There is a growing need for standards, as these are increasingly being used as tools to achieve policy aims, says Martina Sindelar, representing the European Commission's Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry, Key Enabling Technologies and ICT. She is, together with colleagues from DG Connect, responsible for the European Commission Multi-Stakeholders Platform on ICT Standardisation. "That is why it is important that standards are developed in a open, transparent and democratic way."
The expert group has roughly 65 members, including representatives from the Member States, trade and standard organisations, including W3C - World Wild Web Consortium and OASIS, consumer organisations, SME representatives and NGOs representing people with disabilities.
Standards are the key tool to achieve interoperability, economist Sindelar said last week Wednesday, speaking at a meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels, organised by the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament on the occasion of Document Freedom Day. Making databases and ICT systems interoperable is important for example in health care, to allow medical data to be used across borders, she said. "The expert group is open to discuss issues with standards that are involved in these areas."
The European Commission is trying to strengthen the rights of individuals and to remove obstacles caused by different national data protection rules. These obstacles hinder interoperability of Europe's health care, explained Giorgos Rossides, a policy officer at the EC's DG Justice. At the moment, the 27 member states each implement the European Data Protection Directive in their own way. As a result the systems are not fully convergent, says Rossides. "This fragmentation is not helpful."
One way to improve the situation is to harmonise national data protection rules. This is done directly by legislation at EU level, in the form of a Regulation. It will leave flexibility for Member States only where required. The proposal to establish the right to data portability is a part of the EC's draft Data Protection.
This will also increase the rights of individual patients, Rossides argues. Allowing patients to get a copy of their data fits well with the EC's plans on open standards and open data. It will enhance competition and it will increase the trust that users have in the system. "It creates a mutually reinforcing virtuous circle, both for healthcare systems and individuals as patients."