Setting practical open standards for the public sector

GDS Open Standards Show and TellGovernment's CTO, Liam Maxwell, is keen to engage local government and the wider public sector in the Open Standards setting process.

"The idea is to get rid of the complexity and walls in government... GDS is about building world class services for the citizen." Open standards, he maintains, are key to delivering the interoperability this new approach requires.

The standards currently being set by the open standards board Maxwell leads will be mandatory only for central government - not for health or local government. However, if the dream of joined up service delivery for the citizen is to be achieved all parts of the public sector will need to agree common standards.

Liam Maxwell, government CTOMaxwell appeared positive that "there are governance barriers that we are overcoming with a common domain which will allow us to move in that direction."

Conceding that a large proportion of the services delivered to the citizen "are delivered through local government" he said that his open standards team "Would love a stronger engagement with local government... But on the other hand, our hands are pretty full at the moment - we are coming up for air."

Maxwell added that government was focused on finding a better way of delivering IT in the departments - of moving away from the "traditional silo operations" and towards "a common set of services" that were efficiently focused around the user: "It is about encouraging and persuading people to move that way."

The first three open standards 'challenges' go before the Open Standards Board for decision on 24th September. These are:

1. Describing and sharing information, centred on meta data and vocabularies
2. Cross platform character encoding
3. Persistent resolvable identifiers

Get involved

The seven open standards principles launched last November are the 'foundation for the specification of standards for software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT':

  • user needs at heart of standards choice
  • enable suppliers to compete on a level playing field
  • support flexibility and change
  • support sustainable cost
  • decisions are well informed
  • fair and transparent selection process
  • fair and transparent in specification and implementation of open standards

The process of agreeing common standards for government starts with a 'challenge' - and in the true spirit of openness, anyone can suggest a challenge on the government's standards hub: http://standards.data.gov.uk

A call for volunteers to participate in the evaluation process is open until 10am on 30th September: http://standards.data.gov.uk/meeting/volunteers

Read Paul Downey's GDS blog on the Open Standards Show & Tell: http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2013/09/06/opening-up-open-standards/