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Issue No. 137 24 May 2002  
E D I T O R I A L

An Aussie Icon
The public deification of the Last Anzac, Alec Campbell, proves the adage that when you scratch the surface of an icon you'll invariably find a far more interesting reality.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Just Done It?
Nikewatch's Tim Connor gives his verdict on the global giant's latest innovation: ethics.

Tribute: Lest We Forget
Rowan Cahill goes looking for the real Alec Campbell and finds a story the Telegraph will not be publishing.

History: Solidarity Forever
Neale Towart looks at the enduring relationship between the union movement and the defence forces and finds it all comers down to solidarity.

Technology: Unblocking the Superhighway
Michael Gadiel argues the case for Open Standards as a way of breaking the grip of big business on the IT industry.

International: Gloves Off
Workers and their unions are facing a battering throughout South America as a wave of economic turmoil sweeps across the continent.

Unions: Out Of Work
Jim Marr travels to the frontline to witness the impact of the Howard Government's decision to close Employment National.

Review: Strange Business
Tara de Boehmler looks at a new flick that exposes the dark side of the Material World.

Poetry: The Lawyer's Lament
One of the big issues of recent weeks has been the explosion of insurance costs for public and community events, many of which have had to be cancelled as a result.

Satire: Government Mourns Loss Of Last Anzac
Treasurer Peter Costello has lamented the death of Alec Campbell, the last surviving ANZAC, bemoaning the lost revenue the government could have gained at his expense following the Budget.

N E W S

 Workers Honour Radical Digger

 Retailers in Outworker Spotlight

 Nurses, Teachers Snare Agenda

 Syd in Vicious Backpacker Stand-off

 Microsoft Monopoly Under Challenge

 Kiddies Not Exactly Having a Ball

 NSW ALP Faces Asylum Seeker Test

 Canberra Acts on Industrial Manslaughter

 Carr Delivers on Dismissals

 Santa Claus Strikers on Christmas Island

 Abbott Believes Management Should Dictate

 Low Paid Not To Blame For Beer Price Rise

 Casino Award Covers Eastern States

 Security Workers Want Bosses Sacked

 Sydneysiders Rally For Western Sahara

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
The Cold Hard Truth
The Rail,Tram and Bus Union's Nick Lewocki argues our hard-hearted treatment of refugees is a betrayal of our proud immigrant history.

The Locker Room
The South Melbourne Football Club Pty Ltd
A spectre is haunting football; it is the spectre of revolution; a free market revolution, writes Phil Doyle.

Bosswatch
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Jobs are under threat in the textile and trye markets; but there's better news in the Newcastle mills and the Nike factories.

Postcard
Gas Treaty - The Raw Deal
East Timor is getting less then 40%Śnot 90% royalties from the oil and gas revenue in the Timor Sea, reports HT Lee.

Week in Review
Origin of the Species
Phil Gould, Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus may have buried the laughable notion that Rugby Union is the sport they play in heaven, but outside Stadium Australia life goes on, as Jim Marr discovers.

L E T T E R S
 Dancing With Trotsky? Not Bloody Likely.
 Your Tools Page is Down
 Big Dave Foster
 Give Us a Click!
 Will the Real Mark Latham Please Stand Up?
 Unified Labour
 The Last Survivor
 Not Hate Mail
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Technology

Unblocking the Superhighway


Michael Gadiel argues the case for Open Standards as a way of breaking the grip of big business on the IT industry.
 

****************

What went wrong with the information revolution? Two years ago it seemed unstoppable - the world as we knew it was going to change. Industrial age institutions were going to wither, large corporates and governments were opening up and hierarchies were going to collapse. Why did it all go so horribly wrong?

The answers to this question are many and varied. Perhaps our na´ve optimism made us susceptible to the hype of the media, feeding wild expectations that would inevitably remain unfulfilled. This generated the perfect environment for charlatans like Jodee Rich and Brad Keeling to manipulate people, taking advantage of the optimistic environment to profiteer.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the early stages of the information revolution have been a failure because the technology was not able to live up to the rhetoric of those who promoted it. What has become clear is that the IT sector must get its house in order, if the promises of the prosperity of the information age are to be achieved.

The real story of the information revolution so far is that, as a society, we have invested billions in computer systems that rely on proprietary standards. Current IT systems are frequently unreliable, expensive, won't communicate with each other and leave us locked in with a single provider.

The big players, who have no interest in broadening the market or committing to common standards, hugely dominate information technology service provision. They have each developed their own standards and systems. This situation has suited them because once an organisation has sunk an initial investment into to particular system, then changing to a different provider means abandoning that investment.

The big players like Microsoft have avoided locking into common standards because they enjoy such a dominant position in the IT market that their own standards are often adopted as the universal standards anyway.

Other organisations, if they are to compete, must try to anticipate in which direction the big guys will move - but the wrong decision could send them under. Smaller organisations are therefore forced to follow - excluding them from competing in large sections of the market.

A big part of the solution is open standards. Currently independent international bodies are setting a range of standards in relations to information technology and the Internet. But if nobody adopts these standards then the big players will move in their own direction forcing everyone else to follow.

The questions for Labor is - what reforms are necessary to achieve a healthy and competitive IT sector and how can we create an environment that promotes these reforms. This means using the buying power of the government to drive open standards into the market of IT service provision.

Governments would benefit from policies supporting open standards because they would gain the benefits of interoperable systems, in addition to creating a marketplace for the contestable supply of IT services. In the longer term this would ensure that there are a range of IT providers that support open standards and are able to apply for tenders for such work in both the public and private sectors.

Such a policy would assist in creating a healthy IT culture in Australia by putting the smaller players on an equal footing with the Microsofts and the IBMs.

The New Zealand Government has already implemented such an agenda, setting out standards that are in line with international norms that it expects its agencies to comply with. The New Zealand government IT standards may be found on the Internet at http://www.e-government.govt.nz/docs/e-gif-v-0-9/index.html.

This weekend the annual conference of the NSW Branch of the ALP will debate a policy that would commit the NSW Labor Government to the development and support of open standards for all Government IT projects.

This is the first step in what in the long term should become the policy of the all Australian Governments.

The IT bubble burst for a whole range of reasons. Until we are able to work out why - and correct the problems of the past we will not be able to achieve the just and fair society that the Information Age offers - Open Standards is just one step along the way. As such, it is a worthy and timely policy for the labour movement to adopt.


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