Participation in standards...

Just a quick note today. I am on the road meeting with MS people and later this week doing a bunch of external outreach work in South Africa as well. During the last few months there has been a good deal of rumblings about participation in committees, about countries moving from o- to p- status, etc. The more I ruminate on this, the more I think people are missing the point.

Standards are supposed to be inclusive rather than exclusive in nature. The increase in participation during the past 12-18 months is positive overall. Even more so that some countries with emerging economies chose to elevate their status in either SC 34 or JTC 1.

I've been spending some time talking to folks in some of these countries and have found examples of places where the political decision to move to p-membership was to amplify a yes vote and elsewhere to amplify a no vote. While certainly within the constructs of the rules, my personal take is that is not a great reason for the elevation of status.

But, in every other case I've looked into, the governments are genuinely looking to increase the footprint of ICT work in their countries. They are looking for opportunities to be more involved in the international ICT discussion. I think that is extremely encouraging.

As many people continue to ruminate on the state of standards following the adoption of Open XML, this topic should take a prominent position. The fact that so many people had opinions on the standard, and were willing to participate to even the most minor level (letters sent in, vs. attending meetings etc.) all the way up through attending committee meetings and traveling to the BRM etc. had a real impact on the process.

Many of the most developed nations' national standards bodies have dedicated at least some resource to capacity building for emerging countries. Furthermore, finding a way to address the idea that international standards take such heavy financial and people resources has merit as well. For example, I found out that in Australia the coal industry uses a blind trust mechanism from industry to enable participants to work on ISO standards - even if they are from smaller firms or academia where travel budgets can be very hard to come by.

Food for thought for sure.