The Open Standards Board, which exists to make recommendations to the UK (Westminster) Government Cabinet Office, met last week and completed the journey to the first milestone in the new process by which open standards are to be selected. This process is based around the idea that “challenges” are raised on the Standards Hub, proposals worked up to meet challenges under the supervision of two panels (“data standards” and “technical standards”), and subsequently put before the Open Standards Board.
It has taken a few months to get here since the inception of the Open Standards Board in May, but quite a lot of effort was involved in working up the proposals. In some ways, the requirements to evaluate candidate open standards and to make the case for a proposal seem quite bureaucratic – there are two quite formidable templates – but I think this is ultimately necessary to support good decisions, and also to provide evidence that due diligence was undertaken.
The first recommendations – which were immediately accepted by Liam Maxwell, HM Government’s Chief Technology Officer, and announced via the Government Digital Service blog – appear rather prosaic (links are to the evaluations/proposal):
- URL and HTTP 1.1 for persistent resolvable identifiers;
- Unicode and UTF-8 for cross-platform character encoding.
Mundane they may be, but the introduction of a standardised approach to these matters across an entire government is not to be sniffed at. These standards now fall under a “comply or explain” policy.
A third proposal concerning metadata and controlled vocabularies was not accepted in its current form and is likely to be re-cast with tighter scope and possibly split into two.
There are now a number of other challenges that have been accepted in the Standards Hub (and some more at the earliest stage of the process, possibly in need of some redefinition before developing and open-standards response), some prosaic – such as IP v6 – and others a bit closer to the “front line” – such as multi-agency incident transfer.
There is still a long way to go before the benefits start to accrue, but there is commendable progress.