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Denmark's Resolution on Open Standards - Updated
Saturday, June 03 2006 @ 04:34 PM EDT

Groklaw member elhaard sends us a bit more detail about the Danish resolution that passed yesterday. We put the story in News Picks. The motion is called "B 103" and all material about it (even Parliament transcripts) can be found at the Parliament's home page. It's only in Danish, though. So he helps us out again, translating the last publicly shown version of the resolution. If you understand Danish, here is an avi file of the final discussions in Parliament, and an Ogg for audio only. Both are from this site, which has a bit more detail in English.

First, elhaard tells us the following:
In the list of materials, there is notation about a letter that Microsoft sent to the Parliament committee for Science and Technology. In that, the President of Microsoft, Denmark, Jørgen Bardenfleth, asks for permission to meet with the committee, and he also tells them that Microsoft's Office Open XML is an open standard that will meet the demands set out in the motion.

Shortly after that, the committee held an open council, which means that anyone could participate. This probably means that Minister never got the chance to meet with them one-on-one privately. Also, a Parliament member officially asked the Minister of Science about his stand on the letter, and the minister answered that Open XML will be examined for openness, just like any other candidate.

Here is the translation of the resolution for us into English. It's not an official translation, of course, but at least it will give us an idea:

B 103 (as proposed): Motion for Parliament Resolution Regarding Use of Open Standards for Software with Public Authorities.

Proposed March 30, 2006 by Morten Helveg Petersen (Radikale Venstre (RV), Marianne Jelved (RV), Naser Khader (RV), Martin Lidegaard (RV) and Margrethe Vestager (RV)

Motion for Parliament Resolution
Regarding Use of Open Standards for Software with Public Authorities

Parliament directs the government to ensure that the use of information technology, including software, within public authorities is based upon open standards.

No later than January 1st, 2008, the government should introduce and maintain a set of open standards that can serve as inspiration for other public authorities. Hereafter, open standards should be a part of the basis for public authorities' development and purchase of IT software, with the aim of furthering competition.

The government should ensure that all digital information and data that public authorities exchange with citizens, corporations and institutions are available in formats based on open standards.


This motion for a resolution is partly a re-proposal of motion no. B 64 of the Parliament year 2004-05, first session (see Folketingstidende 2004-05, 1. samling, forhandlingerne page 3521 and appendix A pages 4786 and 4788).

Procurement of information technology by the public sector should be based on the Government service's assessment of how working and service is done most efficiently, properly and economically.

It is, however, a political task primarily to ensure that there is a determined strategy for public authorities' procurement and use of software, so that it generally is to the benefit for users, citizens and business.

Secondly, it is a political task to ensure that the use of information technology by public authorities ensures the democratic rights of all citizens to be able to freely receive digital information from public authorities and to be able to freely send digital information to them. These political goals can only be met if the public sector demands that software, that is used in the public sector and for communication with the public sector, is based on open standards.

Thirdly, it is a political task to ensure the settings for open competition.

Fourthly, an insistence on open standards is crucial in these years, when municipal and county authorities unite their IT systems as a consequence of the municipal reform. [By January 1st, 2007, the number of municipal authorities in Denmark will be reduced to approximately a third, as cities with low population are joined together to form larger municipal units, or "communes". At the same time, counties are joined to form larger "regions". - translator's note] A part of this must be that all public home pages, intra-nets and IT based tools should be accessable by persons with handicaps, according to the guidelines that are recommended by "Kompetencecenteret it for alle", a part of IT- og Telestyrelsen [The National Administration for IT and Telecom - translator's note]

Fifthly, there are important commercial-political perspectives associated with the introduction of open standards in public administration.

Sixthly, there will presumably be considerable long-term economical advantages in introducing open standards in public administration

Government IT policy should ensure the public sector the best possible software at the lowest possible price. This includes such parameters as functionality, stability and security. Government IT policy should contribute to a competetive market for software in Denmark.

Open standards means that the standard is

- well documented with its full specification publically available,
- freely implementable without economically, politically or legal limitations on implementation and use, and
- standardized and maintained in an open forum (a so-called standards organisation) through an open process.

In the coming years, a substantial growth in the public sector's use of digital administration is expected, and thereby a larger general use of IT and the Internet in both the public sector and between the public sector and the private sector. In order to achieve the expected gains of digital administration, there must be openness regarding the choice of IT, and openness in communication, data exchange and electronic documents, as well as systems that can speak to each other, so that citizens, corporations and public authorities can communicate. Thus, openness is a fundemental demand as well in relation to enhancement of competition as in entertaining the democratic aspect of information technology. Therefore, the government should no later than January 1st, 2008, introduce and maintain a set of open standards.

