Tag Archives: b103

Something IS Rotten in the State of Denmark

Leif Lohdal is blogging much more continuously about the Danish open standards situation than I am. Time for me to catch up.

On 24 April, the Danish Open Source Business Association and the Danish IT Industry Association arranged a conference in Parliament, from which I reported (in Danish, like most of the following links) over at Version2. Peter Strickx made a good presentation (soundtrack) about the situation in Belgium.

On the same day, Prosa and Version2 arranged a debate meeting about document standards. They had invited René Løhde from Microsoft Denmark and me to meet in a “battle”. I used the opportunity to make a probably too long presentation, which I symbolically called The State of the Document World, and tried to give an “Inconvenient Truth”-style presentation, but appearently contributed to critics calling the debate “toothless”. The “battle” without a fight was made available online as a webcast a few days ago. I’ve now uploaded my presentation in PDF (1,8MB) or higher quality (7,3MB) ODP. I humbly reject to calling my message toothless! Not to say it couldn’t be presented better, of course.

But wait, there’s more. A lot is happening, really. As a measure of “things happening” in the document format field, Version2 has published 12 articles mentioning ODF/OpenXML since the conference and battle.

The theme is: Should government mandate one or two standards? The choices are the ODF-alone strategy or the dual-strategy with ODF and/or OpenXML.

Yesterday morning, the involved parliamentarians and the minister met in a closed meeting. Less than a day before that meeting, the minister had released 2 reports to the parliamentarians and publically in a three (!) days long hearing. The reports, in Danish only, examine the economic consequences of mandating standards in various areas; one report dedicated to the consequences of choosing ODF. It’ll cost 180 million kroner. Yeah, right. The reports are made by Rambøll Management (yes, them, see also their explaning the appearent shift in findings).

Helge Sander, the minister, said after the meeting that a decision is near. The parliamentarians follow the situation close, and Sander will before the summer holidays arrange for them to meet some experts, he said. Whether or not a decision will be made by him before is uncertain. He surely could, if he would – he’s the minister! I assume the parliamentarians will ride him whatever he does.

In conclusion: Decisive indecision rules over Denmark.

Hiser in Danish, and now in English

I wrote a Danish article in Version2 published yesterday. Here is my translation:

Danish Document Controversy Raises International Concerns

OpenDocument Foudation is very concerned about the development in Denmark. Moreover, the organisation is readying a plugin that will make it even easier to use the ODF-format.

John Gøtze

The awareness of the political initiatives around the usage of open standards reaches beyond Denmark.

“Denmark needs a winning attitude, but this policy is appeasement”, comments Sam Hiser, Director of Business Affairs in OpenDocument Foundation, an organization promoting and supporting ODF.

Sam Hiser is following the international development around ODF closely, and is not pleased with what he hears from Denmark.

“Denmark’s dual format policy is one of the more depressing events in recent months”, he says.

“It sets a precedent for compromise that paints Danish agencies into a corner,” he argues.

Hiser proposes that the Danish policy should above all permit CIOs to do the necessary business process re-engineering to get away from the control of tMicrosoft.

“We’ve always thought our conception of an ODF Plugin for MS Office as being among Microsoft’s worst nightmares. And that it is. Something which goes into Windows XP/Office and permits native file open, edits and save as ODF is going to be very interesting”, Hiser tells about the ODF Foundation’s plugin.

There are other ODF-plugins to Microsoft Office. First, Sun’s Plugin for MS Office, which produces an OpenOffice-equivalent conversion to ODF. Second, the Microsoft/Clever Age/Novell Plugin for Office 2007.

The OpenDocument Foundation calls their ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office “da Vinci”, but is not yet an finished product.

Hiser explains that the da Vinci plugin has two elements the others do not. First, it has a ODF InfoSet API for server-side integration with the ODF Plugin for MS Office. Second, it has a ODF Feature-Set Wizard to help organizations govern the features in their office files.

Hiser explains that the OpenDocument Foundation’s plugin will ensure vendor independence when developing applications that use the document data.

Thanks, Sam!

