A World Bank report aimed at helping governments and large companies review their IT systems will recommend the adoption of open standards.

Written by the Open ePolicy Group, the report contends that the adoption of open standards is vital to global economic growth and innovation. "Almost by necessity, a new openness, fuelled by a wave of information and communication technologies (ICT), is evolving and unlocking the efficiencies, standardisation and flexibility needed to propel the transformation of governments and businesses," it reads.

The report sought input from representatives of 13 nations and was spearheaded by the Berkman Center of Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. IBM and Oracle have also been involved in the project leading to the report.

Open standards are defined by the group as those that are not proprietary, or owned by any one company, and that are published and freely available for use by developers. However, the road map does not focus on any one aspect of what the group calls an open "ICT ecosystem," but covers various components. Such an ecosystem "encompasses the policies, strategies, processes, information, technologies, applications and stakeholders that together make up a technology environment for a country, government or an enterprise. Most importantly, and ICT ecosystem includes people - diverse individuals who create, buy, sell, regulate, manage and use technology."

An open ICT system allows for inter-operability across "diverse architectures", is user-centric, collaborative, sustainable and flexible, according to the report, which emerged out of a meeting arranged last February by the Berkman Center and which has led to ongoing work by meeting participants. Open standards are not the same as open-source software, the road map says. Both open-source software and proprietary software are components of an open-standards approach, according to the report.

Though the report says proprietary software can be part of an open-standards systems, the ePolicy Group's road map comes out at a time when Microsoft's Windows is under increasing pressure from open-source advocates worldwide. In an effort to lower costs, enhance open systems, enhance security and promote local developers, national and municipal governments around the world have started drafting policies that call for adoption of open-source software.

The ePolicy Group report says that governments should be among the participants in the process that leads to open standards and "play a critical role in the adoption and endorsement of open standards," and contends that government policy should mandate choice in technology.

The report is meant to be a starting point for consideration and "a catalyst for changing mental models globally about ICT ecosystems and pathways to innovation," wrote Jeff Kaplan, director and founder of the Open ePolicy Group.