As a starting point, the public sector's procurement and use of software must be based on open standards. Only in the event that no usable system based on open standards is available should the public sector procure and use software based on closed formats. In such events a separate reasoning must be cited in such a form that the public administration can assess whether demands for the introduction of open standards can be raised at a later time. This motion does not infer any demand that older systems are converted to open standards. But the government is directed to maintain mandatory interchange formats in continuation of the Ministry of Science's work on the so-called reference profiles, and to define the rules that will govern arguments for deviation from the demand for open standards.

As a starting point, everybody shall be able to communicate with the public sector without demands for choice of one or a few vendors' software. That is not always the case today, where the public sector's use of software from primarily one vendor can mean that persons that use other types of software from other vendors can experience difficulties communicating with the public sector without being forced to use a certain type of software. To an even higher degree, this is the case for ministries, for which reason it should be ensured that in the future, there is at least one open format in the communication with citizens.

Today, the public sector's choice of software based on closed standards supports a market without or with very small competition. A demand for openness - and thus not a demand for exclusion or inclusion of separate vendors or software types - will further encourage competition to the benefit of the entire society.

Public authorities must be better at exchanging data and information. Agreement on open standards can result in that industry and authorities can "stand on each others' shoulders" instead of the new and bigger communes and regions developing each their own systems, which cannot speak to each other. Furthermore, this strengthened cooperation can be used so that companies more easily will be able to develop new solutions for the public sector, so that open standards can bring considerable innovation opportunities for the Danish software industry.

Written proposal
Morten Helveg Petersen (RV):
As speaker for the movers, I respectfully propose:

Motion for Parliament Resolution Regarding Use of Open Standards for Software with Public Authorities (Resolution motion no. B 103).

Additionally, I refer to the notes that accompany the motion, and recommend it to the kind reading by Parliament.

UPDATE: More just in from elhaard. First, here is the Microsoft letter [PDF], in Danish and more details:

The commitee asked the Minister of Science about the letter. His answer is here and it says:
Question #10
Would the Minister please comment on the letter of May 17th, 2006, from Microsoft Denmark, in regards to UVT B 103 - appendix 2 ? [UVT B 103 is the motion for resolution, appendix 2 is the letter from Microsoft - elhaard]

Regarding the letter from Microsoft Denmark to the Commitee for Science and Technology of May 17th, 2006, Microsoft Denmark writes amongst other that "Office Open XML is an open standard which in all areas lives up to the conditions given in B 103".

Office Open XML is under approval in ECMA (a European standardization organization).

The Ministry of Science has started a re-evaluation of the recommendations regarding standards for word processor documents in the OIO catalogue [a list of approved open formats for use in public administration in Denmark. The list is not enforced yet - elhaard]. As a part of this, the openness of different standards for word processing documents, including Office Open XML, will be evaluated.


Denmark's Resolution on Open Standards - Updated | 174 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Authored by: LocoYokel on Saturday, June 03 2006 @ 04:37 PM EDT

Waiting for the games I play to be released in Linux, or a decent Windows
emulator, to switch entirely.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic
Authored by: LocoYokel on Saturday, June 03 2006 @ 04:42 PM EDT
Please follow the guidelines for posting, both for HTML formatting in red and for content under Important Stuff below that.

href =""

Waiting for the games I play to be released in Linux, or a decent Windows emulator, to switch entirely.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Has Denmark Defined Open Standard?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, June 03 2006 @ 05:08 PM EDT
Has Denmark Defined "Open Standard"? I think that is the problem
before the ECMA with the MS OpenXML formats. Is it an open standard if FOSS
can't implement it because of patent restrictions?

If the standard fosters competition, and can be freely implemented by anyone
(without odious patent or other IP restrictions), I'd say it is open. An effect
of this is that documents do not become obsolete if some company decides to
change its (proprietary) file format. This is one of the advantages of ODF.
But I am neither Danish nor am I a lawyer.

What do the Danes say about it?

OT: Is there any information about whether the state of California (in the US)
is or will consider following the example of Massachussetts?


