John Gøtze kindly brings to our attention a new development in the Danish government's progress toward open software standards.
Now, having gotten past the preliminaries of whats, wherefores, hows & whys, the Danes have progressed to the question of implementations. This always reflects a watershed moment for government leaders, staffs & citizens who will be effected. It reflects a body of people coming through a process of understanding and it shows their confidence.
This reminds me of nothing more than Peter Quinn's meeting of vendors in the Massachusetts State House in June of 2005 where he said,
"Open document formats: I get it! But how do I get there? Discuss."
The difference now is that we are dealing with a whole country, Denmark, which according to scale is something like the size of Massachetts within the larger body, the European Union. In contrast to the Massachusetts situation, other parts of the EU are already migrating ahead of whatever policies or regulatory guidelines are being established. These include agencies in France, the UK, Germany and Belgium among others.
There is an interesting similarity to Massachusetts. The policy memorandum, ETRM 3.5, which fostered the ODF debate there was similar to this Danish plan in its underlying motivations and intent.
When a government gets past identifying the ideal scenarios that are possible, those which exist and are ready to implement -- in this case they include open standards like XHTML, CSS, ODF -- and moves on to the questions of how to get them used, there is always a large number of impediments to the final result. These include recalcitrant software monopolies (who are constantly trying to undo good policy work), general inertia against change, decentralized structure of multiple agencies with different ICT systems, leadership and beliefs about what works, and the difficulty in establishing an authoritative, credible but also flexible recipe for pushing change without increasing cost, stress & disruption.
That's why these policy frameworks look so alike: every bureaucracy gets to this same difficult place eventually -- 'How do we get there?'.
Says John Gøtze...
The implementation plan is presented in a report which suggests that “open standards should be implemented gradually by making it mandatory for the public sector to use a number of open standards when this becomes technically feasible”.
What has happened?
The existing Danish Interoperability Framework (in Danish) has become mandatory. Separately, the report lists a number of open standards which should be implemented by Jan 1, 2008, through the normal course of system upgrading (unless the transition is deemed disruptive). Gøtze mentions a few...
- Standards for data interchange between public authorities
- Standards for electronic file and document handling
- Standards for exchanging documents between public authorities (Open Document Format and Office OpenXML)
- Standards for electronic procurement in the public sector
- Standards for digital signatures
- Standards for public websites / homepages
- Standards for IT security (only within the public sector)
Around a dozen standards: Compliant XHTML or HTML, complaint CSS, WAI Level 2, OCES (digital signature), XML 1.0, XML Schema 1.0, NDR 3.0, FESD (docuument management), OIOUBL, UNSPSC, and DS484 (ISO 17799).
We're interested here in ODF. Here's what the report says about document formats...
With regard to standards for exchanging documents between public authorities, the report proposes that “it should be mandatory to use at least one of the document standards Open Document Format or Office OpenXML”, and that it is up to the individual agency to decide what they want. The report explains that a study will be conducted this year with “the purpose of obtaining the necessary experience with these standards before 1 January 2008″.
So, the Danes are looking at a mandatory shift to either or both of the two XML-based document formats. You say ODF AND MSOOXML BOTH! EEEEEEK!
This gives me no anxiety whatsoever. MSOOXML has already been thoroughly de-bunked vis a vis its repudiation of other existing standards; it is in perhaps a perpetual deep-freeze at ISO (from which Microsoft will not seek or wish to remove it, since "ISO status pending" is all they need to sell it; the alternative is to re-wire their entire new catalog of software); under further use testing and scrutiny in Denmark, its repudiation of the basic intentions of XML will be highlighted; and under scrutiny in Denmark the thorough dependency of MSOOXML documents upon the Microsoft stack (Vista, Exchange, Sharepoint, Outlook, MS SQL Server, IE7, Office 2007, Groove, etc.) and their lack of interoperability & compatibility outside the new Microsoft stack will be underscored and well understood. The Danes will find that MSOOXML is no solution.
Regarding document interoperability the Danes will learn on their own about the three possible solutions, two of which are free and one still requiring funding...
1) the Microsoft-Clever Age-Novell "MCAN" Translator (at sourceforge and being integrated into only Novell's version of OpenOffice.org)
2) the Sun Microsystems Plugin (still in development and promising document exchange fidelity equivalent to OpenOffice.org, which Massachusetts originally deemed inadequate for its decentralized migration)
3) the OpenDocument Foundation's Interoperability Suite (not funded but promising 100% document fidelity delivered through a) Plugin [Windows client], b) InfoSet API [server] and c) OpenOffice feature-set governor [OOo-side client])