Internet Governance Forum

Oct. 30th - Nov. 2th, 2006

DRAFT: Best Practices for Government Policies and Procurement Practices to Support Broader Information Access

1. We reconfirm the importance of Paragraph 44 of the WSIS Declaration of Principles, which states in part: "Standardization is one of the essential building blocks of the Information Society... International standards aim to create an environment where consumers can access services worldwide regardless of underlying technology."

2. We also stress the importance of Paragraph 90j of the Tunis Agenda, which reaffirms the commitment of all WSIS stakeholders to "developing and implementing e-government applications based on open standards in order to enhance the growth and interoperability of e-government systems, at all levels, furthering access to government information .... thereby furthering access to government information and services and contributing to building ICT networks and developing services that are available anywhere and anytime, to anyone and on any device."

3. Government action can positively affect ICT diffusion and adoption, and the government is not an insignificant actor. Government's role in ICT diffusion and adoption falls into three categories, which often overlap: consumer, producer, and policymaker.

4. With such power, we believe that governments must act to support a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society. Because of the incredible value of the Internet and ICT to the public, we also believe that governments must work more closely and openly with consumer groups and civil society to ensure that the public's needs are fully met.

5. Government as consumer: The government sector represents the largest consumer of ICT in volume and value. We believe that in the role of the consumer, governments should:
1. Ban procurement policies from requiring compatibility with proprietary technologies or proprietary ICT standards.

2. Ban procurement policies from specifying particular brands, manufacturers, or products and instead encourage a focus on functional performance and usage rights requirements.

3. Encourage procurement policies that require evaluation of multiple, competing products based on open ICT standards.

4. Support the use of non-proprietary, non-discriminatory hardware and software interfaces in all instances in which the government user acquires, creates, exchanges or stores public information. Examples would include the PC desktop system, Web browser, email application and data archives used by government employees.

5. Engage more systematically in the requirements gathering phase of ICT standards development. Governments can represent the consumer, and along with civil society, they can also represent the public good in terms of public policy issues such as safety, security, and privacy.
6. Government as producer: As the stewards of public information and services, governments should ensure that the public can access data or services regardless of their choice of technology or product. It should be noted that data can be presented as text, numbers, maps, graphics, video and audio. We therefore believe that governments should:
1. Require public government services and data be based on open ICT standards. "Openness" is best judged by the number of competing, fully substitutable implementations of the standard.

2. In order to preserve the long-term accessibility of public records, require that public records be stored in non-proprietary, non-discriminatory electronic formats.
7. Government as policymaker: Governments also deeply influence ICT diffusion and adoption through national, regional and local policies, regulation and legislation. We believe that in the role of the policymaker, governments should:
1. Provide and encourage funding for research and educational efforts in standardization.

2. Encourage greater public benefit from data formats, application programming interfaces, protocols, and interfaces that are developed with government funding by mandating they be put into the public domain.

3. Consider ex ante and ex post policies to help improve consumer choice in software and hardware purchases.

4. Consider actions that would improve general consumer/user input to ICT standards.

5. Consider limitations and exceptions to intellectual property and infringement laws that would promote entirely open interfaces and interoperability.
8. These rules should equally apply to intergovernmental organizations and the WSIS organization itself