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21 July 2008, 11:55

European Commission publishes draft of interoperability framework

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The European Commission's Directorate-General for Informatics has published a proposal – PDF file – for a revised framework to promote interoperability in e-government services. In the revision of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), Brussels calls for open standards to be used in public administration, arguing that open standards lower the bar for market entry, promote competition, increase quality, widen choice and lower prices. It goes on to point out that open standards also ensure access to information and services and argues that public administration benefits because public officials have to keep control of the standards and technical specifications used.

In its proposal, the Commission sticks to the definition of open standards used in the first version of the EIF. The proposal stipulates that an open standard has to be developed by a non-profit organization and published either for free or for a token fee. To allow these standards to be used in commercial or open source software, the Commission wants intellectual property rights, such as patent claims, to be made "irrevocably available on a royalty free basis". This would allow the standards to be used without issues over commercial property rights. Even before the proposal was published, the "royalty free" clause was already cause for some concern at the Business Software Alliance (BSA). The industry lobby group fears that "well established technologies" such as Bluetooth and DHCP would be left out under the current wording.

This new, more comprehensive framework would also require member states to find "silos" – closed legacy systems – and replace them with interoperable solutions. The framework also requires that EU member states improve the protection of personal information by defining the roles, rights and responsibilities of users, owners and regulators of government IT applications.

The proposal strongly recommends that public officials look into the implementation of open source software It calls on them to deepen their understanding of how the open source community operates and set up their own internal workflows with that in mind. To ensure that standards and components can be implemented, the proposal wants procurement procedures changed to enable support from the community.

Interested parties have until September 22 to submit their comments to the Commission.

(Stefan Krempl)


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