In order for real communication to happen, especially among people from different regions and dialects (let alone people from different countries and languages altogether), terms have to be clearly defined so that everyone is starting from the same point. The problem with such definitions is that the devil really is in the details.

The European Interoperability Framework

As the European Union works toward better integration to help countries work together more easily, one step along the way has been the development of the European Interoperability Framework, or EIF.

This document "provides recommendations and defines generic standards with regard to organizational, semantic and technical aspects of interoperability, offering a comprehensive set of principles for European cooperation in eGovernment."

As these definitions are what will drive policy, of course every interest group wants to make sure that its needs and desires are met. The issue of open standards was raised earlier on to ensure that member countries wouldn't all be forced into using identical software.

The EIF 1.0 was considered a shining beacon of ensuring openness and open standards when it was finalized, and is referenced across the world due to its clearly defined terms for such issues.

The Next Version of the EIF Capitulates?

A leaked version of the EIF version 2 has raised serious alarm among open source and open standard advocates. ComputerWorld UK writer Glyn Moody describes one aspect of the changes: "But it gets worse: not content with totally eliminating the concrete definitions of open standards in Version 1, Version 2 then goes on to re-define 'closed' as just another shade of openness, but without any of the openness."

There is strong concern across the EU that software industry lobbyists have managed to water down the language so that the initial dedication to open standards and open source is completely neutralized.

Learning Opportunities

The FFII Offers Recommendations

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure offers ten recommendations for improving the EIF version 2 and preserving "a strong definition of 'open standards and specifications' in a way that patent cartels do not qualify for the gold standard."

These ten recommendations are:

  1. Align the EIF 2.0 with the new General Principles from the Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations (ISA) document, which calls for technological neutrality and adaptability, openness, reusability, privacy and personal protection of data and security.
  2. Improve interoperability terminology to once again align with the ISA's definition rather than the new watered down one.
  3. Market Order and public constituency by creating better functioning markets with increased interoperability.
  4. Deletion of Chapter 3 and its empty talk.
  5. Administrative principles such as not tasking public administration with lobbying for political support of interoperability efforts.
  6. Avoid capture and dilution of interest with weak phrases and definitions.
  7. Adjust to public administrative needs.
  8. Open standards, not open concepts, by reinstating the proper definition of open standards.
  9. Open assessment and continuum to allow government bodies to assess where an offering falls on the "openness continuum".
  10. Problem-oriented approach by focusing on identifying and solving interoperability problems.

Other Organizations Speak Out

Other organizations have also expressed their strong concerns, such as the OW2 Consortium and the Open Source Software Thematic Group.

This situation definitely requires watching. Stay tuned.