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Focus Committee

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 17 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a report on the progress of the Focus committee on information technology standards and its areas of study.

The Focus Committee on information technology standards was established in April 1981 to promote the development of information technology standards of central importance in computing and communications. Focus activity embraces the production, promotion and use of IT standards. Three sectoral committees covering the interests of suppliers, private users and public users work in concert with Focus.Focus has already completed reports on priority areas for standardisation; on open systems interconnection which dealt with the production of standards for distributed computing systems; and on local area networks which has proposed further work on both LANs and integrated services local networks.The Department of Industry has taken action following recommendations through:

  • (a) financial support for expenses incurred by United Kingdom experts attending international meetings on OSI standards
  • (b) establishing the information technology standards unit within the Department to accelerate the United Kingdom programme of work in writing OSI standards, to promote adoption of standards by suppliers and users, and to foster an "intercept strategy" in OSI to the advantage of United Kingdom companies, by ensuring they develop OSI standards-based products as soon as possible in the standards-making cycle
  • (c) publishing the LAN standards report, circulating copies to interested parties and actively seeking the involvement of suppliers and users in the development of products and standards for pilot LANs.
  • The Focus project leader for OSI is Mr. Roy Harris, Director, systems evolution and standards, British Telecom, and for LANs is Dr. David Leakey, technical director of GEC Telecommunications. Both also serve on a Focus management group, whose task it is to ensure the momentum on OSI and LAN standards projects is maintained.

    Focus sees the need for greater awareness of IT standards among users and suppliers. Focus members, or their organisations, are thus helping to develop an awareness campaign, while the private sector users committee has put forward a specification for an IT standards users association, which would seek to increase the influence that users have in standards bodies.

    Use of IT standards in procurement is being tackled by Focus through:

  • (a) the development of suitable standards for procurement
  • (b) the testing and certification of IT products, including preparatory work on schemes to test COBOL compilers, PASCAL compilers and high-level protocols
  • (c) encouraging the use of IT standards in the procurement process, including support for the introduction of a requirement that suppliers should possess the relevant test certificate or report issued by an approved testing body.
  • While Focus is concentrating resources on OSI, LANs and ISLNs, it will continue to monitor other IT standards areas of importance. Future Focus initiatives may include the impact of the absence of

    IT standards in particular key application areas, for example in office automation; the preparation of standards for software production, and the examination of text processing standards.