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CONSEGI 2008 Declaration -- Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues
Monday, September 01 2008 @ 11:54 PM EDT

There is an unexpected reaction from major government IT agencies in six countries condemning the ISO/IEC refusal to act on the four appeals against OOXML, which they say "reflects poorly" on ISO/IEC. They have signed and sent an open letter to ISO, which I'll show you in full. The countries represented are South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Cuba. Here's a paragraph to give you a taste:
Given the organisation's inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks. Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.

How in the world can ISO/IEC claim that the OOXML approval has not been damaging to ISO/IEC's reputation now? Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Three of the signatories, South Africa, Brazil, and Venezuela, submitted appeals that were denied. South Africa's appeal included the grounds that are supposed to be sufficient for an appeal:

This appeal is made in accordance with Clause 11.1.2: "A P member of JTC 1 or an SC may appeal against any action, or inaction, on the part of JTC 1 or an SC when the P member considers that in such action or inaction:
- questions of principle are involved;
- the contents of a draft may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO; or
- the point giving rise to objection was not known to JTC 1 or SC during earlier discussions."
We believe that there is an important question of principle involved and that the reputation of ISO/IEC is indeed at stake. There has been speculation about the need to revise the directives around fast track processing. While such revision might indeed be necessary, we cannot accept the outcome of a process in which the existing directives have not, in our opinion, been applied.

Maybe that is part of what they mean about rules not being followed. Jomar Silva of Brazil, who attended the ballot resolution meeting and was the first to break "the law of silence" and tell the world how bad it was at the BRM, discusses this latest development, and he provides a link to the letter. Silva writes:

As far as I know, the countries that sent the appeals do not intend to appeal again, despite this be[ing] possible under the already broken JTC1 directives.

Thus, managers of the major IT governmental organizations in Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa wrote and co-signed an open letter to ISO, to express their dissatisfaction with the final result of this all.

The letter was also signed by managers of similar entities in Ecuador, Paraguay and Cuba, in a clear signal that this affected more people than I imagined.

Andy Updegrove provides some background:

The statement is titled the "CONSEGI 2008 Declaration," named for the South and Latin American government open source conference held in Brasilia, Brazil, at which the Declaration was signed. Those that attended included senior government officials, such as Brazil's Minister of Science and Technology, as well as representatives of the six nations that signed the declaration: Brazil, Cuba, Paraguay, South Africa and Venezuela.

In objecting to the dismissal of the earlier appeals, the Declaration notes, "That these concerns were not properly addressed....reflects poorly on the integrity" of ISO/IEC.

And here is the Open Letter:

************************************

CONSEGI 2008 DECLARATION

We, the undersigned representatives of state IT organisations from Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay, note with disappointment the press release from ISO/IEC/JTC-1 of 20 August regarding the appeals registered by the national bodies of Brazil, South Africa, India and Venezuela. Our national bodies, together with India, had independently raised a number of serious concerns about the process surrounding the fast track approval of DIS29500. That those concerns were not properly addressed in the form of a conciliation panel reflects poorly on the integrity of these international standards development institutions.

Whereas we do not intend to waste any more resources on lobbying our national bodies to pursue the appeals further, we feel it is important to make the following points clear:

1.The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast track processing of DIS29500 remains a significant concern to us. That the ISO TMB did not deem it necessary to properly explore the substance of the appeals must, of necessity, put confidence in those institutions ability to meet our national requirements into question.

2. The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern. Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.

3. The large scale adoption of a standard for office document formats is a long and expensive exercise, with multi-year projects being undertaken in each of our countries. Many of us have dedicated significant time and resources to this effort. For example, in Brazil, the process of translation of ISO/IEC26300 into Portuguese has taken over a year.

The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads. Given the organisation's inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks. Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.

____________________________
Aslam Raffee (South Africa)
Chairman, Government IT Officer's Council Working Group on Open Standards Open Source Software

____________________________
Marcos Vinicius Ferreira Mazoni (Brazil)
Presidente, Servico Federal de Processamento de Dados

____________________________
Carlos Eloy Figueira (Venezuela)
President, Centro Nacional de Tecnologías de Información

____________________________
Eduardo Alvear Simba (Ecuador)
Director de Software Libre, Presidencia de la República

____________________________
Tomas Ariel Duarte C. (Paraguay)
Director de Informática, Presidencia de la República

____________________________
Miriam Valdés Abreu (Cuba)
Directora de Análisis, Oficina para la Informatización


  


CONSEGI 2008 Declaration -- Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues | 370 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections - Current -> Future in subject line please...
Authored by: tce on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 12:00 AM EDT
so its easy to find and fix

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Thread: Descriptive Subject please
Authored by: tce on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 12:03 AM EDT
Change title block.

