On april 7th Aldert, Brenno and me had the pleasure if dining with Sunil Abraham. Sunil used to work for the UN Development Program and is now Policy Director of the Indian Centre for Internet and Society. We discussed the difficulties of bringing technology to rural places in India and the impact of product-oriented IT-education. After dinner Brenno interviewed Sunil for his weekly podcast (pocast in Dutch, interview in English from 05:15). Sunil also wanted to interview me about my experiences lobbying for open standards and opensource in the Netherlands and he did so by mail. The result can be read here.
Conservative party leader David Cameron held a speech at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts on April 3rd. Aside from the usual criticism (not all undeserved) at the current government he talked about the network society and bottom-up collaboration enable by ubiquitous access to IT. He (or his staffer) had obviously read "Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win" by William C. Taylor and Polly G. Labarre. And a good thing too since it is filled with good examples of how to innovate by sticking your neck out and doing things differently.
About three quarters through the speech Cameron very explicitly stated that his government, if elected, would actively seek a greater use of opensource software and mandate the use of open standards for public IT systems. According to him this will enable faster innovation in the public sector while avoiding repeats of the very expensive NHS disaster.
There were two elections on my news radar the last two weeks. One in an African country now rapidly sinking into an economic crash and possible civil war, the other in the heart of the civilized west; the OOXML election by ISO standards body in Geneva. Aside from the locations and prices of hotels for journalists the differences were few. Bribery, fraud and intimidation were applied to achieve a specific outcome, never mind what the majority wanted. In the OOXML election even the standards organizations of proper democratic countries like Norway and Germany were unable to withstand the well-oiled lobby machine of the worlds most convicted software monopolist. In the Netherlands Microsoft was actually a member of the committee and prevented a committee consensus. So instead of voting against the standards, as 21 out of 22 members wanted, the Netherlands voted 'abstain'.
The Dutch national government is proceeding with its new implementation of 'GOUD' (Gold), its new plan for a 'standardized desktop' for ministries and other governmental institutions. After the much publicized new Dutch National IT-policy of last autumn this might sound wonderful. It's not.
The problem with the 'standardized desktop' is that it uses very few real standards. Instead it uses products and pretends they are standards. The difference between 'standards' and the idea of 'standards products' is widely misunderstood, often confused and this is where projects such as 'GOUD' go off in troublesome directions.
What experts foresaw last December and the Dutch research institute TNO denies was possible in their recent report has been done. The deepest level of data-encryption on the NXP Mifare RFID chip has been hacked. Cash from cards can now be copied to other cards through cloning and that makes this system utterly unsuitable for serious applications involving real people and real money.