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

From: Robin Berjon <robin@berjon.com>
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 12:21:47 +0100
Cc: eGov IG <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Message-Id: <DB3F48E1-1633-4328-B0CC-F91525F7D784@berjon.com>
To: Jose M. Alonso <josema@w3.org>
Hi Jose, all,

sorry for taking so long to reply, as you know I can only contribute  
to this group on my own time, which sometimes makes it a little bit  
difficult to be responsive.

On Feb 8, 2009, at 00:02 , Jose M. Alonso wrote:
> Overall, I don't see any opinions contrary to what is written in the  
> document but comments about its lack of explicitness.

Largely, yes. In case I wasn't clear, I have no doubt that W3C's heart  
is in the right place, and I know that you are doing an excellent job  
on a shoestring budget. My issues with the document were along two axes:

  - Concerning the form, I really don't think it was clear and self- 
affirming enough. As you have no doubt seen in your outreach efforts,  
W3C is still largely perceived as a geek-house, a place more or less  
disconnected from reality (often called "academic" in a derogatory  
sense) that miraculously produces very useful technology on a regular  
basis. I am firmly convinced that that is not true (as, I guess,  
others on this group) and while I don't think that more efficient and  
more concrete rhetoric would suffice in changing that misperception I  
nevertheless think that it's part of the picture.

  - Concerning content, I think it reinforced the policy v. technology  
barrier more than it bridged it, and furthermore placed W3C too  
strongly in the latter. One of the biggest challenges in technology- 
related policy today is its intrinsic transnational nature. That is  
something with which W3C has extensive experience. Also, from the very  
first day W3C has made technology that followed a social agenda. While  
it certainly does not endeavour to take over actual final policy  
implementation, it certainly has much more to say about such topics  
than just what shape angle brackets should have.

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

A little bit more :) And besides, just because others aren't always  
explicit doesn't mean we have to use the same template!

> 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/

Yes, that's precisely why I think that there could be strength in  
numbers here. There are several other SDOs that share the W3C's  
definition, more or less, and we could make our case together.

I think there are several possible goals here:

  1) We decide that having W3C and others' productions recognised as  
standards (de jure) is not important, if they're good and useful  
they'll be used anyway (which is by and large the case today);
  2) We could lobby to have those included in the list (as described  
above);
  3) We could reach an agreement with CEN or ETSI (I'm guessing the  
latter, mostly) to fast-track W3C Recommendations as standards.

Option (1) may be okay but in my experience it causes friction now and  
then with requirements that specify the necessity to procure standards- 
based solutions and people disagreeing on what those are.

Option (2) is interesting but I would have concerns that it might have  
nasty side-effects (though I do not know which ones).

Overall, option (3), at least as a first step, would seem to me to be  
the most interesting. I know there have been experiments with such  
things (notably putting Recommendations on ISO, e.g. for PNG) and that  
they weren't always deemed worth the effort. Have new or different  
attempts been considered?

> Then, there is the issue about defining "open".

I agree that the word "open" is loaded, and we probably don't want to  
make a landgrab on it. We can sidestep the issue by picking another  
word (or just the name of the city in which the agreement was reached)  
and giving it a definition. Off the top of my head:

"The Boston Covenant is a group of SDOs that believe ICTs must enable  
human communication, commerce, and opportunities to share knowledge  
and make these benefits available to all people, whatever their  
hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture,  
geographical location, or physical or mental ability.

As such, standards we produce are defined to be royalty-free,  
accessible, internationalised, and device independent. Furthermore  
these standards are to be made available worldwide free of charge in  
standard document formats. (...)"

I'm handwaving a lot here, the exact declaration can be worked out  
later, what I'm interested in is what others think of the core idea  
itself?

-- 
Robin Berjon - http://berjon.com/
     Feel like hiring me? Go to http://robineko.com/
Received on Monday, 23 February 2009 11:26:42 GMT

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