European Interoperability Framework Nears Final Stage Of RevisionPublished on 2 July 2008 @ 10:39 am
Intellectual Property Watch
By Juliette Ancelle and William New
A unit of the European Commission has presented a new version of a proposed European framework on interoperability which it hopes will encourage member governments to further enable information sharing, such as through the promotion of open standards. The revised draft framework, expected to be made public this month, is slated for completion later this year but still faces questions.
Possible revisions to the strategy focus on improving understanding, “synergy” between the European and national levels, inclusion of stakeholders, clarification and further development of standards, and governance, according to the Commission presentation of the framework.
One of the “main messages” from the new framework is that European governments, firms and users should “be prepared and volunteer to share and reuse,” including to “adopt open standards and specifications,” the presentation said.
The draft second version of the proposed European Interoperability Framework is expected to be made available online in mid-July for external stakeholders to comment and propose suggestions by end of September, to be taken into account when the second version is finalised possibly by year’s end, according to Serge Novaretti, programme officer at the European Commission unit called Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to Public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens (IDABC).
The IDABC information day, in Brussels on 25 June, allowed the Commission the opportunity to present the new version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). After several presentations on the context of the revision and the interoperability frameworks that exist in some member states, the information day focused on the modifications and developments implemented since the previous version.
The event was part of a revision process of the EIF that aims to include the evolution of technology and other progress made in this area, but also to give the framework more weight by taking it out of the IDABC context and making it an official position of the Commission with the publication of a communication of the Commission to the European Council and to the Parliament, according to the IDABC.
The revision process started with the preparation and publication in May 2007 of the Gartner Report, a preparatory study ordered by the European Commission. That report has been analysed but not endorsed by the Commission and the member states who worked on a draft of the EIF new version, according to IDABC.
The new version met with some concerns among industry participants at the event. Benoît Müller, Business Software Alliance director of software policy for Europe, expressed concern about “narrowly defined” open standards that he said might conflict with the more inclusive approach of most member states’ policies and that could lead to the exclusion of many well-established technologies. Instead of better interoperability, he fears that it would cause “greater confusion among both the public administrations and the marketplace.”
Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, took a similar position, adding that the new version risks hurting small start-up companies that rely on intellectual property protection to compete in the marketplace.
A few days before this event, European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes made a speech on “being open about standards” on the occasion of an OpenForum Europe event on 10 June. She presented standards as the foundation of interoperability and stated that she could not see any interest for consumers in including proprietary technology in standards.
Kroes said intellectual property rights should be extended to technology only if justified, that is, “on the basis of evidence that such extension will lead to more innovation and will therefore promote consumer welfare.” She concluded her speech by saying that the Commission is committed to promoting the use of products that support open standards, claiming that choosing open standards is “a very smart business decision.”
Juliette Ancelle may be reached at email@example.com.