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Past Project

eInnovation and ICT Interoperability

The eInnovation and ICT Interoperability Project explores the relationship between innovation and ICT interoperability, seeking to understand the costs, benefits and potential means of achieving the latter.


Focus on interoperability

In a paper published in 2005 by the Berkman Center and sponsored by IBM and Oracle, our colleagues argued that interoperability is the first guiding principle of what it means to establish an “open ecosystem” in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Following on that study, we determined to explore the relationship between interoperability and innovation in the ICT space. We entered into this project with the general idea that openness and interoperability are generally “good things” that facilitate competition, growth, and innovation, while retaining a healthy skepticism that this was true in all cases.


Three case studies explore ways of developing and sustaining interoperability

While we conducted research into numerous areas of the ICT ecosystem, we have largely based our analysis on three in-depth case studies: DRM-protected music, Digital ID, and Mashups. In each case, we explore several possible ways of developing and sustaining interoperability and assess the potential of each to spur innovation. Through discussions with hundreds of experts, market actors, and other researchers in the field, we have acquired a more nuanced understanding regarding interoperability.


No “silver bullet” to achieving interoperability

There is no “silver bullet” to achieving interoperability, nor is there an optimal level of interoperability that can be applied to all ICT situations. Rather, a case-by-case analysis of the market and incentive structures, technological landscape, and involvement of governments, among other things, is necessary to understand what approaches may be most useful to a given technology or industry. As a policy matter, we tend to prefer open standards processes where they are feasible, but in some cases less broad-based action, such as a market leader releasing technological interfaces or licensing its technology, is easier and more effective in spurring innovation. While we are generally wary of government intervention, we recognize that there are situations where market failures make state action appropriate, usually intervention after the fact to break open legal or market-based bottlenecks that stifle innovation.


This project is supported in part by Microsoft.

Our Work 06

Feb 4, 2009

Welcome, Urs Gasser!

As the spring semester begins, we are delighted to officially welcome Professor of Law at the University of St. Gallen Dr. Urs Gasser into his new role as Berkman’s Executive…

Nov 16, 2007 @ 12:48 AM

Breaking Down Digital Barriers

John Palfrey and Urs Gasser Present New Research on Interoperability

This joint report followed the Roadmap to Open ICT Ecosystems released in 2005, as it navigates the nuanced territory of consumer, corporate, and governmental interests in the…

Oct 31, 2007

Case Study: Digital Identity Interoperability and eInnovation

This paper, one of three case studies in a transatlantic research project exploring the connection between Information and Communication Technology interoperability and…

Oct 31, 2007

Case Study: DRM-Protected Music Interoperability and eInnovation

This report – representing one of three case studies that are part of a transatlantic research project aimed at exploring the potential relation between ICT Interoperability and…

Jun 23, 2006

Digital Rights Management in France

Referring to the DADVSI bill amending the French copyright act, BBC reports that “Apple gets French iTunes reprieve.” One of many previous versions of the bill had ruled that…

Dec 4, 2003 @ 12:30 PM

ICT and Education in Panama

Colin Maclay, Managing Director of the Berkman Center

Berkman Luncheon Series: 12/4/03 - Colin Maclay on ICT and Education in Panama

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