Tineke Egyedi a specialist on standardisation issues at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands recommends that European Governments should select between functionally equivalent standards in IT Procurement, in her study published on 3 January 2012. She concludes that competing standards decrease overall interoperability, fragment the market and can result in costly vendor lock-in.
Egyedi, Vice-President of the European Academy for Standardisation (EURAS), calls on the European Commission to improve the rules for Procurement. According to her research Governments actually find themselves between two roles, that of an IT user and that of a regulator of market competition. "The EC should review the tension between interoperability and competition" she says.
Public administrations should explain in their procurement documents the problems caused by competing standards, and why it is necessary to select one and not support two or more standards, she writes. "(...) benefits of standardisation get lost with multiple standards" she concludes.
In an annex to her paper, Egyedi focuses on the current standard war between the Open Document Format (ODF) and a dominant vendor's, Open Office solution, approved in 2006 and 2008 respectively by the International Standardisation Organisation ISO. She points out that the arrival of the second standard supported by a dominant player, prolongs vendor lock-in and increases costs by Governments that feel forced to support both standards.
Egyedi also criticises standardisation bodies ("the supply-side of the standardization market", as she says) for allowing competing standards. "Ending up with two very similar rival committee standards casts doubt on (ISO's) effectiveness in coordinating the IT market and providing a real alternative to market processes."
She urges European countries to correct the "perverse business incentives of standard setting organisations", by becoming active participants in the standardisation process. "To best serve the public interest in an interoperable, sustainable and affordable (i.e. vendor-independent) IT-infrastructure, Governments should participate in key standardisation projects. This is likely to be more effective than retrospect selection."