Behind the Scenes: Standardisation and the Single Market

Within the context of Standardising the single market, we have twelve projects for the 2012 Single Market” – one of which is to Strengthen Standardisation.

The overall goals can be summarised as:

1) Free movement of Goods: Product interoperability, safety, quality

2) Services: inclusive services, ensuring growth

3) Standards – accessible, inclusion of SMEs

But behind these overarching goals, there are deeper issues.

Next month, I am at the Digital agenda summit in the workshop on standards and there are two sessions of interest:

Action 23 how can public authorities ensure that best use is made of existing standards in public procurement in order to avoid lock-in into proprietary technology and enhance interoperability:

This relates to the issue of varying specifications for tenders on public procurement. i.e. from the outline of the panel – Public authorities should make the best use of available standards when commissioning hardware, software and IT services from external suppliers. Yet, the practices of public authorities across the EU vary greatly when it comes to writing tender specifications for public procurement. In some cases, public authorities find themselves unintentionally locked into particular IT solutions for decades, simply because they failed to draft sufficiently flexible tender specifications allowing for open choices in technological evolution. And

Action 25 how to boost interoperability (and innovation) in the absence of formal standards, e.g. through the licensing of interoperability information:

Companies which dominate the ICT sector achieve wide market penetration of their products and services. If their products are incompatible with those of other brands, users feel locked into the dominant company’s product range, for fear that any new devices they purchase will not be compatible with their existing equipment.

Re Action 25, the discussion goes further that: Companies should provide interoperability information about their devices and applications. With this information available, smaller enterprises have the opportunity to develop applications and services compatible with those offered by dominant market players. The end result will be an extremely competitive market and a happy consumer.

Thus, behind the single market goals, we have a more complex set of issues and I would like to debate these on talkstandards. I was trying to think of a parallel, ie any other instance when similar initiatives were undertaken – but I cannot! Would be interesting to see what views we capture at talkstandards.