated to reference the Indian policy on open standards
- Open standard is defined in the following way:
- The dataset with the an identified standard shall be available with or without a nominal fee.
- “The patent claims necessary to implement the Identified Standard shall be available on a Royalty-Free basis for the life time of the Standard. If such Standards are not found feasible then in the wider public interest, Fair, Reasonable and Non Discriminatory terms and conditions (FRAND) or Reasonable and Non Discriminatory terms and conditions (RAND) with no payment could be considered.”
- The standard should be adopted and maintained by a not-for-profit organization, wherein all stakeholders can opt to participate in a transparent, collaborative and consensual manner.
- The standard should be recursively open and technology-neutral.
- Open standards will be implemented gradually. The ministry however identifies an initial set of standards that are mandatory from January 1st 2011, unless this would involve additional costs. These will have an influence on governmental IT systems used to exchange data between public authorities, on systems for storage, procurement and public websites, among others. For exchanging documents between public authorities, the ministry proposes the use of either ISO standard Open Document Format (ODF) or Microsoft’s standard, Office OpenXML. (From Open standards made mandatory in Denmark)
- The portals are standard, like wall sockets.
- Any device using a standard plug can be connected to the electric power supply by means of a wall socket. Connecting a television set or a refrigerator to the mains does not require the expertise of an electrician. And if the refrigerator is unplugged and a television plugged in instead, the television will work, too.
- Similarly, the two types of portal set out by Hungarian legislation (the administrative portal and the client portal serving individual users) will function as statutory standard ‘sockets’ in intercommunication between computers.
- ‘Information sockets’ can be used to connect computers.
- We no longer need to download information concerning us ‘manually’ one by one through the information ‘sockets’; instead, we can use software to do it for us automatically. Through the sockets the central system can operate seamlessly with the other IT and communication systems. Consequently, we do not necessarily have to use the interface of the central system; we can access information concerning us with the help of user-friendly applications.
- The standards governing connection to the sockets are public
- Public-benefit and royalty-free sockets
- The sockets are free of charge
- Sockets are competition-neutral and consequently allow for real interoperability
- The Norwegian public administrations must use ODF and PDF when emailing documents to citizens and enterprises, starting in January 2012. The open document standards are part of a list of IT standards to be used in Norway (in Norwegian).
- The list also includes Theora/Vorbis/Ogg and Flac, open source multimedia codes and PNG, an open source image format, to be used on government websites.
- The open IT standards and the open source formats should make it easier for users to access to government information regardless of which software and computer equipment is being used.
Value and Purpose
- To ensure the usability of the posted information, datasets will be posted in a common format
- The adoption of open standards improves transparency, access to city information by citizens and businesses and improved coordination and efficiencies across municipal boundaries and with federal and provincial partners
State of Massachusetts
- Open standards imply that multiple vendors can compete directly based on the features and performance of their products. It also implies that the existing information technology solution is portable and that it can be removed and replaced with that of another vendor with minimal effort and without major interruption.
- “Open systems and specifications are often less costly to acquire, develop and maintain and do not result in vendor lock-in.”
- From the outset of the announcement of the new open standards policy, it was made clear that the greatest incentive for the change was overcoming vendor lock-in. Vendor lock-in is a facet of the IT market and occurs whenever customers buying choices are tied to an original purchase for a related product. Significant switching-costs are the essential component to vendor lock-in, which prevents real user choice and flexibility. A well- known example of vendor lock-in is Sony’s Betamax VCR system. After the purchase of a Betamax VCR, consumers are locked-in to buying Betamax tapes from Sony. In the IT industry, open standards prevent vendor lock-in by allowing for new competitors. By putting in place an open standards measure in relation to document formats, ITD officials hoped to limit vendor lock-in to Microsoft’s proprietary document formats. Their goal was to limit the power of Microsoft (or any other vendor) in controlling document standards.
- The implementation of open standard technologies has also been associated with injecting innovation into the marketplace and a resulting higher degree of use efficiency. As the ITD put it, open standards are a “more cost-effective ‘build once, use many times approach’”. Small businesses, as well as larger corporations, have been the beneficiaries of such innovation. From Massachusetts Case Study, see http://wiki.civiccommons.org/uploads/4/47/SSRN-id1028133.pdf.
- “The adoption of open standards improves transparency, access to public information, and improved coordination and efficiencies among bureaus and partner organizations across the public, non-profit and private sectors;”
- The basis for further cooperation
- The Open Standards Alliance initiating the amendment aims to promote the spread of monopoly-free markets that foster the development of interchangeable and interoperable products generated by open standards, and, consequently, broad competition markets.
Community Feedback / Pre-Launch Goals
New York City
- Public Data Availability (for legislation)
- All public data sets shall be
- made available for inspection by the public on the Internet through a single web portal that is linked to nyc.gov.
- formatted to enable viewing by web browsers and, where practicable, mobile devices. All public data sets shall also be made available in their raw or unprocessed form.
- updated as often as necessary to preserve the integrity and usefulness of the data sets through web syndication.
- made available without any registration requirement, license requirement or restrictions on their use.
- accessible to external search capabilities.
