Open Standards Board and the Cabinet Office Standards Hub

Early last week the government announced the Open Standards Board had finally been convened via a press release from Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, and via a blog post from Liam Maxwell, the government’s Chief Technology Officer. This is a welcome development but what chuffed me most was that my application to be a Board member had been successful.

I say “finally” because it has taken quite a while for the process to move from a shadow board and a consultation on policy (Cetis provided feedback), through an extension of the consultation to allay fears of bias in a stakeholder event, analysis of the comments, publication of the final policy, and deciding on the role of the Open Standards Board. The time taken has been a little frustrating but I take comfort from my conclusion that these delays are signs of a serious approach, that this is not an empty gesture.

Before going on, I should publicly recognise the contribution of others that enabled me to make a successful application. Firstly: Jisc has provided the funding for Cetis and a series of supporters(*) for the idea of open standards in Jisc has kept the flame alive. Many years ago they had the vision and stuck with it in spite of wider scepticism, progress that has been often slow, a number of flawed standards (mistakes do happen), and the difficulty in assessing return on investment for activities that are essentially systemic in their effect. Secondly: my colleagues in Cetis from whom I have harvested wisdom and ideas and with whom I have shared revealing (and sometimes exhausting) debate. Looking back at what we did in the early 2000’s, I think we were quite naive but so was everyone else. I believe we now have much more sophisticated ideas about the process of standards-development and adoption, and of the kinds of interventions that work. I hope that is why I was successful in my application.

The Open Standards Board is concerned with open standards for government IT and is closely linked with actions dealing with Open Source Software and Open Data. All three of these are close to our hearts in Cetis and we hope both to contribute to their development (in government and the wider public sector) as well as helping there to be a bit more spill-over into the education system.

The public face of Cabinet Office open standards activity is the Standards Hub, which gives anyone the chance to nominate candidates to be addressed using open standards and to comment on the nominations of others. I believe this is the starting point for the business of the Board. The suggestions are bit of a mixed bag and the process is in need of more suggestions so – to quote the Hub website – if you know of an open standard that could be “applied consistently across the UK government to make our services better for users and to keep our costs down”, you know what to do!

The Open Standards Board has an interesting mix of members and I’m full of enthusiasm for what promises to be an exciting first meeting in early May.

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* – there are too many to mention but the people Cetis had most contact with include Tish Roberts, Sarah Porter and Rachel Bruce.

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