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Re: Business Software Alliance: Software and Openness Issues for eGovernment

From: Jose M. Alonso <josema@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 18:54:10 +0200
Cc: eGov IG <public-egov-ig@w3.org>, Miguel Ángel Amutio <miguel.amutio@map.es>
Message-Id: <BCF519A4-150C-4566-A0DA-D81AA265AC8F@w3.org>
To: "Maureen K. Ohlhausen" <maureeno@bsa.org>
Dear Maureen,

Thanks for taking the time to review the draft document and send these  
comments. I've opened ISSUE-35 in our tracker system [0] for the Group  
to review and I'm copying Miguel Amutio, main author of the  
Interoperability section.

Please note that the section has changed significantly; latest draft  
at [1]. Please, let us know if your comments are now addressed by May,  
5th.

Best Regards,
Jose.



El 26/04/2009, a las 18:16, Maureen K. Ohlhausen escribió:

> Dear eGovernment Working Group:  Below are the comments of the  
> Business Software Alliance to the W3C Working Draft, Improving  
> Access to Government through Better Use of the Web.  Thank you for  
> opportunity to comment.  Please contact me if you have any questions.
>
> Best regards,
>
> Maureen K. Ohlhausen
> Technology Policy Counsel
> Business Software Alliance
> 1150 18th St NW, Suite 700
> Washington, DC 20036
> 202 530 5135
> maureeno@bsa.org
>
> Business Software Alliance: Software and Openness Issues for  
> eGovernment
>
>
>
>
>
> The goal of the eGovernment initiative is to use information  
> technology to improve citizen access to government in three primary  
> ways:
>
> ·        The delivery of government services to citizens;
> ·        Citizen engagement and dialogue with government; and
> ·        The provision of government data to citizens for their use.
>
>
> As recognized in the W3C working draft, Improving Access to  
> Government through Better Use of the Web ("Improving Access draft"),  
> making the initiative a functioning reality will require software  
> tools and standards to be developed and adopted.  In deciding how  
> best to identify and choose software for these purposes, the draft  
> touches on the question of whether  commercial or open source  
> software is best suited to eGovernment needs.  BSA believes that the  
> choice should be made on the basis of neutral performance and cost  
> criteria necessary to improve citizen access to government -- such  
> as ease of use, interoperability, security, and total cost of  
> ownership and deployment -- and not on whether the software tool is  
> made available on commercial terms or through open source licenses.   
> What is the best software for the task depends on the specific  
> requirements necessary to meet these important eGovernment  
> objectives, rather than in the inherent nature of a software  
> development or licensing model.  Furthermore, in the drive for a  
> more open government, it is important to distinguish between open  
> source products and open standards: whether a standard qualifies as  
> “open” has nothing to do with the development and licensing model of  
> the software used to implement that standard.
>
> Considerations for eGovernment Procurement
>
> To achieve the eGovernment objectives, the decision whether to  
> acquire an open source or a commercial software product should be  
> based on the value the government receives from the software  
> (performance, interoperability among systems) weighed against its  
> cost (including acquisition costs, training costs, and maintenance  
> and support costs).  The decision should not be based on factors  
> unrelated to achieving the goals of better delivery of government  
> services, improved citizen engagement, and increased citizen access  
> to government data.
>
> At the broader policy level, it should also be recognized that  
> technological innovation is best accomplished by a healthy,  
> competitive, and diverse marketplace that allows software companies  
> to develop and grow according to their own strengths and  
> capabilities. Fair and open competition, and not procurement  
> preferences, should determine which products earn the confidence of  
> government and the public. Rigorous competition ensures that  
> technology providers have the incentive to invest and produce the  
> best products for the market, which in turn means broader consumer  
> choice among many innovative technologies.
>
>
>           Budgetary concerns
>
> In making buying decisions, purchasers must also consider the cost  
> of software during its entire lifecycle, such as long-term support  
> and maintenance needs.  Whether open source software is cheaper than  
> commercial software for a particular customer should be determined  
> in the context of the lifetime costs of a product. Purchasers should  
> also consider the cost of retraining users familiar with one product  
> to become competent in an alternative product, as well as initially  
> lower productivity levels while the users familiarize themselves  
> with the alternative product.
>
>
>
> Performance
>
>
>
> Government should choose software solutions, like any other product,  
> based on its merits in terms of functionality, performance,  
> interoperability, security, value and cost of ownership in relation  
> to other software solutions available in the market.  An  
> organization procuring software should state in clear and objective  
> terms the functionality, security requirements, and performance  
> characteristics that the user needs, rather than how the software  
> was developed or licensed..  As recognized in the Improving Access  
> draft, characteristics such as interoperability, privacy, and  
> security must be taken into account in for eGovernment solutions.
>
> Commercial, off-the-shelf software has been in the market for many  
> years, offering consumers a wide range of computing functionalities  
> and productivity enhancements on a mass scale. Customized commercial  
> software solutions have also met the complex business operating  
> requirements of larger organizations that off-the-shelf products may  
> not be able to meet adequately.
>
>
>             Competition
>
> The presence of competition in a market has a direct impact on the  
> efficiency of the companies operating within the market, and, in the  
> long term, on the benefits that consumers may receive from the  
> products in the market. Instituting a government policy to pick  
> winners or to constrain competition from an industry segment goes  
> against the principles of competition and free choice. Such actions  
> can harm the industry and suppress the benefits that may otherwise  
> arise from competitive market forces.
>
> Interoperability and standards
>
> The Improving Access draft highlights the importance of  
> interoperability for eGovernment, as well as the crucial role for  
> standards.  Sometimes, however, the need to promote interoperability  
