UK Government's Latest Consultation on Open Standards

 

OFE - 13th February 2012 - The UK Government (UKG) has announced its expected public consultation on Open Standards and in contrast to much speculation the consultation is built on a firm statement confirming UKG's continuing support for Open Standards and the recognition of the potential it unlocks. This is strongly welcomed by OFE.

The latest consultation follows a successful Open Standards Survey conducted last year which generated a very high response (over 970). The vast majority (over 90%) of the respondents were in favour of the Open Standards approach, and they approved of the definition chosen by UKG.

UKG explains that a new consultation is needed because there are “additional issues which were highlighted” in last year's Survey, but doesn't say what those issues were. Whilst it has been denied that lobbying has been a factor in effectively repeating the exercise, it is clear that those who have an interest in protecting the status quo have been active. However, the arguments are not new, the positions are well known and documented. We doubt that new factors will emerge in the Consultation and at some point UKG will still have to make a decision.

There is no doubt that UKG is right to refine further the definition, and particularly clarify the context within which it is to be used. Both were natural developments from the outcome of the Survey. On its own the section in the new Consultation discussing procurement practice, choices and decisions would have been welcomed as a natural step in consulting on implementation of the strategy.

What OFE is concerned about is that the withdrawal of the Public Procurement Notice (PPN) in December, without explaining the content of this new Consultation at the same time, not only allowed speculation to develop on a change of direction, but also now introduces an effective minimum six month delay into the programme. A new PPN can now only emerge after the Consultation and analysis, implying the UK Government cannot refer to Open Standards in its tendering process until the whole consultation has been completed and the Government has finally determined its stance on this issue. It is to be hoped that the thoroughness of this re-consultation process will mean that the final determination will be beyond challenge.

OFE is frustrated by this delay but confident that UKG will, eventually, commit itself not only to a robust definition of an Open Standard, but an implementation programme that can turn it into practice. We encourage all the community, industry and citizens to give a maximum response to the new consultation, regardless of how they feel about the delay or need.

 

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