Vol. 5 (2009)

Open Documents And Democracy: A POLITICAL BASIS FOR OPEN DOCUMENT STANDARDS

Laura DeNardis and Eric Tam

Modern information society depends upon an enormous variety of electronic devices in order to function on a day-to-day basis. Information and communication technology (ICT) devices are able to exchange information only if they adhere to common communication protocols, technical interfaces, and information formats. ICT standards are the blueprints enabling users to access, create, and exchange information regardless of their hardware or software choices. Increasingly, governments are establishing policies to use ICT products based on standards that adhere to principles of openness and interoperability. Academic analyses of open standards policies usually address economic and technical concerns. But technological design is also political. Technologies both embody values and, once developed, have political consequences. Rationales for government procurement policies based on principles of openness and interoperability should not be viewed exclusively through an economic or a technical lens, but through the prism of the principles that provide democratic governments with their legitimacy.

Author

Research Scholar, Lecturer in Law, and Executive Director of the Information Society Project, Yale Law School. A.B., Dartmouth College, ’88; M.Eng., Cornell University, ‘89; Ph.D., Virginia Tech, ’06. * * B.Arts Sc., McMaster University, ’00, M.Phil., Yale University, ’03, J.D., Yale Law School, ’07.