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Digistan: In Defense of Open Standards

As industry association names go, I have to say that Digistan is among the worst. Yes, the name is a clever compression of Digital Standards Organization and provides for a short-and-sweet URL ( But that doesn't excuse the group from having to respect the Iron Law of Naming Stuff.

To wit: If your organization sounds like an old breakaway Soviet republic, it probably needs a new name.

Still, it's hard not to like what Digistan is dishing. The group was formed earlier this year to promote, and I quote, "customer choice, vendor competition, and overall growth in the global digital economy through the understanding, development, and adoption of free and open digital standards ('open standards')."

All these concepts got a lot of jaw work during the recent Microsoft Office Open XML standardization push, which culminated in OOXML being approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as a formal, industry standard. As acrimonious as that contested debate was, it certainly raised awareness about the benefit -- and fragility -- of free and open digital standards in the development and IT arenas.

In an open letter, Digistan is calling people to man the bulwarks and help foment for open standards, even as it prepares to present what it calls the Hague Declaration. That document -- which links the use of open, standards-based technologies to the United Nations' 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- calls for governments to do three things:

  1. Procure only information technology that implements free and open standards;
  2. Deliver e-government services based exclusively on free and open standards;
  3. Use only free and open digital standards in their own activities.

What do you think of the group's Hague Declaration? Do you believe that open standards are under the dire threat depicted by Digistan? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 05/20/2008 at 1:15 PM

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