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Innovation the winner in IT standards revamp

Public Service Europe - Paul Meller (OFE) - The revamp of Europe's rules on standardisation endorsed by the European Parliament on Tuesday is little short of a revolution for public sector procurers of information technology products and services

For the first time ever, the people writing tenders for IT contracts will be able to reference the full range of standards, not just those approved by the formal standards bodies such as the European Committee for Standardisation and the United Kingdom's National Standards Board. This means we are likely to see many more cutting edge technologies, such as web-based ones recognised as standards by the W3C – a consortium that grants industry standard status to inventions that help build the worldwide web – being adopted by public offices than at present. 

The agreement reached between European lawmakers to recognise IT standards approved by industry fora and consortia without undue red tape will give public institutions the chance to use technologies that currently remain the preserve of the private sector. That can only be a good thing because it will help to boost innovation primarily, but not exclusively, in the public sector. In Europe, until now, public procurers have been prevented from directly referencing standards agreed by global industry fora and consortia such as the W3C, Oasis, and the Internet Engineering Task Force.

The decision to open up public procurement process very nearly did not happen. It only came about after a long and, in parts, fierce debate. Many national governments resisted opening up the procurement process to non-formal standards bodies, partly due to lobbying from their national standards bodies – the formal bodies that have dominated the public procurement area until now – and partly because some national governments were reluctant to hand over authority in the field of public procurement to the European Union.


OFE link to Press ReleaseNew EU Standards Regulation to boost innovation