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

From: Jose M. Alonso <josema@w3.org>
Date: Sun, 8 Feb 2009 00:02:48 +0100
Cc: eGov IG <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Message-Id: <33E8F233-0E6B-49F6-BA3F-66AFBE63B51E@w3.org>
To: Robin Berjon <robin@berjon.com>


Overall, I don't see any opinions contrary to what is written in the  
document but comments about its lack of explicitness. As I replied to  
Owen before, it's probably that some goals could be better specified  
or more concrete as it's also likely this is not needed for this  
document and its target audience but that should be developed further  
in subsequent more specific documents.


EU-Commissioner Viviane Reding (Information Society&Media) held a  
remarkable speech in Strasbourg, Feb 3, 2009. Some strong points she  

    "Indeed, the architectural principles that underlie the Internet we
have today, namely the principles of openness, inter-operability and
neutrality do not only create an environment that enables innovation in
services and applications, more importantly they allow for an
environment where users can express themselves freely without
discrimination by their service provider. Therefore, those basic design
principles need to be preserved."

    "I believe that every one of these opportunities must be used by the
European Commission and by the EU Presidency to promote freedom of
speech and fight against censorship. In addition, we must ensure that
nothing in the agreements we negotiate with third countries, including
its bilateral trade agreement, could be used to constrain or limit in
any way the freedom of speech."

The language is not much more explicit, is it? ;)

You also said that:
> * 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.

Unfortunately, there is not broad definition of open standard accepted  
by the community at large. Wikipedia offers a summary of most of them  
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_standard

For a very brief overview of the situation in Europe, see also slides  
4 and 5 at:


In short and, according to the EC directive 98/34, only CEN, CENELEC  
and ETSI can develop official standards, hence a W3C recommendation is  
_not_ an standard in Europe. The draft European Interoperability  
Framework (EIF) 2.0 is calling standards those released by the three  
official bodies and technical specifications all the rest. You can  
find more info at -- http://www.ictsb.org/

Then, there is the issue about defining "open". What is open for W3C  
may not be open for others and the contrary may also be true, for  
* One have to pay a fee to just _read_ an ISO standard. That does not  
look very open to some but is accepted in the European definition of  
open standard as in the EIF "...the standard specification document is  
available either freely or at a nominal charge."
* Some say that the requirements of others such as W3C, OASIS... of  
becoming Members to develop standards, make them not open either

As you already know, W3C ensures that its specifications can be  
implemented on a royalty-free basis, and I think the Patent Policy was  
an extremely important milestone that has been reviewed by several  
governments as an important step in the right direction -- http://www.w3.org/2004/02/05-patentsummary

Anyway, I think we all agree on the overall ideas in the document and  
need to find a way to achieve more specific goals as mentioned by  
Robin, Malcolm and Owen.

More in the next message.
-- Jose

El 06/02/2009, a las 14:20, Robin Berjon escribió:
> 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 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 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 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 23:03:35 UTC

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