ECIS is dedicated to assuring competition in information and communications technology that helps consumers and users and promotes innovation For more than 20 years, ECIS has sought to shape government policies and practices which promote interoperability and open standards.
In the coming year, ECIS will focus especially on:
ASSURING OPENNESS IN CLOUD COMPUTING
- The principles of competition will prove as important in the cloud as they have in other areas of new technology. While work continues on voluntary industry standards for cloud computing, users and the European economy will benefit when appropriate specifications are in place to permit portability of data among cloud vendors .
- As enterprises — whether public authorities or private enterprise — take up the cloud they should be able to mix and match equipment and software. Data formats should be standardised so that data can be moved readily from one cloud provider to another.
- These will foster competition among the vendors of cloud software and among public cloud providers, which should lead to innovation and falling prices.
- Cloud computing is easily described but subtle in its execution There is room for much to be invented, and industry players are developing cloud computing standards. Government should not interfere with the process but should engage as an important stakeholder. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides an excellent model for standards setting, laid out on its website:
- “The World Wide Web Consortium achieves its mission by bringing diverse stake-holders together, under a clear and effective consensus-based process to develop high-quality standards based on contributions from the W3C Members, staff, and the community at large.”
- The success of open standards on the Web is around us everywhere and helped foster radical changes in commerce, destroying old business models and creating new ones.
- A similar process including government, industry and others in the community is the sensible way to set standards for the cloud.
- Questions of the cloud are intimately connected to the approach that governments take to standards setting and procurement.
REFORM OF THE STANDARDS SETTING PROCESS
- The best way to set standards is to do it publicly and democratically. As efforts to reform the ICT standards process progress in Europe, and reliance on consortia and open standards grows, ECIS will work to ensure that policies are adopted that recognize these market dynamics and that standards setting groups should listen and involve the owners and the users of technologies involved before acting.
- The European Commission took an important step to laying out principles for standards setting in its “horizontal guidelines,” which provide legal guidance – but no mandatory requirements – to competitors in horizontal markets, such as competing makers of memory chips.
- The Commission suggested that companies disclose patents and make irrevocable written commitments to license them on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms while a standard is under consideration, in order to avoid patent hold-ups later. Only after such commitments are made should a standard be adopted.
NON-DISCRIMINATORY, OPEN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT
ECIS will continue its long-standing commitment to technology-neutral public procurement.
 Standards and specifications for software are usually royalty free but hardware industries such as telecommunications usually charge royalties.
 Specifications from W3C, the Internet Engineer Task force (IETF) and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) should be recognised officially within the EU for use in public procurement. The Commission, advised by the newly appointed, multi-stakeholder ICT standardisation platform (MSP), would have to be satisfied with the transparency and openness of the process by which the standard is developed. This would correspond to criteria used in the World Trade Organisation.