Speech on EU legal package on standardisation - OFE Breakfast Briefing hosted by Malcolm Harbour
Speech – OFE Breakfast Briefing: Global ICT Specifications for Innovation
and Growth in Europe
Dr. Jochen Friedrich, Chair of the Standardisation Task Force, OpenForum Europe
Ladies and Gentleman,
If you think back 10 to 15 years, I am sure not many in this room would have predicted the
huge impact of the internet and the world wide web on the way we operate, make business,
interact and live. People rightly call this the “digital revolution”.
And think about the boost in innovation and growth which the web has created. Buzzwords
here are “eBusiness”, “eCommerce”, “OnDemand Business” etc. Growth for large, multi-
national companies and for a large number of small and medium enterprises, for example all
the web-design companies, web-hosting companies, small software and service providers
etc. Or think of society: eDemocracy, new ways for participation, availability of information on
all possible topics, or – just to mention a recent and very exciting case – the so-called
“Arabellion”, the peaceful revolutions in Northern Africa and how people used web-based
technologies for networking and organising themselves.
Standards and specifications play a critical role in the rise and success of the internet. They
enable interoperability so that things work together. So that innovative programs and
applications can be developed making use of the web infrastructure level. They make modern
IT architectures possible which integrate processes and tools.
And now think ahead 10 to 15 years. What will the world look like in 2020 or 2025? Some
trends can be seen today. Technologies will more and more be integrated. This helps to
optimise processes and optimise the things we are doing. Cloud computing is a hot topic in
this respect. We do not need to have everything on our PC or laptop which we carry around.
Instead, we have a small device and can get our data which is stored in a cloud. Another hot
topic is smart grid. We combine IT technologies with traditional technologies for optimising
energy consumption and the distribution of energy and resources. Smarter traffic, smarter
cities, smart water supply etc. could be added.
In other words: there is a huge potential for innovation and growth that lies in
• the integration of technologies
• putting intelligent layers on top of physical layers
• the optimisation of processes
And again, standards and specifications will play a key role. They will allow the integration of
technologies. They will have to be combined for developing new, complex systems.
Interoperability of technologies and technology components – and innovation: this is at the
core when we discuss about global IT standardisation and about the need of having global
ICT specifications available for Europe. Interoperability and Innovation.
In its legal package on standardisation the Commission explicitly addresses ICT
• in the Communication: with a dedicated chapter and an action list
• in the draft Regulation: with two explicit Articles – Articles 9 and 10 – and with Annex II
Industry unanimously – and I feel comfortable to say so – unanimously supports these
proposals. We believe that they adequately address the needs of the ICT sector for changes
to the European standardisation system:
1. A large number of highly relevant ICT standardisation takes place in specialised
international fora and consortia. In other words: these highly relevant ICT specifications
do not come from formally recognised standards bodies like the three European
Standards Organisations CEN, CENELEC or ETSI, or like the international ones ISO, IEC
and ITU. But the fora/consortia who develop the ICT specifications are not small
fora/consortia consisting of a limited number of members. By no means. They are huge,
open and transparent, non-profit, global organisations with broad membership. Most
prominent examples are OASIS and W3C. And their specifications are used everywhere
in the world with large success. In fact, no single IT-Infrastructure or IT system can be
built without these specifications from fora/consortia.
2. However, these specifications have so far been outside of the European standardisation
system. They could not be used in a straight forward way in policies or in tenders in public
procurement. This also mean that there have not been any clear rules for their use in
driving innovation programmes, in innovation policy.
These issues have been discussed with the Commission in a very broad and open discourse
over the last 5 years. What the draft Regulation provides now is very good. It is as lean as
possible, but contains the checks-and-balances as necessary:
1. The Regulation integrates global ICT standardisation taking part in fora/consortia into the
European standardisation system:
◦ with taking account of the specifics in ICT standardisation – work taking place in
◦ without overthrowing the complete European standardisation system which has been
very successful in the past;
◦ and without adding more organisations to the European standardisation system but
by working on a by-need basis and by looking at specific specifications that are
2. Article 9 provides for the possibility to generally recognise specifications from
fora/consortia, case-by-case, and with the condition that the requirements and criteria in
Annex II must be met. In this way Article 9 provides for a clear base for the acceptance of
fora/consortia specifications regardless whether they are used in policies or in
3. Article 10 explicitly refers to procurement and complements the rules laid down in the
Procurement Directives by giving recognised fora/consortia specifications the same status
as technical specifications as defined in the Procurement Directives. This makes it
possible to directly reference the recognised specifications from fora/consortia in
And in the Communication the Commission gives some further outline of their strategic
thinking, especially as far as the need to reference fora/consortia specifications in policies is
concerned for promoting interoperability and for fostering innovation.
