Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Politics of ICT

"IT should be apolitical."

So says Peter Quinn, CIO of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In the midst of the furor over open document format, Quinn recently decried the politicization of IT policy, and its potential "chilling effect" on public officials.

Here is the U.S. we assume that ICT is not grist for the political mill. But that is not the case in many, or most, countries. In Europe, ICT policies are highly political, and explicitly so. Political parties take positions on ICT issues. In places like China and Brazil, the main drivers of open source are political considerations.

Is this a bad thing? Often not, especially when ICT policymaking is open for debate. Many technology decisions should be brought to public attention, and not the product of semi-private discussions with vendors.

It can be a painful process, as Peter Quinn can attest. But democracy and other collaborative endeavors are like that. Policymakers and the public should know the stakes involved. They are sometimes big, less about ICT and more about serious issues of public interest.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Document Formats - To the Winner Go the Spoils

Let the market decide. That is Microsoft's view on competing standards for document formats, as described in this recent MacWorld article.

That sounds fine . . . as long as people are clear that ODF and MS's "open" XML standard are not equivalents in terms of openness, control and genuine neutrality for platforms and 3rd party products.

As the Berkman Center's John Palfrey said, echoing some key points in the Open ePolicy Group's Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems, it's not about one company verses another. It's about access to the information you create today and tomorrow. It's about who should properly control public information.

A summary of John's remarks at yesterday's Open Forum on the Future of Electronic Data Formats for the Commonwealth at the Massachusetts State House is available at his blog.

So where is this competition going?

Will we see other governments take official positions on open document formats?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Avoiding the ICT Stigma

A colleague, Jaap Bloem, shared an interesting perspective on the Roadmap Wiki on why governments and enterprises should consider openness:

The Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems is a remarkably strong way of pleading the case for “digital openness”, thanks mainly to the compelling examples and to the Openness Maturity Model. However, it also is my strong feeling that we should push the notions “ICT” and “Ecosystems” a little more in the background; instead putting forward a more crisp, plain, understandable notion as a front-end.

My suggestion would be "Open [i]nvironments." This notion corresponds with the following equation:

Open [i]nvironments = Effective Information Environments =
[i]nfrastructures + [i]ndividuals + [i]ndustries.

In part, Jaap's point is how to more effectively market openness to decision-makers, who often care little about technology. Maybe too much talk of ICT only makes it harder to get their attention.

It also reminds us that openness is not about the technology. Ultimately, introducing openness in ICT is about transforming companies, agencies, economies and people. It's about creating new avenues of innovation and collaboration. Those are the prizes that everyone's eyes should be on.