World Bank report – Roadmap for Open IT Ecosystems

The World Bank has published a report intended to promote the use of open standards in the IT systems of large corporations and governments. The report, entitled “Roadmap for Open IT Ecosystems,” was developed with the Open ePolicy Group and is intended to help large organizations and governments incorporate the use of open standards into their IT infrastructures.

Today’s globally connected world has created a new set of challenges for enterprises, governments and individuals. Private data networks can now communicate with others via the Internet, creating the potential for new services and highlighting the need for simple methods of data exchange. Economic growth is increasingly dependent on information technology. The report was written by the Harvard University-based Open ePolicy Group, which is made up of representatives of standards organizations, senior government officials and executives from IBM and Oracle.

The report seeks to provide information about the benefits and practical uses of open technologies and to be the first resource for anyone who wishes to implement an open information and communication technology (ICT) ecosystem. Through the use of straightforward explanations of terms and technologies and case studies, the report shows the advantages of using open standards.

The group has found that open ICT ecosystems are necessary not only for the sake of efficiency, but also for the stimulation of economic growth. A key finding of the report is that the use of open systems “becomes a catalyst for unleashing newfound comparative advantage, invention, social development and market opportunities.”

What Makes an ICT Ecosystem Open?
The first section of the report defines what constitutes an ICT ecosystem and examines the nature of open systems. Openness is defined as “a synthesis of collaborative creativity, connectivity access and transparency.” An ICT ecosystem is considered to be open when, “it is capable of incorporating and sustaining interoperability, collaborative development and transparency. “

According to the group, there are five guiding principles of open ICT ecosystems:

Interoperability – allowing, through open standards, the exchange, reuse, interchangeability and interpretation of data across diverse architectures.
User-Centric design – prioritizing services fulfilling user requirements over perceived hardware or software constraints.
Collaboration – permitting governments, industry, and other stakeholders to create, grow and reform communities of interested parties that can leverage strengths, solve common problems, innovate and build upon existing efforts. 
Sustainability – maintaining balance and resiliency while addressing organizational, technical, financial and legal issues in a manner that allows an ecosystem to thrive and evolve.
Flexibility – adapting seamlessly and quickly to new information, technologies, protocols and relationships while integrating them as warranted into market-making and government processes.

Open Standards play a key role in the creation of open systems. Open standards are created by standards-setting organizations including consortia like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). These organizations allow interested parties to contribute to proposals, making it possible to base decisions on consensus.

Why Open an ICT Ecosystem?

The key drivers for migrating to an open ICT ecosystem are efficiency, innovation and growth.

Efficiency is achieved because open systems lead to greater competition between suppliers, greater interoperability between systems, and greater control over the future use of technologies.

Innovation is fostered through collaborative partnerships, communities of shared knowledge and freedom from reliance on the whims of a single vendor.

An example of how growth is stimulated is provided by a recent study in the United Kingdom that showed that standards contribute £2.5 billion annually to the national economy.

By establishing a common language for businesses, standards increase growth, innovation and international trade.  They have also produced 13 percent growth in labor productivity.

How Do Open ICT Ecosystems Evolve?
The second half of the report looks at the way that open ICT ecosystems evolve through a series of exercises intended to give practical examples and offer insight into how open standards can be brought into existing systems.

Exercise 1 focuses on scoping. Defining wants, assessing control or influence, prioritizing requirements and selecting entry points through the use of baseline audits and mapping, the evaluation of maturity models and the definition of selection criteria.

Exercise 2 is about policymaking. Governments that seek level playing fields and open technologies need policy frameworks to guide efforts across multiple agencies and ICT systems. The areas of focus are open standards and how they affect policies, interoperability frameworks, procurement and development. The exercise also touches on lateral policies such as service orientation, software and innovation.

The final exercise looks at management. Open ICT ecosystems can evolve more rapidly when steps are taken that place a premium on good management, constant monitoring and sustainability.

Open standards are reaching a critical mass. The fact that many governments are requiring openness and interoperability in new systems will have a significant impact on vendors and companies, as well as the organizations that exchange information with them.

The Open ePolicy Group’s report is an important initial step in aiding practitioners to better understand open ICT ecosystems and assist them in their decision-making.

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