Assessing Standards

Following up on my recent blog entry, Mandatory Open Standards in Denmark, I want to draw attention to further reports published by the National IT and Telecom Agency as background material to the main report. These materials are all in English.
First is a report called Research about OpenXML, ODF & PDF made for the Danish government by Norwegian consultancy house Ovitas AS.

The criteria covered in the research report include three main areas:
1. Openness (open documentation, rights, open interface, open meeting, consensus, due process)
2. Market issues (penetration, maturity, implementation)
3. Business potentials (functional and non-functional requirements, security, potentials and architecture)
In conclusion, they write:

The conclusion of this preliminary research is that both OpenXML and ODF qualify as viable candidates for open standards for editorial document formats based on the criteria used in this research. PDF is currently controlled by Adobe Systems but has a unique worldwide take up.

“Viable candidates”? Hmmm. Nevertheless, the report is a fairly balanced analysis, which on several accounts makes it very clear, that there are big differences between the standards. One could, reasonably I’d argue, ask how the conclusion is supported by the research. I miss the substantial argument for how low a barrier one should have for what is and what isn’t a viable candidate.

It is worth noting that the hearing report in appendix A (only in Danish) has a quite thorough outline of how standard assessments should be conducted. The Norwegians does note that their work was done in parallel to the development of this outline, so I suppose we can’t blame them. But one would expect more from the Danish administration then. What is missing is exactly the specific “scores” for, or evaluations of, various detailed issues. If we assume such scores are red/yellow/green, my bet is that OOXML would have quite a few yellows if not reds, which would need some explaining in order to make the conclusion valid.

More serious research
The government commissioned a research project about “Open Standards and their Early Adoption” in 2005-06. This was conducted by Professor Mogens Kühn Pedersen and Vladislav V. Fomin from Department of Informatics at Copenhagen Business School, and their final report is also available (download report, literature review and delphi survey). The report’s executive summary:

Standards have proven themselves indispensable to the industrial revolution. How are standards developed today? What does the economics of standards tell about the impact of standards upon economic growth and productivity? Do standards influence industry innovation? How are the standardization processes in the field of ICT taking place? How and why do open standards differ from other types of standards? How may open standards influence ICT government policy and the reverse: How will government need to take action in the face of the international trend toward open standards in ICT?

The reports perhaps raises more questions than they answer. But read them you must.

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