[governance] Is This An Issue for Internet Governance/Internet Human Rights?

Guru गुरु Guru at ITforChange.net
Sun Jul 24 06:57:58 EDT 2011

I agree with Norbert.

In most cases (domains), while companies compete in providing products 
and services, the standards that their products comply with are 'open' 
or 'public'. This prevents a 'lock-in' into the product of any one 
company. However, in case of the tech sector, the company that has 
managed to acquire a large user/consumer base often creates proprietary 
standards which are owned/controlled by it. This gives the company an 
unfair advantage, since standards in some sense influence the 'rules of 
the game'

Thus Microsoft uses proprietary formats which it changes at its own will 
(.doc to .docx) and by virtue of being a near monopoly 'locks-in' 
consumers to its products. This is a clear barrier to new entrants. 
Though in many countries, the ODF standard has been adopted, the 
progress to actually implement it is slow due to the prior dominance of 
Microsoft. Microsoft also does not implement ODF standard in its own 
Office product (though this is not any technological challenge for it), 
simply to discourage the use of ODF and ensure its proprietary formats 
continue to be seen as the de facto standard. Similar issue with 
Facebook not letting google access contact information.

In the case of Google, while android is apparently an 'open' platform, 
recently there was a news item about how google is able to influence the 
development of android to a significant degree (see for instance 
That apart the might of google (its prowess as a search engine is as 
much a function of the huge superiority it has through its large number 
of data servers as of its proprietary algorithm) ensures no level 
playing field, an essential attribute of a 'free market'.

It seems that the market is no panacea for our challenges in IG, on the 
contrary, the presence of large monopolies/oligopolies makes the market 
a threat to IG goals. Enforcing open standards is one step by which 
governments/IG institutions could address this threat. India is one of 
the few countries to have adopted a clear policy favoring open standards 
in IT in governance 
though this is still largely on paper. Having and enforcing open 
standards can make the field bit more level playing...


On 24/07/11 05:03, Norbert Klein wrote:
> On 7/24/2011 4:24 AM, Milton L Mueller wrote:
>>  Let’s look at the details of the case.
>>  Taipei said it wanted Android platform users to comply with local 
> regulations regarding trial periods and refunds.
>>  Google said, if you force us to do that, we will withdraw Android 
> market service from Taipei.
>>  To me, that seems fair enough. An agreement to disagree; a failure to 
> transact. That should be the end of the story.
>>  Those who are complaining about this result seem to be either 
> disconnected from economic reality or, at worst, hypocritical 
> believers in having your cake and eating it, too. Apparently, they 
> want to tell Google: you CANNOT offer services here on terms that you 
> find necessary to meet your needs as a supplier, but if you withdraw 
> service we will whine about it and imply that you should be forced to 
> offer service in a locality you do not want to do business in.
>>  There is a very simple form of governance at work here, it’s called 
> rational mutual adjustments to local circumstances.
>>  The Taipei government says, “we will impose regulations on what you 
> do.” Google says, in response, “well, those regulations are too costly 
> to us, we shall choose not to do business there.” This kind of choice 
> occurs in thousands of different industries in thousands of different 
> ways. You don’t want to live in a world in which that kind of 
> adjustment is not possible.
>>  This process of choice provides checks and balances on both players. 
> If Google is too unreasonable in its unwillingness to comply with 
> local consumer regulations, it will be barred from many markets and 
> lose out to others. If Taipei is too unreasonable in its demands on 
> external businesses, it will only prevent its citizens from getting 
> access to many valuable products and services.
>>  Please tell me what is a better alternative?
> Not an alternative in the strict sense of the word - but a third 
> (future) option: Open Standards Hardware.
> Years ago, many "experts" did not think Linux and the applications 
> that run on this Open Source system would achieve the development 
> achieved so far.
> A few years ago I was in contact with a group of technicians who were 
> working on an Open Standards definition for the hardware for a mobile 
> phone and a lot of other functions which we find in different Symbian, 
> Microsoft etc. mobile devices.
> Surely to develop Open Standards Hardware is not as easy as developing 
> Open Source software. And the major players at the existing hardware 
> markets would probably not be keen to get involved soon - just as the 
> mayor players on the market for proprietary software were not keen to 
> see the share of Open Source software expanding. But it does.
> Norbert Klein
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