Software is no longer a pursuit for savants

Software is no longer a pursuit for software savants. Like climate change, terrorism, and the economy, it is a highly strategic issue on the table of government leaders. Like carbon trading, security services, and revenue, it is at the core of business. Like recycling, safety, and taxes, it has become an issue for the consumer. Software is increasingly embedded in society.

Fewer and fewer solutions are stand-alone, hence interoperability between software from different vendors is crucial to governments, industry and consumers alike. In the last few years, significant momentum is building up for open standards. Europe is leading the way, with the European Interoperability Framework in place already from 2004 (see EIF 1.0), and now with the draft EIF 2.0, now out for public comments until 22 September 2008.

The benefits of open standards for European business are crystal clear, most notably market stability, better product quality, competitiveness, and freedom to innovate within a globally established ecosystem. The benefits for governments should be equally clear: avoiding vendor lock-in, opening up markets, and achieving efficiency and effectiveness. For consumers, the main benefit is choice. Open standards lead to competition on quality and price because of several providers on the market, lower switching costs, and reduced lock-in to one system.

Open standards are the best way to software interoperability. Ideally, open standards should be global and royalty-free, so they can achieve wide implementation. Open standards achieve increasing momentum because actors are shifting from a dogmatic to a pragmatic perspective; from adherence to strict principles, to commitment to a path towards openness. But commitments must be strong and credible. Governments, industry and consumers are not dumb. They know what they want and what they can get. Achieving wide implementation does not only depend on openness but on willingness to negotiate. Open standards are your keys to efficiency – and being in the driving seat is what everybody wants. Open standards are both wise and trendy. They make software a choice. Not only for industry, but for all who care to choose.

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About

Trond Undheim, Ph.D, Director of Standards Strategy and Policy at the Oracle Corporation, speaker, entrepreneur, blogger, and author, is one of the world’s leading experts on technology and society. LinkedIn profile

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