> among information technology is cited as the reason to promote a  
> particular software development model, like open source.  A more  
> effective approach to achieving interoperability, in fact, is to  
> develop a good understanding of technology standards and have a  
> suitable strategy to adopt interoperable standards.  .
>
> Technology standards play an important role in hardware and software  
> solutions. They facilitate interoperability, which gives a customer  
> the ability to choose from a range of innovative software products  
> to meet its need.  Good standards are neutral and serve the needs of  
> both small and large companies.
>
> Standards are particularly important for the public sector due to  
> the need for better communication between government and citizens  
> and among government agencies.. Standards also address archival and  
> legacy system problems by providing continuity and minimizing the  
> risk of fragmentation of the market into technological solutions  
> that cannot work together.  As recognized in the Improving Access  
> draft,  "[s]tandards work across many groups, governments, and  
> organizations continues to aid governments."
>
> Technology standards are typically documented in written  
> specifications that enable developers of software, hardware and  
> services to make and distribute products or components that  
> interoperate. This interoperability can take the form of information  
> exchange (e.g. protocols or file formats), task performance  
> (application programming interfaces – APIs) and other functions that  
> allow systems and people to collaborate effectively. Based on the  
> standards, different suppliers can develop their own interoperable  
> products, thus giving consumers a choice.
>
> Voluntary processes have proven to be the most effective means of  
> fueling innovation through standards. The marketplace, responding to  
> customer demands, is typically in the best position to determine the  
> appropriate timing for the development and promotion of a standard.
>
> By contrast, government-mandated technology standards can have  
> unintended consequences, such as freezing the development of new  
> technologies or disadvantaging certain market players.  There are,  
> however, limited situations where standards may need to be mandated  
> in the public interest, such as standards related to public health  
> and safety issues (e.g. aviation, medical equipment, and cellular  
> emission).
>
>
> The success of a standard is measured by whether it ultimately  
> solves the problem for which it is intended. A standard may be  
> developed and evolved through a variety of dynamic processes that  
> are voluntary and responsive to market demands, and the method of  
> development is not the critical factor that determines a standard’s  
> success.
>
> i.             Open standards
>
>  “Open standards” are one type of technology standards that has  
> garnered interest in relation to achieving widespread  
> interoperability.  On this point, the Improving Access drafts  
> states, "It is of paramount importance to use open standards where  
> available . . ."
>
> Although there is no universally accepted definition of the term,  
> the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of the U.S Department of  
> Commerce, in a recent inter-agency cleared statement to WIPO  
> (available athttp://publicaa.ansi.org/sites/apdl/Documents/News and  
> Publications/Links Within Stories/US Statement on Patents and  
> Standards..pdf), stated that open standards, as traditionally  
> defined, are those “developed through on open, collaborative  
> process, whether or not intellectual property is involved.”[1]  All  
> open standards have the following common characteristics:
>
> • Open standards are published without restriction (e.g. potential  
> implementers are not restricted from accessing the standard) in  
> electronic or tangible form and in sufficient detail to enable a  
> complete understanding of the standard’s scope and purpose;
>
> • Open standards are publicly available without cost or for a  
> reasonable fee for adoption and implementation by any interested  
> party;
>
> • Where there are any patent rights necessary to implement open  
> standards, such rights are made available by those developing the  
> specification to all potential implementers on reasonable and  
> nondiscriminatory (RAND) terms, either with or without the payment  
> of a reasonable royalty fee; and
>
> • Open standards are regularly developed, maintained, approved, or  
> ratified by consensus in a market driven standards-setting  
> organization that is open to all interested and qualified  
> participants. Standards can also develop by consensus in the  
> marketplace.
>
>
>
> ii.           Open source distinguished from open standards
>
> Open standards are not synonymous with open source software, and  
> they do not exist only by virtue of open source software.  An open  
> standard is a technical specification (i.e. a written description)  
> and either commercial or open source software may be used to  
> implement an open standard in a particular product or service.  
> Whether a standard qualifies as “open” has nothing to do with the  
> development and licensing model of the software used to implement  
> that standard.
>
> Conclusion
>
> The rapid advancement of computing technology in recent years has  
> prompted the software industry to create better solutions, bringing  
> about greater benefits to consumers, including government. Open  
> source and commercial software each offer solutions for eGovernment  
> needs and neither software development model is inherently superior  
> to the other.
>
> Those charged with implementing the goals of the eGovernment  
> directive should not  create  a specific preference for one software  
> model over another. Instead, government should choose software  
> products for eGovernment, like any other product, based on its  
> merits in terms of functionality, performance, interoperability,  
> security, value and cost of ownership. Fair and open competition,  
> not government-mandated preferences, should determine which products  
> earn the confidence of consumers, including government entities.
>
> Finally, effective adoption of standards, and open standards when  
> they exist and are widely supported by industry, will bring about  
> greater competition and innovation. Vigorous competition among  
> different but interoperable technological products will allow  
> government to choose innovative products that best serve eGovernment  
> needs.
>
>
> [1] USPTO Statement to WIPO,  posted on American National Standards  
> Institute website athttp://publicaa.ansi.org/sites/apdl/Documents/ 
> News and Publications/Links Within Stories/US Statement on Patents  
> and Standards..pdf ..
>
Received on Wednesday, 29 April 2009 16:55:09 GMT

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