[ Reply to This | # ]

Notes from the debate
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, June 03 2006 @ 05:58 PM EDT

I meant originally to do a summary translation (don't have time to polish it),
but got taken by the subject and ended up doing a near-complete rough
translation. All (!) politial parties seem to compete in eagerness to move ahead
faster or better on open standards, and take the honour that goes with it...

I have skipped bits of bickering, and probably made some mistakes on the way.
But everything significant should be in there - enjoy!

Henrik Ræder Clausen, Denmark

Venstre (main government party) starts out regretting that the proposal is
sortof void of content, because the public administration already desires to
switch to open standards as quickly as technically possible. Moves on to argue
that 'Open' is ill-defined: ODF is obviously open. But how about PDF (already in
widespread use in Danish administration), the new Microsoft format, and others?
This proposal is a hollow, symbolic gesture, and we hope to meet again in August
and take more concrete, practical steps in this direction.

Magnus: Pathetic display from Venstre and Conservatives. First they try to block
it, then they support it (but make it toothless), then complain that it's
hollow, and pretend to have moved in this direction already.

Spokesperson for ministry of science (Venstre): This is a pathetic proposal, we
should work more on contents. We have already worked on this and are moving
strongly to implement ODF. We have wished to help other ministries in order to
help them ahead. Definition of 'Open standard' is unresolved, we'll meet on that
issue on August 15th. But instead of creating empty gestures, let us put action
and progess into this. We're already moving 180 km/hour [speed limit in Denmark
is 130 :]

Magnus Hønnike:
Venstre appears to be a great adherent of open standards. Why did Venstre then
try to block this proposal, or improve it? We had several meetings where they
had opportunity for this. Please do not pretend that Venstre is suddenly a
spreadhead for this proposal, latest event don't justify that.

Spokesperson: We wanted a report, where we make concrete commitments to what
this means, and how to move ahead practically. The current proposal helps
nothing, which is a pity. We've talked about open standards everywhere, in the
local administration etc., but we also need practical progress.

Morten Østergård: In the eye of Venstre, actions happens after the holiday. They
said the same last year - what has happened? Nothing! Let's enjoy that we all
agree on the goal, lets concentrate on getting there.

Spokesperson: Great that we agree on this, it's time to move into action. But
the proposal moves nothing forward.

Morten Østergård: Why is Venstre so upset? We're seeing some action, and the sun
is shining? Did any other country set a date for open standards? If you can, let
us know and be inspired.

Spokesperson: Actually I'm a very happy person, but I'm upset that we wasting
parliament time on this. It's nice to hear now that we are considered a leading
country for open standard. Regarding other countries having a date for open

Morten Helveg Pedersen: We are very happy today to have this adopted widely.
Amazing that Venstre can make such a quarrel about this!


[Quite a bit of bickering here...]

Morten Messerschmidt (Dansk Folkeparti): August 15th sounds fine. Is it this
year? Or the next? Last year we tried this, and Venstre rejected it for being to
far reaching. This year it has been slimmed down, and Venstre rejects it for not
being ambitous enough! Can they make up their minds?

Spokesperson: Since last election [Feb 2005] we have worked for open standards.
But we are still awaiting a report about what this means, and this is a mere

Morten Messerschmidt: We remember 19 questions about this. In 2001 the work on
open formats started. In 2005 this proposal was rejected for going too far. This
year the same proposal is rejected for being too hollow. We are all keen to do
this - why this unsystematic approach?

Spokesperson: I understand that the proponents of symbolic legislation are
frustrated that it doesn't work. But the techicalities, like determining which
file formats _are_ open, are central to getting anywhere. It's great to go:
"We're all for open standards", but we need a practical approach for
this. When we have the report, we can move forward for real.

Helge Dorman: This sounds simple. The reply on Aug. 15th says it's feasible. Why
didn't Venstre come up with admendments to clarify the proposals? Can we move on
with pilot projects in spite of Venstre?

Spokesperson: "Have we relaxed?" No, we want to move to open standards
as fast as possible. We don't know how fast that is. Noone has done this before,
there's noone to learn from. Other countries will learn from us. But this
proposal changes nothing, we all agree on this.

Helge: We note that Venstre has done nothing in the year that passed since we
proposed this the first time. Isn't it true that we can move ahead with pilot
projects? Can they move ahead, or will we let it fizzle like last year?

Spokesperson: Honestly, perhaps it's not only symbolic, it's also signaling
[also hollow :] Actually, working groups have assessed the technical details,
and the ministry of science has worked on moving our pages to open standards.
Also, we've spoken for local administration implement open standards. We've had
our hands full of this!