Use html if necessary, and change mode to HTML formatted. Instructions for HTML
are under text input box, and on Groklaw's HTML How To link.

And please stay off topic.

Preview is your friend.

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Picks: Descriptive Subject please
Authored by: tce on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 12:06 AM EDT
Let us know which newspick you are referring to.
Change the title block.

Links are appreciated, as the News Picks do scroll off the side eventually.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Almost 300 million people
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 12:14 AM EDT
The six countries listed have a combined population of almost 300,000,000
people.

[ Reply to This | # ]

crunch time -- or not
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 01:30 AM EDT
The unstated question of the letter is whether the rot at ISO is pervasive or
limited to the DIS29500 farce.
This is a matter so grave that the, so far, absentee top of ISO *has* to somehow
take a stand on this matter.
I can not imagine that continued silence or a failure to act is an option,
especially as this would likely be seen as an institutional condoning of the
procedural outrageousness ISO has so far presented with regard to OOXML.

[ Reply to This | # ]

CONSEGI 2008 -- more
Authored by: grouch on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 02:45 AM EDT

So even though Microsoft may have gotten the ISO certification it desperately needed, the damage done has been considerable. The past two years brought together the international community, raised more awareness to real open standards than before, and unfortunately for them, pinpointed them as a common "enemy."

-- OOXML won't be accepted in South America. -- Yoon Kit, Open Malaysia

Following a link from Yoon Kit's article...

The discussions among participants of the Coalition Dynamics South-South were encouraged by talks given by three experts from renowned - Dr. G. Nagarjuna, Presidente da Free Software Foundation da Índia, o Dr. Richard Owens, Diretor da Divisão de Copyright da Organização Mundial de Propriedade Intelectual eo Dr. Stephen J. Nagarjuna, President of the Free Software Foundation of India, Dr. Richard Owens, Director of the Division of Copyright of the World Intellectual Property Organization and Dr. Stephen J. Davidson, advogado e professor de Direito radicado em Minneapolis. Davidson, lawyer and professor of law rooted in Minneapolis.

-- Coalition dynamics in the South-South Consegi 2008 [Google translation to English]

If you have OpenOffice.org Writer or another processor which reads .odt files, that article has a link at the bottom to the "whole document", from which:

The South-South Dynamic Coalition within the International Congress on Society and Electronic Government – CONSEGI (Brasilia, from August 27 to 29, 2008)

FULLY SUPPORTS the International Congress on Society and Electronic Government – CONSEGI –, and COMMITS itself to promoting digital inclusion, disseminating free and open source software and developing e-government programs and solutions aimed at empowering citizens, [...]

Did anyone else hear a big "ooops!" and the sound of ballistic chairs coming from the direction of Redmond?

---
-- grouch

GNU/Linux obeys you.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Overlap and time wasting
Authored by: bhima on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 02:49 AM EDT
2. The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern. Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.
I had previously thought that multiple standards that truly overlapped were silly and somewhat wasteful, but this comment makes me think about how bad it can really be.

These governments are unhappy because they spent time and money working on systems built around a standard from the ISO, which they trusted both the quality of, and the longevity of.

You would expect that choosing to use an official international standard would give you the confidence that you could expect people to continue working with the standard and producing new apps and tools for quite a while.

By approving a competing standard, they are undercutting that. Approving redundant standards without good reason severely reduces the utility of there being any standards at all.

I know why Microsoft is doing what they do; I'm still trying to figure out if the independent actors at ISO and national bodies realize what they're doing. My gut feeling is that many of the ISO people doing the wrong thing in all this resent what they see as outside interference, and that Microsoft's lobbyists are simply better at looking like they're playing the game correctly.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Integrity of ISO.......??
Authored by: Hygrocybe on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 03:08 AM EDT
I cannot resist this one. In the CONSEGI 2008 DECLARATION, the statement is
made that:

"That those concerns were not properly addressed in the form of a
conciliation panel reflects poorly on the integrity of these international
standards development institutions."

