Geoff Clarke is the chair and expert member of several IT and governance standards committees and is employed by Microsoft. He works with national standards bodies, government and industry experts to ensure that Microsoft and its customers can achieve their strategic goals through the innovative and responsible use of IT.
Geoff is nominated by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) to represent that industry on a number of Standards Australia committees on topics such as Governance, Cloud Computing, IT Security and Artificial Intelligence.
Standards Australia (SA): How did you get involved in standards development?
Geoff Clarke (GC): I was working for Microsoft in Brisbane in 2007 when a colleague from our headquarters in USA said he was going to attend an ISO/IEC JTC 1 Plenary at the Gold Coast. He asked if I would like to present on JPEG XR, a new standard for digital photography. After doing some research on where that standard was going and the work that Microsoft was starting to support in Windows, I could see its potential, not just for more accurate photos, but for supporting the relatively new world of digital preservation. The JTC 1 meeting was great, with so many interesting people from all over the world and such a variety of IT related topics.
A few years later there was a position available for a “Regional Standards Manager” to be based in Australia, I jumped at the opportunity. While I’m not an expert in SC 29 (the group working on JPEG and MPEG) I’m happy to say that I’m a member of Australia’s JTC 1 Strategic Advisory Committee, so the interesting people and variety of IT related topics continues.
SA: How do standards interact with and impact your industry?
GC: I’m sure a lot of people in many industries would say the same thing – our industry relies heavily on standards because we need our various products and services to work together, and we need to explain our capabilities so our customers, suppliers and regulators know we can be trusted. That’s certainly true in the IT industry where, despite the constant innovation and change, standards are essential for interoperability and trust.
SA: How can standards support the use of growing technologies such as Artificial Intelligence?
GC: The standardisation work we’re doing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quite exciting because we all realise the impact we can have on shaping not only the technology itself but how it is used in the world. The Australian committee mirrors the international committee ISO/IEC SC 42 and our committee is comprised of not only geeks like me, but also lawyers and ethicists and safety experts. We’re working hard to see not only good technology but to bake in the responsible use of that technology as well.
AI is a very fast-developing technology. And with an international standard typically taking about 3 years to develop, you might think that is too slow. But the basic principles, the governance, the architecture and even the terminology don’t move that fast. And all these points really need to be decided and explained because those standards are what is really going to accelerate the development of AI and its adoption across the world. With hundreds of experts from more than 30 countries actively participating, it’s worth taking the time to get it right.
SA: What is the future of standardisation?
GC: I think international standardisation – particularly through ISO and IEC – has a great future simply because it brings together so many experts from so many countries to create solutions that can benefit us all. These forums are carefully constructed and managed to ensure a safe and equitable process to get to a consensus.
The coronavirus has forced us all to work together virtually, but that lack of physical travel means more people can participate in these eMeetings. It’s made some of the work – like brainstorming – a bit harder, but overall we’re going to see more participation and more “mixed mode” meetings when we finally can sit down together again.
The world of IT standards has changed a lot over the years. In the past we were mostly concerned about interoperability, portability, and integration. A lot of that technical detail is now the realm of open-source software, so we see less of those kinds of technical standards at the international level. As IT matures and its capability continues to grow and impact more of what we do, we will still see “foundational” standards describing concepts, architectures and vocabulary, but more of the focus will be on how the technology is used. That means we’ll be working on standards that describe its intended uses, its impact, the management of it and how it should be governed. ISO is well placed to provide the forums for that, and Standards Australia is here to help us ensure those standards work for Australia and help our local businesses participate in the global marketplace.