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The Problem Information technology consists of those techniques used to gather, process, store, and communicate information. The concern of this workshop was standards that facilitate the use of those information technologies that are important in enhancing the competitive position of U.S. enterprises. The two key national issues concerning information technology stan- dards are: the timeliness of the standardization process within the United States for effective support of a domestic industrial base that is globally competitive, and the degree to which U.S. interests in standardization are effec- tively developed and represented in worldwide standards-making activities. The merger of computers and communications, deregulation and di- vestiture in the telecommunications industry, and the ubiquitous entry of the microcomputer into the workplace have greatly increased the oppor- tunities and the problems associated with the use of these technologies. ldday, users are faced with major problems in dealing with life-cycle issues that exist when their data may be useful for 50 years, their applications average 10 years, and the computer hardware and operating systems have an average life cycle of 5 years. The network interconnecting multiple systems has its own life cycle and must be able to evolve without disrupting the data, applications, or computing systems that, in effect, are citizens of the network. Standardization of the interfaces between these elements 5
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6 with different life cycles is the only way that industry can maintain and evolve systems over time. Many of the current problems in the computer and communications market result from users' inability to incorporate new products into existing processes. Throughout the U.S. economy, in both in- dust~y and government, there are users going to great expense to maintain old systems because the move to newer systems requires completely new equipment, new software, and new procedures for the personnel. The problem is that the required standards are not promulgated and then reviewed and modernized in a timely manner to keep up with the technology. Many users feel that development and evolution of standards would greatly reduce costs. Most users also feel that the European and the Pacific Rim countries do better in standards developing than does the United States. Many say that the standards-developing organizations that operate under ANSI cannot do the job. There are now a large number of consortia outside of ANSI that have been formed for standardizing particular niches. As the planning committee discussed the issues, they reformulated them into the following sequence of questions: . . · Is the current voluntary standards developing system optimum; could it be greatly improved by minor or even major reorganization? · Are all segments of industry, and in particular, the user segment, aware of the significance of standards on their business opera- tions or do they less than adequately support their personnel in participation in standards developing operations? Is the federal government discharging its responsibility to organize the standards setting effort so that the United States is better equipped to negotiate in the international standards arena, or are stepped-up efforts called for? Are antitrust laws and the enforcement of these laws an appropriate protection against the use of standards in restraint of trade, or do they also hinder domestic industry in organizing for standardization that would enhance U.S. competitiveness? Are multiple consortia outside of ANSI wasteful of resources, or are they a good way for an open society to explore various options and develop the best standards? These questions were discussed during the workshop. Consensus was reached by the attendees on all but the last question.
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