The European Commission's IDABC European Interoperability Framework for eGovernment services is a very well received public policy instruments in the fields of IT strategy. Probably it is best known for its open standard definition that got wide support among professionals, public administration; you cannot even discuss "Open standards" in Europe anymore without a reference to the EIF. For instance there is remarkable dissent now if Open XML adheres to the EIF Open Standards definition or not, which will depend on a legal interpretation of the vague patent conditions.
Due to a strong EIF focus on interoperability promotion and open standards an American software company invested in European lobbying and aimed to undermine it or "revise" it. An EIF revision is no bad idea per se and this year IDABC commissioned a study of the Gartner group for a potential revision of the EIF: The EIF 2.0. That study was released and attracted strong curses from everyone except the lobby choir of an American company. The European Commission IDABC asked for public opinions on the Gartner study (until 15/9/2007).
Bruce Perens, one of the key experts for Open Standards wrote (13/09/2007):
Gartner's advice to IDABC is so fundamentally flawed that, if followed, it would break down the interoperability that has been achieved via EIF 1.0 and set back any prospect of achieving improved interoperability in the future. Their findings are unbalanced to weight the desires of an IT vendor over the good of IT customers and the fundamental goal of interoperability. This unbalance is so fundamental that Gartner mis-states the very character of standards and the conditions that provide interoperability, and confuses mere formats with standards.
This comment counters Gartner's report with a simple explanation regarding the conditions necessary to achieve interoperability while being fair to all parties. The recent overpowered push for acceptance of Office Open XML in ISO made it clear that the proper conditions for interoperability must be explained to many nontechnical people, if political pressure is not to overwhelm technical reality. Thus, this comment defines basic concepts and uses terms that nontechnical people can be expected to understand. The more technical are requested to bear with us.
Full report: http://perens.com/works/articles/EIF2/
I represented Denmark in the comittee that created the EIF and maintained the AG, so of course I read the Gartner-report with a biased view. Then again, I always tend to read documents from Gartner with a biased view.
The Commission asked Gartner inc. to “make a study, situating the European Interoperability Framework in relation to the current practices in the Member States and elsewhere and to give an independent view on the revision process and on its desired outcome.”
If the Gartner consultants were my students, they should fear the exam, … Researchwise, the Gartner report does not go into much if any detail with respect to the national interoperability frameworks that have been established in several member states: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom.
EIF presented a pretty clear definition of open standards. EIF 2.0 will, Gartner suggests, “allow open standards and other recognized standards to coexist”, and Gartner recommends not to focus on the use of open standards per se.
John Goetze: Gartner and the European Interoperability Framework 2.0. He recommends a petition campaign that was launched by Nicolas from AEL this summer and strongly critizised the Gartner report. http://www.openstandards.eu
Last time I checked it was 2000 persons who signed the petition. Nicolas also uses Wikidot.
Why all the outrage?
My recommendation is: check the original source! Read the Gartner study yourself, it is published and paid with public EU money.
It is somehow ironic to find Brussels lobby newspeak recycled for contributions in public administration studies, (or emerge in professional discussions in standard bodies or in the ISO comments by some national bodies.) Multiple Standards - Standards Choice. That sounds funny and why not have some fun: In the blogosphere a parody of a key phrase was proposed:
Gartner recommends not to focus on the use of moral standards per se. Whether moral or not, standards are to further the deployment of public services. EIF v2.0 should facilitate the most profitable business model(s) of cost versus public value
FFII Open Standards Workgroup submission (14/9/2007)
It is known that the Gartner report was of minor importance as it was rejected by almost everyone involved in Brussels. But the EIF revision process is very promising, and bears good opportunities for more getting more interoperable markets, in particular in the context of European document formats and the OOXML debate. EIF 1.0 open standards compliance of Open XML is disputed, so two future options will arise: change the European definition of open standards or clarify Open XML royality-free patent conditions. As a strange coincidence the Gartner study supports the first compliance solution and wrecks the EIF1.0 as we know it.
Having that said, it was decided to contribute to a Commission IDABC consultation on the Gartner study and submit a position paper before 15/9. Sure, they expected a player as FFII to contribute but we started very late. Third party opinions were not discussed and the insightful opinions above were unknown. So it is remarkable that FFII came to similar conclusions.
/forum:thread/replyToGartner-eifkonsult-20070914v092.pdf - FFII contribution to Gartner consultation
A key observation of the FFII position paper as a reflection on past interoperability debates in general is: We are missing a stakeholder interests analysis. Cui bono? was not really asked by the good-old EIF 1.0. Bruce Perens came to almost the same conclusion in the section: "What Did Gartner Do That Made Their Advice So Wrong?". Gartner's proposed "update" for the EIF is a public procurement strategy written from a vendor perspective.
Or in the words of the FFII position paper:
The interests of the supplier community are … irrelevant in an administrative procurement and implementation context. Interoperability enforcement aims to strengthen the demand power of public services, identify strategic dependencies and promote more market efficient and flexible allocations.