There is general consensus in both government and businesses that “Openness” is both pivotal and a positive. Few would seek voluntarily to be labelled ‘closed’ and inevitably ‘open’ can be tagged to a product or service by many companies seeking a little ‘magic dust’ in support of its marketing. But maybe with little attempt to justify and evidence their sought differentiation.

The definition “Open” is also a potentially critical dynamic in the competitive landscape of the ICT industry. As a result, there are various points of views, and conflicting definitions.

So how do we come to terms with what is ‘open’? How can openness be leveraged to support dynamic, responsive, and cost effective government and business? Is it now the time to seek consensus on the use of the term ‘open’ and how it can be used via a set of
Principles applied in the context of key ICT areas such as in Standards, Cloud, (e)Government, Data and Procurement?

The OFE Openness Principles

Openness is not a political statement, development method, or business model. Openness is a means to an end. It is essential that we do not lose sight of objectives including:

  • 1. Providing choice to consumers, including options (for example in terms of cost or accessibility) that eliminate digital exclusion. This is the principle of User Centricity.

  • 2. Providing a level playing field between producers, forcing them to compete on functionality and quality and ensuring constant innovation. This is the principle of Competition.

  • 3. Enabling the construction of complex combinations of products and/or services from different providers where part of the combination can be upgraded or replaced when better products or services become available in the future. This is the principle of Flexibility.

  • 4. Enabling the construction of products, services and combinations thereof that are sustainable in terms of access to information, cost and impact on the environment. This is the principle of Sustainability.

  • 5. To meet these objectives, some coordination is needed: between providers and consumers to ensure user centricity or between providers to ensure flexibility. For this reason, openness often implies some form of community in which everyone can participate, where no single entity dominates the debate and where decisions are taken via a transparent process. This defines an additional principle: the (open) Community.