Addressing Global Challenges Through Trade Automation

How can standards help the world address the challenges of climate change, conflict minerals, and abuses of labor forces? OASIS members are answering that question with OriginBX.

The Problem

Free trade and the efficient flow of goods across international borders is something that a lot of us take for granted.  Our collective society is built on the assumption that we can effectively buy finished goods or raw materials from a variety of countries, as well as trade or sell our own goods.

However, the seemingly simple act of buying or selling these goods across borders isn’t as straightforward as you might think.  There are an increasingly complex set of requirements put in place by both governments and other organizations designed to protect consumers, producers and labor forces from abuse.  At the heart of these requirements is a need to accurately identify the country or countries of origin for both finished goods and also raw materials used to produce those goods.

Despite the technological age we live in today, a vast majority of products and materials still have their countries of origin determined by manual processes involving emailing large bills of materials and PDF files between producers and regulatory bodies worldwide.  An enterprising group of technologists and companies has gotten together to do something about that.

Finding Creative Solutions

On a recent episode of Open Matters, I was joined by Todd Smith of, who is also the chairperson for a new Open Project here at OASIS called OriginBX, which is designed to help build common standards to allow for greater automation in identifying countries of origin for manufactured goods and their components.  Todd has spent more than 20 years working on this problem at places like Ernst & Young and KPMG, and our conversation was a fascinating one in that it covered not only the technical needs for a project like this, but also the larger role that country of origin plays in helping fight societal issues like climate change, conflict minerals, and abuses of labor forces.

Todd also speaks at length as to why he chose to come to OASIS to start this project and what our governance and community support model has done in helping him launch this effort.

Projects like OriginBX are one of the reasons I was excited to come to OASIS Open, where we strive to enable collaborative projects that make a difference not only in the technology space, but also in the lives of us all.  

I encourage you to watch and/or listen to this episode, and feel free to reach out to me directly or follow us on social media (@OASISOpen) to continue the conversation.

Managed Open Projects

I recently pointed out in a TechCrunch contribution that the open source and open standards communities need to find ways to team up if they are to continue driving innovation and  development of transformative technologies to push our society forward.

The challenge I posed to organizations like ours, OASIS Open, and others in the open source and standards ecosystems was to find ways to collaborate and encourage our stakeholders to do the same. My opportunity to “walk the talk” arrived immediately.

A Case in Point

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), with whom OASIS Open has had a long and productive relationship, came to us and described a need. EEA has years of experience as a forum for building standards for enterprise-ready, interoperable blockchain implementations.  However, to promote broader community participation in the Ethereum ecosystem, EEA also wanted to offer the wider Ethereum community the ability to start open source projects and to do so in a proven setting that provides solid support for governance, standards, reference implementations and a path to cooperation with international high-level standardization as well.

And that’s the expertise of OASIS Open. So we joined forces and announced EEA Community Projects. The work is led by EEA, managed under the OASIS Open Projects process, and driven by the community at large. We’re describing this partnership as a “Managed Open Project,” and we think this approach may be useful for other modern, agile development projects hosted with consortiums as well. 

Traditional OASIS Open Projects provide the pathway for open source projects to attract broad buy-in and become recognized international open standards as well. Of course, any developer can always build their own Git repo and open it to pull requests. But a stable, trustable project often requires more than that. Stakeholders want to know that their contributions or feature requests will be noted. Contributors want to know that their joint work will be run fairly. Commercial, open source, and government users (and international standards bodies) want to know that a project is properly licensed, vendor-neutral, and will remain available.  

The critical components needed for those goals are a tested process, expert facilitators with a light touch, and well-documented provenance. These elements are required by global treaties and many national practices to assure standards quality; they also happen to create the best, fairest open technologies. That’s precisely what OASIS Open offers with its well-known, verified, and accredited development governance process. And that’s why works produced here are widely accepted as open and reliable by so many industries and governments.

Our technical committees have co-developed their standards with open source reference implementations and proofs of concept for over 20 years. By creating our Open Projects program we encouraged future projects to operate on a “FOSS-first” basis, adding open source license defaults to our other routine process protections.  

Open Projects have also been the preferred approach elected for most of our newest projects.  But until recently, those were solely OASIS operations.  So, what’s the difference between those and a ‘Managed Open Project?’

The Value-Add of Managed Open Projects

The primary difference is in branding, but it’s also more than that. OASIS has long enjoyed the reputation as our industry’s leader in sharing our work. We’ve been co-approving outputs with international standards bodies like ISO, ITU, IEC, and others since 2004; our strategy has always been radical transparency, the opposite of “not invented here.”  

So, let’s say, you participate in or support a software technology ecosystem. You might have member-focused and proprietary work, or community-based and open source efforts, or both. Either way, you rely on your active collaborators. If those contributors recognize the value of being well governed and having the opportunity for broader approval and certification, they will look for some of the qualities described above: support for open source code implementations, stability of releases and versions, open public process, eligibility for certifications, and assurances that support broad global acceptance. It takes a lot to build that, and most projects don’t readily have access to the skill sets in-house to shepherd a project to that kind of success.  So you are faced with a build versus buy decision. 

