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a few comments about the charter

From: Robin Berjon <robin@berjon.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2008 00:32:36 +0200
Message-Id: <88800ACC-94A5-4E0C-B5B2-5F638FC2C485@berjon.com>
To: public-new-work-comments@w3.org


I just read the eGovernment Interest Group Charter[0] and thought I'd  
make a few comments. Overall I think it's a pretty good and clear  
charter for an IG, but some aspects could be improved. Sorry for the  
poor organisation and writing style, I wanted to redact this more  
clearly but I'm tired and I don't know if I'll have the time to come  
back to this before the deadline.

First a nitpick that turns into a rant: it is said that there are  
three task forces and that each of them produces an IG Note; but the  
schedule section only lists target first and final versions of a  
single Note. In fact it looks a lot to me as if the original intent  
was that the IG produce only a single note, that it was later split  
up in three, and that someone forgot to update the schedule. In most  
cases I'd point out that chartered schedules are imaginative works of  
fiction that no one cares about and would recommend excising that  
section, but I think this is one situation in which I believe it  
matters. The IG will be chartered for a single year to produce  
multiple Notes, something that I'm quite familiar with since we did  
the same thing in the XBC WG. A year is very, very short, doubly so  
since you'll only be having fortnightly telcons and two f2f meetings.  
By the time you've said hello, gotten over the summer lull, picked  
editors, and patiently explained to people why they can't publish in  
Word you'll be somewhere in October and have a few weeks of work  
available before the Christmas season kills the group for nigh a  
month. I think you should do one of two things: either admit that the  
planned approach isn't very aggressive and charter the group for 18  
rather than 12 months (with the added benefit that you can say that  
it finished on time, rather than late), or define a much more  
complete schedule, pick editors who have neither life nor family, and  
have the chairs be ruthless with the schedule's implementation. Since  
the groups seem to have similar outputs (though hopefully the eGov IG  
will be less controversial :) you might want to look at the  
publication dates for the XBC Notes to get an idea of what you can  
expect, and it would be a good idea to ask Carine Bournez for comments.

On something that is less about process wonkery and more about meat,  
I am surprised to see that there is no mention of identity, privacy,  
or trust. I understand that the scope has to be limited but those are  
two very important aspects for citizens. I don't want to go all  
conspiracy theorist but their absence from the charter doesn't look  
good, their absence from the Notes would look really bad (especially  
since you're covering data integration).

I think there could be room to mention aspects of eGov that aren't  
necessarily the Web (but are tied to it) such as email. Best  
practices for email communications (that usually emanate from  
websites) could do a world of good. I mention this because the vast  
majority of emails I get from the French eGov initiatives are garbled  
either because they use accents but are encoding the message  
properly, or because they use horrid HTML constructs, or both. Given  
the amount of incompetence available in the mobile industry when it  
comes to the Web I also wouldn't expect SMS interfaces to go away  
anytime soon — mentioning them may be of interest.

Another aspect that is maybe indirectly considered but not explicitly  
mentioned is the answer to this question: what makes a good eGov  
standard? On some level, it has to be answered. One of the reasons I  
bring this up is because the "Rapport de la Commission pour la  
libération de la croissance française"[1] presided by Jacques Attali  
that recently caused quite the stir in French politics mentions  
standards on several occasions but does not specify how to pick  
amongst competing standards in a given space — and fore all the  
nonsensical fuss about the report (and some of the nonsense in it),  
it represents a large chunk of governance expertise, which is to say  
ideas that will be implemented. In my experience administrations tend  
to be attracted to ISO standards, if only because they have been  
proven good in many fields, and because governments get a vote there.  
Alas, when it comes to the standards that are needed for the Web, ISO  
has often done a botched up job. Even a high level definition of what  
makes a good eGov standard (totally randomly I'd suggest producing  
technology while never losing track of the societal impact it has,  
something too few standards organisations care about) could go a long  
way in raising awareness that not all standards are equal. Ideally a  
rating system similar to that which the OECD developed to rate eGov  
initiatives could be applied to standards intended for use in eGov  
contexts (and maybe getting them to do it would be best, but now I'm  
just rambling).

Finally, I'd like to request Invited Expert status on this IG, having  
a strong expertise in several of the applicable technologies and a  
long-standing interest in eGov matters. I know that I am currently  
working for a Member, but that is about to cease very soon, certainly  
before the IG begins. I already have an account login (rberjon), I  
intend to represent just myself, I agree to the terms, I can support  
the financial aspects of my participation by myself. I can't fill out  
the application form because this group doesn't exist yet, but I want  
to apply early because I know that IE requests can take ages.


[0] http://www.w3.org/2008/02/eGov/ig-charter
[1] http://lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/ 
084000041/0000.pdf (sorry, PDF)

Robin Berjon - http://berjon.com/
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Received on Tuesday, 15 April 2008 22:33:10 UTC

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