Mandatory Open Standards in Denmark

I’d be interested in the international reactions to this piece of news:

On Friday, the Danish Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Helge Sander, made a press announcement (Danish) about his plan for following up on the Parliament Resolution 8 months ago.

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”.

The report identifies an initial sets of open standards as candidates for mandatory use from 1 January 2008 “if an economic impact assessment shows that this will not involve additional costs to the public sector”.

The implementation plan’s elements are as follows:

  • “From 1 January 2008, all new public IT solutions should make use of the mandatory open standards relevant to the IT solution in question unless there are significant reasons for not complying with these standards.
  • If there are significant reasons for not complying with the relevant mandatory open standards, this must be reported on signing the contract, stating the reasons for applying the exceptional provisions.
  • In case of IT solutions where the technical procurement is above the EU tendering limit, the reasons must be reported to the National IT and Telecom Agency for the purpose of publication.
  • All ministers must ensure that mandatory standards are drawn up within their respective areas of responsibility where this is relevant. This must be made in cooperation with local/regional administrations in line with the existing common public projects in the area of digitalization.”

In short: The Danish Interoperability Framework gets a new level of status: Mandatory.

The proposed mandatory standards from 1 January 2008 falls within the following areas:

  • 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).

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″.

A revised governance model should ensure more mandatory standards over time. The minister is given more authority, but not much actual power to rule over the sectors. The report goes into the “comply or explain”-principle and how it will be practised, and here, it discusses exceptions … I’ll quote in length from their English summary:

“Requirements regarding the use of mandatory open standards will not involve any obligation or incentive to expedite procurement, upgrading or implementation of new or existing IT solutions by public authorities.

To ensure the value of open standards to the individual authority, it is important to avoid the authority being compelled to make inappropriate choices. For this reason, a number of exceptions are made to the general rule of using mandatory open standards.

In connection with contracts and development projects, authorities are exempted from the rules of using mandatory open standards if this means that the authority is compelled to adopt a solution which:

  • is significantly more expensive in relation to using other standards,
  • degrades the security level critically in relation to using other standards,
  • involves a significant reduction in functional performance which is a direct result of the solution being based on mandatory open standards,
  • increases the implementation time markedly,
  • leads to conflicts with standards applicable within specific areas as a result of international commitments.

Furthermore, public authorities are exempted from the rules of using mandatory open standards if the solution does not involve data interchange with other systems.

In case one or more of the points above are in evidence, the relevant authority may choose to dispense with specific mandatory open standards for the solution concerned.

New solutions where technical procurement involves overall costs exceeding the EU tendering limit must be reported to the National IT and Telecom Agency on signing the contract, stating the reasons for applying the exceptional provisions.

New solutions with overall costs below this limit should also make use of mandatory open standards, unless they fall within the exceptional provisions. However, these solutions are not subject to the reporting requirement.

Download the English summary as PDF or ODF. The full report in Danish is here.

The consultation period ends 23 March.

On the radio: Sutor, Munk and Gøtze

During Bob Sutor’s visit in Copenhagen (I posted the homemade video with Bob Sutor the other day), I had organised for him to be interviewed by DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation, national public radio).

Tonight, DR brought the interview with Bob in their program Harddisken (third section), with an almost half-hour long theme about open standards hosted by Henrik Føhns. He had invited me in the studio for comments and debate with Marie Munk, Deputy Director General in the National IT and Telecom Agency. Bob apprears in edited and partly-translated form, but Marie and I were live on the air (and didn’t get to hear Bob!). So, it was there and then. Afterwards, of course – oh, why didn’t I say this and that, and all that, but it was also fun being live.
The whole show is now downloadable as a podcast — the Harddisken podcast-feed should reach 10.000 users, I was told, and is the third most used podcast of all in DR. Go get the podcast and help Harddisken become the most downloaded podcast! (of course, it’s in Danish, but the music is great ;-) – and Bob does get a bit of airtime, which of course is in English). About two-thirds into the MP3-file.

Since I cannot get DRs online radio and their fancy DRPlayer to work in my system (Mac OSX, Firefox) I chose not to link to those services here … but want to say to DR: Thank you for the podcasts!