Anne-Grete Holsmgård (SF): The spokesperson is trying to justify Venstre
accepting this in spite of their own attitude. Venstre claims that it wants to
go further. Is that true, and what does that imply?

Spokesperson: This proposal concerns only the state, it should also apply to
local administrations. We _are_ working for this, and would not vote against it,
we all agree on this. But let's get the practical details and the local
administrations in on this.

Anne-Grete Holmsgård: Must the government now dictate over local
administrations? They have autonomy. Congratulations for dictating this, dear
mayor [the spokesperson is mayor in Randers, too].

Spokesperson: The IT systems are closely coordinated between central and local
administrations. We need to move coherently for this to work out in practice.

Conservative party: We support this proposal, and in spite of our conservative
spirit, we want action in this field. Nice that we can all agree on this!

Morten Helveg-Pedersen: This is a good day for IT politics. Dansk Folkeparti,
SF, Conservatives. and others have pulled through in good style. A wonderful
day, and hopefully all buttons will be green [Yes votes].

Anne-Grete Holmsgård: This is a great decision we're taking. For many years
we've had plenty of lip service to open standards from ministry of science
(since 2001). We have hear commitments to access from all clients (Mac, Linux
etc.) One may argue that this proposal is hollow.
But it isn't. Once we've pressed the green button, we all take responsibility
for moving this forward. Yes, there will be areas where this is not possible by
But there will also be areas where it's possible long before 2008, to adopt an
open document standard. Half of the members are still using closed, monopolistic
standards. There's already an open, ISO-approved format ready to use.
And when the government claims that we're first movers, this is not true. The
state of Massachusetts has already adopted this, as of Jan. 2007, for their
central administration, just like this proposal. Therefore it is possible and it
is commiting to do this.
How great it is that we're progressing with free competition, access for all.
Open standards are here to stay, and we must now press ahead to implement it.

[Proposal voted in by all political parties].

[ Reply to This | # ]

Volunteer translator here - with definition of "Open Standard"
Authored by: KarlJorgensen on Saturday, June 03 2006 @ 06:25 PM EDT

I can translate B103 unless somebody is doing it already...

A quick read of it has this interesting definition of Open Standards. It means that the standard:

  • is well documented with the complete specification publicly available
  • freely implementable [ed: is that a word?] without economic, political or legal limitations on implementation and use
  • standardised and maintained in an open forum (a so-called standard organisation [ed: organization for those on the western shores of the pond]) using an open process

If they keep to that definition (I hope!) I doubt whether MS' "Open XML" stands a chance at the moment!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Denmark's Resolution on Open Standards - Updated
Authored by: wood gnome on Sunday, June 04 2006 @ 02:37 AM EDT
Thanks, elhaard, for the info.
Just wish that the NL parliament & govt would
get as far as discussing the topic, too - and move away frome closed formats.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Denmark's Resolution on Open Standards - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, June 04 2006 @ 03:58 AM EDT
I can't see the change made by DF to this anywhere here. The part about "or
as soon as technically possible after january 1st. 2008".

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Open" XML
Authored by: cmc on Sunday, June 04 2006 @ 05:01 AM EDT
It's been a while since Microsoft's "Open" XML has been discussed, and
my memory is poor, so please forgive me for the asking what is probably obvious,
but isn't Microsoft's "Open" XML patent-encumbered? Don't you need a
license from Microsoft in order to use it? How can something which requires a
license for use ever be considered "open"?


[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Easy - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, June 04 2006 @ 07:47 AM EDT
  • "Open" XML - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, June 04 2006 @ 09:03 AM EDT
  • "Open" XML - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, June 04 2006 @ 09:29 AM EDT
    • "Open" XML - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, June 04 2006 @ 06:30 PM EDT
Denmark's Resolution on Open Standards - Updated
Authored by: iraskygazer on Monday, June 05 2006 @ 07:42 AM EDT
I just hope that Denmark's government officials are wise enough to not be
influenced by money or 'Carrots on a string' that are being presented by M$. A
truly open standard like ODF, which has been endorsed by many European
countries, is the optimum standard for the entire globe.
Even the ISO has recognized ODF as a truly open format that embodies the
characteristics of an international standard. M$ knew that they couldn't compete
with ODF head on. So they are attempting to use the back door of Denmark's
governmental offices to attempt to continue their monopoly.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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