Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Carpe Consumers

One thing that the battle in Massachusetts over open standards and OpenDocument Format shows is the importance and power of consumers. Politicians listen when large consumer and citizen groups speak out. It is no accident that one of the main arguments used against ODF was its use would create new barriers to access by disabled citizens. This is a serious concern, and must be addressed quickly. The issue also highlights a larger problem . . .

Consumers and user groups are often little engaged in the open standards debate. They often feel that these are "techie" issues of no concern to them. This needs to change. The value and benefits of open standards need to be presented in ways that speak directly to the needs of real people. Advocates of open standards need to do a much better job of this.

In my presentations on the Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems, I begin with a discussion of how the lack of open standards caused real problems in bringing emergency relief to tsunami victims in Thailand. If you are interested, the audio of my most recent presentation at an Open Standards Conference in Denmark is available here.

Next month, I will speak to several major U.S. consumer groups about the importance and value of open standards. The lunch meeting is being organized by the Consumer Project on Technology. Representatives from the Computer and Communications Industry Association, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Consumers Union will join us.

So here's my question: how can you get consumer groups interested in open standards?

How about you readers in Denmark? I see you checking this blog. So . . .
What consumer and public interest groups can you bring into the discussion?
How can you convince them to support open standards and ODF?

3 comments:

Peter Mogensen said...

The problem for consumer groups is mostly resources. They often do not have the resources to get involved in highly technical matters like open standards when they also have to worry about which chemical additives should be legal in food and stuff like that.

Jeff Kaplan said...

True, true. So the question is: to get political support for making open standards a government policy, what groups can be engaged to push government to move forward?

Is it only industry (among whom there will be dispute about this), or are there other stakeholders who can be engaged?

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