Moreover, in the Communication the Commission announces that they will install a multi-
stakeholder platform as an advisory group to the Commission on ICT standardisation policy –
including on the issue of recognising fora/consortia specifications in ICT.
In this platform all stakeholders will be represented including Member States, ESOs, SMEs,
societal stakeholders (users, consumers), and industry. As the Commission expressed in its
earlier ICT White Paper (2008) one of the tasks of the Platform will be to undertake the
assessment of fora/consortia specifications against the criteria of Annex II and provide a
statement of advice on this to the Commission. With such a procedure it is ensured that all
stakeholders are involved in the decision making, including the Members States, the ESOs,
the SMEs etc., and can bring up concerns whenever appropriate.
As I said earlier, industry strongly supports these proposals and strongly supports Articles 9
and 10 of the draft Regulation. It is balanced and takes all necessary aspects properly into
Please let me also clarify some myths which are around.
• Some say the proposal from the Commission gives fora/consortia specifications the same
level as European Standards / European Norms (highest level of a standard in Europe).
This is not true. It gives them the same level as technical specifications as defined in the
• Some say that fora/consortia specifications could simply be transposed into the formal
standards bodies and adopted as formal standards. Well, some of them are, indeed. And
W3C and OASIS have agreements with ISO in this respect. But they do this transposition
essentially for some critical specifications that may be used in regulation/legislation. And
by far not all fora/consortia are willing to transpose their specifications. And finally, it would
be “overkill” to expect or require that all fora/consortia specifications should be transposed
into formal standards.
• Some say the proposal allows for fora/consortia specifications to be referenced in
legislation. This is not true. Consideratum 3 is very clear that European standards will
continue to be developed by the ESOs. The legal package is only concerned with
referencing fora/consortia specifications in policies, e.g. for the purpose of industrial
policy, for innovation policy (eHealth, eGovernment, etc.). Regarding standards in support
of the New Legislative Framework, regarding the New Approach Directives nothing is
going to change.
• In general, it is worth stressing that the chapter on ICT, that Articles 9 and 10, are not
about developing harmonised standards in support of the European common market.
They are about making use of ICT specifications that are widely used globally anyway
and that are critical for modern ICT systems and infrastructures. Making use of them,
implementing them, combining them with other standards and specifications – this is what
is addressed here.
• Some say that stakeholder involvement, especially of the societal stakeholders and of
SMEs, will not be given. This is not true. They will all be part of the ICT Platform and will
thus be involved in the assessment of fora/consortia specifications.
And I'm sure there are more myths around and more Fear – Uncertainty – and Doubts – more
FUD – is spread.
Let me now come back to what I addressed at the beginning of my speech: the huge impact
of ICT on innovation and growth – and the critical role of global ICT specifications as a driver
for innovation in ICT technologies. And let me relate this to the legal package as presented by
the Commission, to the strategic directions in the Communication and to the Articles 9 and 10
and Annex II in the Regulation. Putting two and two together gives a concise picture, I believe.
It shows why the Commission proposal not only makes sense, but is vital for Europe.
There is public procurement. Procurers should be encouraged to reference standards and
specifications in tenders. This increases interoperability and creates a level playing field for
fair competition. Fora/consortia specifications are essential for modern ICT infrastructures.
The criteria in Annex II which are a prerequisite for recognition of fora/consortia specifications
ensures that openness, transparency etc. are observed.
And there are public policies. programmes for new technologies and systems, innovation
policy. The integration of technologies will be a major driver for innovation and growth in the
next 10 to 15 years. This means integrating ICT technologies together with other technology
layers. And this means that global ICT specifications will be needed for getting on with this. If
a government, if the Commission wishes to drive a new technology area, say, like smart grid,
and if they want to show global leadership, they need to be able to include reference to
fora/consortia specifications as well as to specifications from CENELEC, ETSI and others.
And by the way, this also opens new ways for cooperation and leadership in Europe – jointly
driven by the ESOs and fora/consortia in support of European policy priorities.
There is a current discussion about merging Articles 9 and 10 and limiting it to public
procurement – or even moving it out into the Procurement Directives. Let me be very clear on
this: this would not solve the issues. It would mean that ICT standardisation remains outside
of the European standardisation system. It would mean that there is no common ground for
the recognition of fora/consortia specifications and their use in procurement on the one hand
and in policies on the other. It would leave uncertainty and unclarity regarding policies. And
after all, policy often precedes procurement. Those who want to limit the recognition of
fora/consortia standards to procurement will limit the opportunities for innovation and for
European leadership in innovation policy.
So my conclusion is:
The proposal from the Commission for ICT standardisation makes a lot of sense. It integrates
global ICT standardisation into the European standardisation system in an appropriate way –
and in this respect the legal package itself is highly innovative. It addresses the urgent needs
regarding ICT standardisation for Europe. It provides clarity and opens the way for forward
looking policy making for innovation and growth in Europe which needs to include global ICT
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