The ongoing controversies surrounding the standardization of ISO/IEC 26300:2006 (OpenDocument Format 1.0) and ISO/IEC 29500:2008 (Office Open XML) have served to highlight several weaknesses in the International Standardisation processes for ICT specifications handled by JTC 1, the “Joint Technical Committee” that combines aspects of ISO and IEC for that purpose.
However newsworthy these particular projects have been, the underlying problems in JTC 1 go deeper, and I believe is incumbent on all who care to avoid solutions which smack of “single issue politics” – hard cases, after all, make bad law.
This post is the first in a series which aims to set out proposals for broad reforms that could help ensure JTC 1’s future. These posts are offered “out of process” as an informal starting point. They, like everything on this blog, are personal views – but have been informed by discussions with many experienced standardisers from many nations over the course of the last two years. My intention is that after the posts have been completed they will be assembled into a short paper (taking comments into account) which, I hope, may influence the onward international debate.
10 Recommendations for Reform
I make 10 recommendations and shall explore each in 10 forthcoming posts. In summary, they are:
1. Assert the worth of International Standardization
There are many organisations producing standards, but International Standardisation is the preserve of the de-jure organisations alone; this difference benefits the peoples of the world and must be preserved. The encroachment of “standardisation by corporation” must be resisted. More...
2. Recognise the distinctive requirements of ICT Standardisation
ICT standards are different from standards for piping, wiring or management processes; ISO and IEC need to make JTC 1 the sole steward of this distinctive subject area.
3. Re-draft the JTC 1 Directives
The JTC 1 Directives are an embarrassment; the current piecemeal patching efforts have palpably failed and serve only to empower administrators over nations. The Directives need to be re-drafted from scratch by professionals.
4. Move away from paper-based publication models
The current business model and many procedures within JTC 1 are predicated on producing and selling paper publications; this unnecessarily impedes the ICT standardisation process.
5. Widen International participation
In practice JTC 1 is currently dominated by a cosy club of rich, experienced nations; JTC 1 needs pursue a programme for fostering a much greater (i.e. genuinely international) reach.
6. Find a way for vendor-led standards to mesh with JTC 1 processes without compromising International control
Worthwhile standards will originate from outside JTC 1; a way must be found to make them International Standards avoiding the manifest flaws of the current accelerated adoption mechanisms.
7. Periodically change the nation having the Secretariat and Chair appointments
It is absurd that a purportedly International organisation has its effective HQ lodged for perpetuity in the USA.
8. Balance transparency and confidentiality
Openness and transparency can lead to better standardisation, but are by no means panaceas.
9. Clarify intellectual property policies
International Standards must have clearly stated IP policies, and avoid unacceptable patent encumbrances. More...
10. Encourage best practices at National level
International Standards rely on the efforts of the sovereign Nations that participate; JTC 1 should encourage these Nations to raise their games.