Friday, November 20, 2009

Australian and International Standards Making

Greetings from the Standards Australia Council Meeting, being held in Sydney, where I am representing the Australian Computer Society. New directors elected were: Peter Burne, Peter Cockbane, Richard Brookes. The Consumer Electronics Suppliers’ Association (CESA) has joined SA.

There were three resolutions from members, for the annual report, quarterly, six monthly reports and a register of councillors. These were supported by the chairman and passed.

The financial report indicates that there has been loss, due to the Global Finance Crisis. The situation is not disastrous, but SA does not appear to have achieved all the savings it would with the move to online standards making. An expensive inner city office is not needed, as clients will never visit. No dedicated standards committee meeting rooms are needed, as most standards making will b online and the few rooms needed can be rented or got free from member organisations.

Dr. Alan Morrison, deputy SA Chair and President of the International Standards Organisation addressed the meeting. He noted that as developing nations expanded their economies, they will take up positions on standards committees. He commented that this was of concern to the USA. I can see how this would concern the USA, but it will be an opportunity for Australia, which has a . He noted a move in the EU for providing standards for free and this creates a dilemma for individual countries and for the USA. He argued that standards are not free, with meeting and coordination costs. He said that ISO is working on a measure of a value of standards to show countries why they should not be free.

There has been considerable controversy with Standards Australia's New Business Model, which was touched on by the CEO in his report. This model is essentially user pays, with those organisations who want a new standard to pay for the cost of its development. It itself user pays is not new or that controversial, those developing standards were already paying most of the cost through providing experts to write the standards at no charge. What has been added to this is a charge from SA to cover their administrative costs. The CEO indicated that some of this would be reconsidered following some concern from members.

Making user pays more controversial is that SA's exclusive publishing agreement with the company SAI Global, precludes the standards developed being available for free online. This was touched on briefly during the meeting.

As an individual IT professional I believe that SA's inability to make standards free and freely available online makes their standards process unworkable. I do not agree with the ISO President's view that a free open source approach will not work and have had doubts about the ISO process since reading Carl Malamud's book more than a decade ago: "Exploring the Internet: A Technical Travelogue" (1992), in which Australians figure prominently. So I will not be participating in any further SA or ISO standards making, instead I will be using open access standards bodies and recommending my colleagues do likewise. I will not be supporting future funding for ISO or SA. However, these views are my own and are not necessarily shared by everyone at ACS and there is no plan for ACS to withdraw its support for SA.

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