Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Looking for IT Leaders? Try Denmark

There is big news about to break on the IT policy front, and it comes from Denmark.

It is expected that tomorrow the Danish Parliament will approve a bill to require the government to use open standards beginning January 1, 2008. This is unofficial at the moment, but a majority in Parliament will apparently vote in favor of the motion, orginally tabled by Morten Helveg Petersen.

John Gotze offers an excellent summary of the motion (in english).

During the motion's initial debate there was enormous resistence from the Minister of Science and no commitment from the Liberal-Conservative government for an open standards law. But two developments changed the political balance. As blogged by John Gotze, the pro-government, conservative Danish People's Party came out in support the motion. And a Danish daily newspaper published a previously secret internal government report that recommended mandating open standards to ensure interoperability, even if specific an economic cost/benefit analysis was not yet possible. The tide turned, and the Helveg Petersen Motion has apparently found a majority.

Two specific points to note with the Danish bill:

1. It will incorporate open standards into public procurement of IT.

2. It specifically says that all digital information and data that the public sector exchanges with citizens, companies and institutions, should be in open standards- based formats. It does not mention the OpenDocument Format, but ODF clearly meets the requirements of this law regarding public documents.

Although the implementation of an open standards mandate will depend on numerous issues of technical feasibility differing from standard to standard, there is no doubt that its impact will be far-reaching.

Count Denmark along with the State of Massachusetts as the two leading governments in IT policy.

Monday, May 29, 2006

ODF on the Move in France & Denmark

OpenDocument Format (ODF) is making news in Europe, again.

The French government has officially issued for public comment an interoperability framework -- Referentiel General Interoperabilite -- that recommends the use of OpenDocument Format (ODF) in its technical interoperability section (in French). The intial public comment period, which began in April, ends on June 15. The end of the entire comment process is September 2006.

This has been blogged about briefly in a few places very recently -- Groklaw,, Sun's Erwin Tenhumberg and here (in french) -- but I wanted to spread the news and a few more details.

Specifically, the RGI proposes 3 things:
Section RIT0025:

It is RECOMMENDED to use Open Document Format for exchanging semi-structured office documents (such as word processing, presentation and spreadsheet documents).

Section RIT0026

It is MANDATORY to accept every document in Open Document Format for exchanging semi-structured office documents (such as word processing, presentation and spreadsheet documents)

Section RIT0027

It is FORBIDDEN to migrate from some often used format inside an organization to any other format than the Open Document Format.
(Translation courtesy of Tristan Nitot)
So what does it all mean? It's not a tipping point, nor even a final decision in France. But it is another step forward for ODF. Another government has officially tabled ODF for consideration.

In Denmark, as blogged by John Gotze here, the Ministry of Science is taking an interim step forward with ODF, requiring that all online documents and communications be published in ODF for a six-month trial period. Why the half-step? Pressure, mainly from leading members of the Danish Parliament like Morten Helveg Petersen who tabled a motion to require open standards that was debated two weeks ago. Although it faced heavy opposition from the Minister of Science, mainly based on the issue of how much an open standards mandate would cost, there was enough momentum to force a trial period for ODF beginning September 1st.

The ODF movement is more than afoot. One thing it could use now, however, is a strong quantitative analysis of the economic implications of open standards, and ODF in particular. Based on early returns from Massachusetts and Denmark, this is a crucial stumbling block for governments (other than intensive MS lobbying) -- understanding how much the move to open standards will cost.

OASIS, are you listening?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Net Neutrality in the New York Times

Just a quick post to share a link to today's op-ed piece in the New York Times about net neutrality.

It's worth a read. The only thing I might add, which is implied in the article but not clearly, simply stated, is: Net neutrality has governed the Internet since Day 1. It is not a new regulation or a new market barrier; it is the principle that has allowed the explosive innovation of the Internet to happen.

The free market rhetoric of telco/cable industry front organizations would have you believe otherwise. But they never tell you this: the Internet and all its innovation to date have occurred under the umbrella of net neutrality.

Think of it this way -- net neutrality ensures that the barriers to entry for Internet content and services remain low. No premium fees for content creators just to "keep up with the Jones" in terms of speed of delivery. No exclusive deals between broadband providers and big content providers like Disney that keep little guys out. The Internet playing field remains somewhat level (for delivery of content), and that fosters competition and innovation.

The telcos/cables like to argue cost. Fair enough. Building tomorrow's superhighway costs money. Billions. But there are other options to finance infrastructure besides allowing the builders additional control over content. All those other countries with much higher broadband penetration (and higher broadband speed) have figured it out. Why can't we?