Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Friday, January 27, 2006

ODF's Biggest Disability

Wider acceptance and adoption of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) faces one major hurdle -- access for people with disabilities. This must be addressed quickly for ODF to take advantage of its head-start on Office Open XML. Access for disabled people is a deal-breaker for ODF. Without it, ODF is dead in water, politically. Fortunately, the issue is being addressed . . .

Andy Updegrove recently offered an update:

Disability issues: The ability of ODF to match, or surpass, the capacity of MS Office to accommodate those with disabilities remains an important test for implementation. Last week, Thomas Trimarco, the Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance, delivered a [message] to representatives of the community of persons with disabilities stating that an evaluation will be made in mid 2006 to determine whether applications supporting ODF are likely to provide an acceptable alternative to MS Office for State employees with disabilities. If that need is not met by mid 2006, then the effective date of ODF implementation will be lagged as necessary until it is judged adequate to this task.

Meanwhile, work continues within OASIS to give final approval to and launch the new working group which will be chartered to facilitate use of applications supporting ODF by those with disabilities.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Case for ODF

As you may have noticed, I have written several times about the need to raise awareness -- especially among consumers and users of technology as well as politicians -- of the value (and need) for open standards. This is especially true for open file formats like OpenDocument Format. The next 2 years are crucial for this.

Sam Hiser has made another valuable contribution to this effort today with his article in the Financial Times -- Progress Toward Openness is Being Watched Carefully.

The article clearly lays out the high value of ODF for data-senstive users like libraries and, yes, governments. Sam also offers a sharp distinction betweeen a truly open standard like ODF and a less-than-open standard like Microsoft's Office Open XML.

So, what will help spread awareness of the value of open standards? What groups can be engaged that are not yet part of this important dialogue? What are your thoughts?

Peter Quinn speaks

For those of you interested in reading the first full interview with Peter Quinn, former CIO of the State of Massachusetts, here is his interview with Groklaw.

In it, he discusses the politics of ODF in Massachusetts very frankly as well as offers some predictions on fate of ODF as public policy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Carpe Consumers

One thing that the battle in Massachusetts over open standards and OpenDocument Format shows is the importance and power of consumers. Politicians listen when large consumer and citizen groups speak out. It is no accident that one of the main arguments used against ODF was its use would create new barriers to access by disabled citizens. This is a serious concern, and must be addressed quickly. The issue also highlights a larger problem . . .

Consumers and user groups are often little engaged in the open standards debate. They often feel that these are "techie" issues of no concern to them. This needs to change. The value and benefits of open standards need to be presented in ways that speak directly to the needs of real people. Advocates of open standards need to do a much better job of this.

In my presentations on the Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems, I begin with a discussion of how the lack of open standards caused real problems in bringing emergency relief to tsunami victims in Thailand. If you are interested, the audio of my most recent presentation at an Open Standards Conference in Denmark is available here.

Next month, I will speak to several major U.S. consumer groups about the importance and value of open standards. The lunch meeting is being organized by the Consumer Project on Technology. Representatives from the Computer and Communications Industry Association, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Consumers Union will join us.

So here's my question: how can you get consumer groups interested in open standards?

How about you readers in Denmark? I see you checking this blog. So . . .
What consumer and public interest groups can you bring into the discussion?
How can you convince them to support open standards and ODF?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Local Governments Go Open

Here is the latest EU FLOSSpols survey reporting on the use of open source software by local governments in the European Union

Open source usage by local governments in the EU:

Spain 97.5%
Austria 96.4%
Italy 95.7%
Germany 89.9%
Sweden 83.6%
Belgium 83.3%
France 76.3%
Netherlands 55.3%
UK 32.1%
Greece 29.7%

Other interesting findings include:

Open source users administer 35% more PCs per IT administrator than non-users – its use appears to reduce administrator workload per PC. More proof of the TCO advantage of open source.

49% of local government authorities knowingly use some open source.

An additional 30% report using open source (such as GNU/Linux, MySQL or Apache) but did not know that these were open source.

Licence fees account for 20% of IT budgets. Half of all respondents find this too high.