Using open standards to increase innovation

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Innovation is the act of introducing something new, a new idea or method, into a system where it has not previously been applied. So in order to innovate there has to be ways for new information to be shared across systems. Progress in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has revolutionized communication and collaboration by allowing us to access anything, at anytime, from anywhere. But just as much as ICT facilitates spanning systems, time, and distance, it has also been used to create barriers like “information silos” and “walled gardens”.

Information silos are a long standing problem in information management. These are information and communication management systems that by design, intentionally or unintentionally, are incapable of reciprocal operation with other related information and communication systems. Information silos may occur because of bad planning where the information and communication system was not designed to adhere to standards, it was designed to support short term needs while ignoring long term goals, or not designed to adjust to growth and changing needs. Information silos may also occur because of bad policies mainly aiming to limit people’s access to information by only supporting information sharing on a need-to-know basis, not encourage communication and collaboration activities across groups and departments, and blocking information flow to and from outside the information and communication system. An example of an information silo is closed group ware technologies which only allow certain people access to certain information for a certain period of time.

Walled gardens is a slightly newer phenomena where information and communication systems limit their users' access to import and export information between the system and other related systems. The motivation for these limitations is to tie the members to one set of services in a way that leave them with little or no choice to use competing services. An example of a walled garden are advanced cell phones which only allows their owners to use certain approved applications and only supports limited file types.

Common to information silos and walled gardens is the lack of interoperability, which is the basis for information sharing through ICT. Interoperability can be realized through open standards like rss, micro formats, and open ID, and public Application Programming Interfaces (API). These open standards support data portability across systems which in turn is crucial when it comes to sharing information and increasing innovation possible.

Learn more about Open Standards at, and browse over 1000 available APIs at