Open Standards, Interoperability and Government Procurement

November 2, 2006

co-sponsored by the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech), Sun Microsystems, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Yale Information Society Project, the South Centre and IP Justice.

Hosted by the Athens Internet Governance Forum

Open Standards Page
Objectives and Purpose
Speaker Bios
Related Documents
Workshop Organizers
CPTech Page on IGF
CPTech Page on ODF
Objectives and Purpose

The key objectives are to elevate awareness of ICT standards and ICT standards setting as part of the development agenda in Internet Governance and to help governments make more informed policy decisions related to ICT standards. This workshop is intended to present the relationship between the "openness" of ICT standards, economic and social development, and government policy making, with a focus on procurement policies. The discussion will help governments to better understand the inherent tension between intellectual property rights (IPR) holders in ICT standards and the public as well as to understand the economic and social importance of a healthy ICT standards ecosystem. The Open Document Format will be reviewed as an example of the positive impact open ICT standards can have on information access and innovation.

Much of the simple elegance, power and synergy of the Internet and the World Wide Web is predicated upon the "network effect," where "participants work together to provide a benefit that is greater than the simple sum of their parts". The foundation of this network effect is our ecosystem of open, adoptable, and interoperable ICT standards (Ibid). Indeed, the requirement for open, interoperable and non-discriminatory ICT standards that promote affordable access is recognized in the World Summit on the Information Society's Declaration of Principles.

However, the increasing business and social value, of the Internet has put our ICT standards ecosystem in jeopardy as the balance between IPR and the public good is challenged and various forces fight for control of ICT standards. Government policymakers must understand the basis of this battle and what's at stake in terms of economic and social development in order to make informed decisions.

It is imperative that a careful multi-stakeholder examination to redress this balance be convened at the Athens IGF global ICT standards ecosystem regains its health and its standards remain inclusive, non-discriminatory and supportive of interoperability.

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