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What’s Up With Open Standards?

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The GDS Open Standards team are here to support and encourage the use of open standards in government. We aim to help identify and contribute to open standards for software interoperability and data formats that will help to meet user needs across government and support the delivery of common components.

Our normal activity is working to approve technical standards for use across government. Recently we’ve also been streamlining our process and working on how to incorporate the developer and implementer community that we’ve been building into that process. True to our GDS roots, we’re putting the people who use open standards in their work (or could!) at the core of our thinking.

Simplifying the process

The bedrock of our work remains the Open Standards Principles. These are the criteria by which we judge a standard as “open” and whether it deserves to be approved. As noted in GDS’s updated Service Manual page on open standards, these principles start with user needs. They also incorporate the principles of transparency of process, free or low cost and royalty-free licensing.

We’ve simplified the way our process works in a number of ways. For example, up till now we’ve had separate Technical and Data panels besides our Open Standards Board. The panels evaluate standards and make recommendations to the Board. The Board makes decisions on adopting standards. The two panels deal with different domains of standards.

It’s often been hard to work out which standards should be reviewed by each panel so we've taken the decision to combine these into one flexible expert panel. That panel will have an appointed chair (or co-chairs) but the membership will be drawn from the community in a way that makes sure we get suitable expertise for the subject of the meeting.

Other changes we’re making are with the aim of enabling more standards to move through our process and influencing standard development:

  • looking at ways in which we can use the experience of those working with standards
  • discovering how we can engage with people in government who are participating in external standard development

Streamlining our approach

The steps we’re taking at the moment are designed to streamline the processes we have, so we can better support the community and get a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t. We’re then going to use that to feed into a deeper discovery to look at how we can best support and encourage use of open standards; making sure government technology and services are affordable and work for everybody.

Last month we said hello to Terence Eden. We've lured Terence away from the high-tech world of mobile telecoms to help us run our Open Standards effort. Terence brings years of experience working with the World Wide Web Consortium, Internet Engineering Task Force, GSM Association, and Unicode Consortium on driving forward standards.

To find out more, you can read his blog or give him a call.

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