- All public data sets shall be
State of Massachusetts
- “Effective and efficient government service delivery requires system integration and data sharing.”
- “Technology investments must be made based on total cost of ownership and best value to the Commonwealth. Component-based software development based on open standards allows for a more cost-effective “build once, use many times” approach.”
- “Publishing structured standardized data in machine readable formats creates new opportunities for information from different sources to be combined and visualized in new and unexpected ways, for niche markets to be identified and developed, and for Citizens to browse, interpret and draw attention to trends or issues with greater efficiency;”
- The City is currently working with regional partners to open their data for public access in the Portland Metro area. Once that data is available in accessible formats, community
developers will have the opportunity to participate in a region-wide Application Design Contest. The Contest is designed to encourage the creation of freely available open source licensed applications and mashups that use, interpret, and visualize the data. Mashups are applications that combine data from multiple sources into a single integrated experience. Moving to open data will have the added benefit of allowing inter-governmental and non governmental agencies to readily access and leverage each others’ information, lessening past practices of institutional siloing away of data. The City expects that initial datasets will include regional maps and boundaries, zoning, business and building permits, crime, and many others.
- “Greater transparency across Government is at the heart of our shared commitment to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account; to reduce the deficit and deliver better value for money in public spending; and to realize significant economic benefits by enabling businesses and non-profit organisations to build innovative applications and websites using public data.” From the Prime Minister to the Secretary of State
- “In advance of introducing any necessary legislation to effect our Right to Data proposals, public requests to departments for the release of government datasets should be handled in line with the principles underpinning those proposals: a presumption in favor of transparency, with all published data licensed for free reuse.” [Ibid]
- Releasing data though is just half the battle. Raw data often doesn’t tell you anything until it has been presented in a meaningful way and most people don’t have the tools to do this. That’s why we joined up with 4iP who have created a Developers’ Fund to encourage the masses of technical talent that we have in London to transform rows of text and numbers into Facebook apps, websites or mobile products which people can actually find useful. Sir Milton on the London Data Store
- In the report Use of open standards for software used by public authorities, Sander outlines his objectives for demanding the use of open standards. The main goal is to promote competition in the Danish software market.
- The ministry also aims to increase coherence between IT systems in the public sector. It should as well give citizens and businesses a wider choice of software. “In contrast to closed, supplier-dependent standards, open standards are essential in ensuring that everyone will have the right and ability to use the standards, and that they are defined in a process where all relevant views are considered.”
- Already it can be used to enhance, for example, the data protection and privacy of citizens
- Using the central system does not necessarily require the use of the interface of the central system: provided data protection requirements (applicable to all entities involved) are met, anybody can create user-friendly applications to enhance the flow of information between citizens and the central system.
- Benefits: For example, applications can be created to help the citizens, free of charge and in a user-friendly way, in finding out all the information and documents concerning them, held by public administration offices – as well as by public utility companies and, in general, the central system and all of its users.
- Requests for Proposals should require that software vendors clearly identify whether their solutions are fully functional using open standards and, if not, to specifically identify any proprietary or closed specification standards for which they do not support a fully functional open alternative. Departments may give preference to proprietary software solutions that implement open standards over proprietary solutions that do not and may include the degree to which a proprietary software solution utilizes open standards as part of the Request for Proposal evaluation criteria.
New York City, NY
- “[T]he [Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications] shall prepare and publish a technical standards manual for the publishing of public data sets on the Internet by city agencies for the purpose of making public data available to the greatest number of users and for the greatest number of applications and shall, whenever practicable, use non-proprietary technical standards for web publishing and e-government that have been developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies. Such manual shall identify the reasons why each technical standard was selected and for which types of data it is applicable and may recommend or require that data be published in more than one technical standard. Such manual shall be updated by the department as necessary.”
- The release of public datasets shall have a timeline of immediate, legacy and priority, as governed by the local law.
Results and Follow-up
State of Masschusetts
- “There are lessons for government to consider direct stakeholders, such as users, during the adoption of open standards; lessons that illustrate the importance of carefully drawing up, selecting, and subsequently pursuing clearly outlined and widely understood objectives; lessons that demonstrate the need for government to support the policy in financial, logistical, technical, and political terms; and, lastly, a lesson that government should reach out to the open standards community for support.” From Massachusetts Case Study
- “One of the lessons that came out of Massachusetts is that a clear set of goals and objectives must be established before any open standard initiative can be seriously considered, much less implemented and adopted. There are four factors that governments should consider.
- The first is a decision that must be made on whether the principal motivations for a given standards initiative are more practical (i.e. to save money and improve efficiency) or on a more principled level (i.e. to avoid vendor lock-in and protect the sanctity and autonomy of public control over its own records and documents).
- Second, public officials have to know what to do in case of a “close call” between an open standard and a proprietary one.
- Third, lawmakers need to familiarize themselves with “dressed up” open standards that are really more proprietary, than open.
- Finally, when governments act as a “pioneer” and adopt an immature standard, there are some special considerations that must be addressed.”
- There is a need to cooperate, collaborate and integrate information across different departments. Government systems characterized by islands of legacy systems using heterogeneous platforms and technologies and spread across diverse geographical locations, in varying state of automation, make this task very challenging.”