Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Making Standards Online

The recent controversy over the ISO ballot on Office Open XML/OOXML ISO 29500 highlights a problem caused by innovation in standards development. The ballot is for the adoption of the OOXML format of Microsoft Office as an international standard, alongside the existing ODF standard. The issue has caused concern amongst IT professionals worldwide for lack of transparency in the process. But much of that concern is due to the assumption that the tools developed for Internet and web standards are used for ISO standards.

IT professionals now routinely using the Internet and the web for the development of standards. Unfortunately the international and national standards making processes have not kept up with these developments. The result is that standards development in increasingly taking place outside the formal national and international processes. There is a need to incorporate these new ways of working online into the formal processes, otherwise ISO, SA and other bodies will cease to be relevant to standards making for IT. As the same online methods of working are adopted by other professional areas this will result in the breakdown of national and international standards process.

A few small changes needed to standards working processes to allow for meshing with an online work process. Standards Australia has made some moves in this direction with its "Consensus Builder" web based application. However, more needs to be done. New XML based web developments will make this process a lot easier. It will also reduce the cost of administering the standards process. Australia is one of the leaders in development of technology in this area and could lead the world in standards development.

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