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

From: Malcolm Crompton <transactions@iispartners.com>
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2009 18:38:32 +1100
To: "'eGov IG'" <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <005101c988f7$13d5d410$3b817c30$@com>

Apologies to all for both this & the previous the re-send.  I am trying to
use a send address that is suitable for adding to the W3C archives because
it is expendable.


I am not in a position to comment either about the UN Document or most of
Robin's email, but there is one sentence in Robin's email that is a gem &
should not be lost.

It is this:

"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."

This is a very important point.  For 2 reasons at least:

1.  This is a new way of describing the common interest between OSSO &
governments but not one I have seen put this way before.  And it has a very
strong resonance to it.  It is also the basis for the relationship between
government & more traditional professions (read >50 years old, eg
engineering or motor car design or accounting etc).  Indeed in those other
industries, government keys off the policy intent of those professions by
relying on them to the point of mandating some of their processes in law
(sometimes at the expense of modifying them), for example the mandated use
of standards set by experts in motor car design or the interaction between
accounting standards & legal requirements for stock traded companies etc.

2.  For whatever reason, too much of government does not place ICT OSSOs in
that category.  Winning over government is going to be essential, eg in
terms of being able to describe the ulterior motive convincingly;
demonstrate the gains of working with OSSOs in terms that convince
governments not OSSOs etc.  Some in government (both at the political level
and policy making/bureaucratic level) are but there is a very, very long way
to go.  Interestingly, the recent change of guard in the US may produce a
quantum step forward in this regard & the corresponding change of guard here
in Australia a year earlier has the same potential.  Both involve a potent
combination of different political philosophy & a distinct move on to the
next generation).  Certainly, the impact of the changes President Obama has
made already in his early signals about government use of ICT / Govt 2.0 /
eGov / ... are already reverberating in the corridors of power in other
nations.  Believe it or not, OSSOs are still likely to be perceived too
often as do gooders / activists / industry lobbies in disguise (all at once)
which acts against their credibility.

Some thought as to how to get Robin's message widely heard & then acted upon
might be part of this W3C group's agenda.  If it isn't, we may end up only
convincing ourselves.

My apologies to all for being silent over the last months, but as an Invited
Expert, to date my 'expertise' has not strongly matched the directions of
discussion to a point where I thought I could make a useful contribution.
But the discussion has been fascinating to follow.

I will see some of you in DC at the face to face in March.  I am a board
director of the International Association of Privacy Professionals as well
as a panel convenor for their 2009 Annual Privacy Summit which means I won't
be able to attend all of the face to face but I do want to meet those
attending.  I will be in a position to report developments back to key
elements of the Federal Government which may be a minor contribution to the
second point made above.

Malcolm Crompton

Managing Director
Information Integrity Solutions Pty Ltd
ABN 78 107 611 898

T:  +61 407 014 450


-----Original Message-----
From: public-egov-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:public-egov-ig-request@w3.org]
On Behalf Of Robin Berjon
Sent: Saturday, February 07, 2009 12:20 AM
To: Jose M. Alonso
Cc: eGov IG
Subject: Re: W3C Input to the United Nations "Enhanced Cooperation" Study

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

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 subtle.

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

   * 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

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 difference.

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 Saturday, 7 February 2009 09:01:54 UTC

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