We don’t tend to think too much about electricity. All plugs are pretty much the same. While national differences persist, we know what voltage and current to expect. This standardisation simplifies design, construction and training. Normally, only the experts are aware of changes – and only they need to be.
Not all technology enjoys this happy state – not that we necessarily want it to. I’m writing this using a computer I purchased myself and using software that is significantly different from that which I’m responsible for procuring. While this, in itself, might be an affectation of sorts, I’m still not straying too far from the norm. The keyboard is still QWERTY. I’ll be saving it in a file format that will allow my team to edit and post it on our blog, without having to use the software or the machine that I am. As consumerisation of computing increases and those who can show a predilection for a ‘bring your own device‘ future, it’s become increasingly necessary that those of us with the responsibility to maintain some order in this potential chaos ensure that we (the crowd) can all interoperate.
The need to do this is what drove the Government’s Common Operating Environment (COE) policy that was included in the Desktop Hardware Coordinated Procurement initiative kicked off in mid-2010. This initiative has been singularly effective in reducing the cost of desktop hardware across the Government. Before it began, agencies were paying some 56% above the Australian average price for standard PCs. Twelve months later, that price had fallen to 49% below the Australian average. With the cooperation of agencies, we’ve been able to standardise requirements, aggregate demand and utilise the Government’s buying power to achieve savings of more than $10 million.
Standardisation works. In ICT standardisation, Australia has a pretty good record. The international standard for the corporate governance of ICT, ISO 38500, was fast-tracked from the Australian standard AS 8015. It’s an important educative standard and provides advice to boards and equivalent bodies regarding their responsibilities for the ICT of their organisations. Not all standards are as easily settled. Many of you will be aware of the discussions on this blog regarding our choice of document standards as part of the COE policy. That debate, not quite acrimonious but close, encouraged AGIMO to consider how we could improve our approach to such matters.
A few months ago, an opportunity arose. In 2010, Standards Australia conducted a feasibility study regarding the establishment of a national level strategic advisory committee (SAC) to inform Australia’s position at the ISO/IEC‘s Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1). JTC1 is the peak international ICT standards body. While Australia has been quite active in several of JTC1′s sub-committees and other subordinate arrangements, our involvement at the highest level has been somewhat limited. The feasibility study indicated that time was ripe for a change. SA approached both the Department of Finance and Deregulation (through AGIMO) and the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) to resource and support the establishment of the SAC. Given our respective interests in ICT both within Government and across the wider community, a mutually acceptable arrangement was able to be reached and the initial work begun.
On Monday, 31 October, using the Government’s TelePresence system, AGIMO hosted a working group meeting to consider the draft terms of reference, membership and related matters. Aside from AGIMO, DBCDE and SA, organisations to be represented on the committee include the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the Australian Industry Group (AiG), the Australian Computer Society (ACS), CSIRO, NICTA, academia (AICTEC), the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), and small and medium enterprises (represented by the Information Technology Supplier Advocate). The states, territories and local government are to be represented by a nominee selected by the members of the Cross-Jurisdictional CIOs’ Committee.
In forming the SAC, AGIMO, DBCDE and SA were keen to focus on several matters of interest in the ICT standards area. These are:
- cloud computing;
- smart infrastructure, including smart grids and sensor networks; and
Each year, the international JTC1 community congregates at a plenary session. This session includes reports from each of the sub-committees and considers their work plans for the coming year. This year, this meeting is being held in San Diego, USA. I am attending to represent the SAC and, formally, as head of the Australian delegation. The meeting agenda can be found on the International Committee for Information Technology Standards website. There is a link to the document set that supports the agenda but be warned, the PDF is greater than 51 MB.
At the working group meeting, those present agreed to use social media to publicise the work of the new Committee. While we determine whether a dedicated site to support the Committee’s work will be established, we will use this blog.
The Committee would appreciate your comments.