Some huge foundations, or one-off smaller projects, may opt to build their own capabilities and seek certifications—or just decide to do without them. But for everyone else in the non-profit sector, outsourcing the process and development platforms may make a lot of sense. EEA essentially decided, after due diligence and some negotiated ground rules, to outsource their need for an open source and open standards development platform to us. They absolutely could have built their own native capacity for Ethereum enterprise-facing open source work. But the immediate up-front costs of time and personnel, and the longer-lead-time issues of seeking independent accreditation, made it worth it for EEA to combine forces with OASIS Open. 

The deliverables created in that joint program will still be EEA works, branded from the EEA community and whoever else may choose to contribute to their open source projects, but administered by our team and supported by our processes and infrastructure. 

Through OASIS Open’s Managed Open Projects program, other existing and new development organizations or consortiums can also add these self-branded capabilities to their existing hosted activities. They also will be eligible, at their option, to submit for international standards approval, without having to build from scratch all those resources, relationships and critical processes.  

This Managed Open Project approach is readily adaptable to any open source code, API, transaction or data structure in all industries. This includes blockchain, such as with EEA, but also can comprise a larger, open-source-powered tent for collaboration in real estate, petroleum, healthcare or any other industry with shared data and open standards needs. 

A Dream Come True

The reason that I came to OASIS Open is because I saw in this organization an ability and a desire to share and collaborate with other organizations, and the OASIS Open team is passionate about doing what’s best for the community. Now, after almost two years here, I’m more convinced than ever that we’ve got the expertise and contributor base of experts to make it happen; we’re nimble enough to be effective change catalysts; and, most importantly, we are doing the work. I couldn’t be more excited about this new Managed Open Project approach and how it is fulfilling the vision of harmonizing open source and open standards communities. 

Our Managed Open Projects program specifically, and most cooperation and sharing of work across organizational boundaries generally, allow development projects to leverage broad community input while embracing contributions, feature requests, and bug fixes from a much larger potential group of stakeholders. Doing so in a transparent and open fashion and, increasingly, with widely-understood open source tools has been a great benefit to our own projects.

OASIS Open encourages all projects—of any size and housed anywhere—to look for cooperation and sharing opportunities across industries, consortia and open source foundations. It is a strategy that has served us very well since our own launch at the dawn of the internet in 1993.

If you share this vision and have a project or consortium that wants a reliable path to open source development, broader cooperation, or de jure standards, I hope you will reach out to us. Together we can make it happen.

Say Hello to Samvera

So much is happening here at OASIS Open in June, but I’m especially excited that our Foundation-as-a-Service (FaaS) program has expanded to include Samvera, a community widely respected for its work promoting best-in-class digital asset management solutions. 

OASIS designed our FaaS program with new groups in mind, because we wanted to make it easier for communities to get off the ground by giving them a place within our legal infrastructure where they could operate independently under their own governance rules if our Open Project structure wasn’t a good fit for their needs. 

However, Samvera does not need help getting off the ground. The group was founded in 2008 as Hydra and has grown to more than 30 partners and more than 40 adopters around the world. Its focus, then and now, is on collaborative development of repository solutions for the digital collections held by libraries, archives, museums, and other organizations. ‘Samvera’ means ‘togetherness’ in Icelandic–a fitting name for a group committed to the belief that challenges are best solved through combined effort. 

I’ve come to know Samvera as a vibrant, welcoming group of information and technology professionals. Their software is free and open source, available under an Apache 2 license, and their suite of repository software tools offers flexible and rich user interfaces tailored to distinct content types on top of a robust back end. 

As someone who came to OASIS to help us bring more open source work into our portfolio, I’m thrilled to see this great project join our larger community. If you aren’t already familiar with what they’re doing, I strongly encourage you to check out their work.

Learn More about OASIS FaaS 

OASIS Foundation-as-a-Service is the smart solution for groups that want to advance open source code, standards, or related activities. Foundations operate independently while enjoying the benefits of the OASIS nonprofit corporate structure. Groups are advised and supported every step of the way by the technical, operational, legal, and marketing staff of OASIS, which has a 28-year track record of developing some of the most widely adopted open standards and open source code in use today. The Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) was the first group to take advantage of the OASIS FaaS program. OMF is an open-source software foundation that creates a governance structure around open-source mobility tools.

We invite you to contact us or visit our Foundation-as-a-Service page to learn more about how we can help your group form or transition existing open source foundations using our FaaS program. 

A revival at the intersection of open source and open standards

Our world has big problems to solve, and something desperately needed in that pursuit is the open-source and open-standards communities working together. See the complete article by Guy Martin, the Executive Director of OASIS Open, with input from Chris Ferris, IBM Distinguished Engineer, in Tech Crunch.

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