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Re: W3C Input to the United Nations "Enhanced Cooperation" Study

From: Robin Berjon <robin@berjon.com>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2009 14:20:11 +0100
Cc: eGov IG <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Message-Id: <042C7C49-2FF8-4279-8475-EE227E11DAC9@berjon.com>
To: Jose M. Alonso <josema@w3.org>

Hi all,

On Feb 3, 2009, at 13:55 , Jose M. Alonso wrote:
> I think this document can be of interest to you:
>  http://www.w3.org/2009/02/dd-unigf
> It was edited by my colleague Daniel Dardailler as input to a United  
> Nations study and is oriented toward the topic of more participation  
> from governments in W3C groups and other internet Open Standard  
> bodies.

I have nothing against Daniel who's a great guy, but in my opinion  
this document is wishy-washy feel-good goo. I get a strong sense that  
it's a memo to read on the way to the meeting of the Ents, while  
riding on the back of a sloth, hoping to leverage inclusiveness in a  
consensus building oriented process.

The "Main Points" section is wishful and unclear. People should do  
what they do best, and then co-operate. Well, that's gonna bring us  
world peace! I gather from the context and the conclusion that the  
idea is to provide leads for greater co-operation between governments  
and SDOs. That's a worthy goal but I can't figure out from the text  
what it is W3C wants from that co-operation, unless you count  
"enabling environments" and "wise policy" as having actual substance.  
The only thing that comes close to being a goal is "governments should  
play an important role as sponsors and users of the Internet  
technologies, but _not_ as network architects", which in my mind reads  
as "give us money to build stuff, buy the stuff we build, and go play  
somewhere else". I don't think that that's the best interaction  
between governments and the W3C, and even if it were it should be more  

I think there's a much clearer path to expound on here. Open Standards  
Setting Organisations* are, contrary to common perception, policy  
motivated. Their work is technical, but their goals and requirements  
often are not. In a sense this is comparable to fiscal policy: it is  
highly technical, but its goals and effects are very obviously socio- 
economic in nature. There is currently a lack of dialogue between OSSO  
and other policy-intensive organisations (mainly governments) about  
what those policies are or should be, which is a shame as I believe  
that there is in many cases a strong overlap in goals. W3C and other  
OSSO should propose to raise awareness of their agenda amongst  
governmental organisations so as to identify areas of agreement and on  
those join forces to bring the full power of technical acumen and  
governmental resources to bear on a number of issues (accessibility,  
the digital divide, etc.).

The "Recent Activities" section could then come to life as a list of  
social issues that the W3C is addressing, rather than as "a list of  
stuff that happened not long ago", very rough example:

   * Accessibility: we're still doing WAI, and we're collaborating  
with DCAD;

   * Make the Web's constituency that of humankind: we're opening new  
offices, we have prices targeted by country category, we  
internationalise everything, we have launched an IG about Mobile Web  
for Social Development, we make everything we can mobile compatible;

   * Financial crisis: RF standards are cheaper;

   * Privacy: we don't read tabloids; etc.

Then: "Most of the things we do are about enhanced cooperation and  
consensus building. Inclusiveness is a key word at W3C." Please! There  
has to be a way to phrase this that doesn't sound like cookie-cutter  
corporate communication on hash :) The rest also should be more  
direct, and put some emphasis on whatever it is that W3C wants to be  
doing there aside from "participating as a stake-holder" and  
"encouraging the allocation of resources at appropriate levels".

Marginally better, but it should be stronger on vision: "Internet and  
Web Open Standardisation is an important topic that the IGF need  
discuss. As such, W3C is committed to exposing its vision to the IGF,  
and conversely encourages participation from IGF and UN stake-holders  
in setting its own agenda. Our eGov activity, where policy makers and  
technologists from all continents [including a delegation of penguins  
and glaciologists from Antartica] confer to better serve citizens,  
would constitute an ideal location to cross-pollinate our social  
visions." Etc.

Anyway, I don't think that the document as it stands will convince  
anybody. I know it's the UN but even they respond to pragmatic,  
engaged opinions!

* I just made that up but it would be nice if there were a definition  
of what an open standard is, and if the organisations that adhere to  
those principles had their own gang properly advertised to separate  
themselves from industry fora  right now no one understands the  

PS: oh, and it's not over 350 members, it's over 400!
PPS: sorry, I have to be regrets again for the call, I'm travelling

Robin Berjon - http://berjon.com/
     Feel like hiring me? Go to http://robineko.com/
Received on Friday, 6 February 2009 13:20:47 UTC

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