I wholeheartedly agree; but go one step further. ISO itself has a set of rules
- poorly put together maybe, but definitely a set of rules. Those rules are
interpreted by the people who administer ISO, and the "buck stops
there".....In my opinion, ISO's reputation and integrity have been damaged
severely, but what can we now say about the people who administered ISO and by
their interpretation of the rules, brought ISO to this dreadful situation where
several countries are openly stating that they no longer have confidence in
ISO.

During the OOXML debate, I brought the worries I had about the fast track
process and the underlying flaws in OOXML, as well as its direct control by
Microsoft, to the attention of the standards/ISO people in Australia. I am
ashamed to say that I received platitudes and a general indication that
Australia had no major problems with OOXML - at least none that were indicated
to me.

I think that the current ISO administration is now severely tarnished and quite
honestly, I would like to see the people who steered OOXML through the ISO
process removed from the ISO organisation. They have sullied what should be a
non-partisan, non-proprietary, open-standards organisation.

---
Blackbutt, Australia

[ Reply to This | # ]

Fortunes told here. Special rates for ISO.
Authored by: Ian Al on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 03:21 AM EDT
Reading the tea leaves

Gypsy Rose Liana says 'watch for new moves towards independant IT standards shared between Asia, Australasia and South America. I can't do the tea leaves for ISO - they need their bumps felt'.

---
Regards
Ian Al

Linux: as used by the world's most successful countries and companies.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Just wondering
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 04:21 AM EDT
Will we be hearing from Rick Jelliffe on this...??

[ Reply to This | # ]

CONSEGI 2008 Declaration -- Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 04:54 AM EDT
Not to be negative PJ....but what is really the large news here?

A couple of countries that use FOSS (and presumely ODF) have declared that ISO
is broken because how ISO handled OOXML.

So...in case ISO personal and NB participants failed to listen to the concerns
from ODF vendors and users they now have an letter that inform them about the
problem. Yet I fail to believe that these persons never heard the concerns.

The problem is not that ISO have stupid rules that they did follow, but rather
that ISO personal choose to follow or break rules as they saw fit to make sure
OOXML was accepted no matter what. I have no proof, but the whole OOXML fiasco
carry marks that you usually would associate with widespread corruption.

If countries that has not committed themselves to employ FOSS started to
criticize we would have real news. In the absence of such I think it would be
more reasonable that Groklaw was a bit more careful about using the strong
superlatives to describe positive, but marginal news, for the FOSS cause.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I am annoyed
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 05:52 AM EDT
Annoyed that no one in my government, and no one of my ISO representatives had
the balls to come forward with such a letter, let alone a formal protest.

I don't see that the breakdown of ISO is imminent, but their reputation is
damaged. And that is well deserved.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft is winning
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 05:58 AM EDT
If it manages to destroy all independent standard processes, it is free to
squash the market with "de facto" standards as before.

And their destruction of ISO as an independent standardization organisation is a
solid step there. Even if they did not manage to buy them out completely, they
are wiped off the map.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The ISO body should read Groklaw!
Authored by: hamstring on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 12:27 PM EDT

I know I wrote quite some time ago that this day would come. I saw numerous comments similar to mine also, so was not unique in my thoughts

I believe this to be just the beginnings of the landslide.

Sure, there will be the hangers-on (aka dingleberries) who retain a front of good faith toward the ISO. Countries like the US who have loads of lobby money from the big corporations.

M$'s foothold does not go far beyond the US and a few larger European countries though. When 9 countries out of 2xx are the only ones trusting of ISO it really becomes useless no matter how much money M$ throws at it.


The next lesson: Reputation is not something that can be repaired by bribery and/or money. Once an institution's reputation is lost, it's extremely hard (perhaps impossible) to gain it back.

This is a very good example of history repeating itself, and I really enjoy watching these things play out.

Historically M$ has gotten away with throwing money at problems to make them vanish. Who will M$ tries to throw money at trying to make this one go away?

---
# echo "Mjdsptpgu Svdlt" | tr [b-z] [a-y]
# IANAL and do not like Monopoly

[ Reply to This | # ]

Reason to replace ISO: Open Standards
Authored by: dwheeler on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 12:34 PM EDT
There is a desperate need for an organization that can manage the development, vetting, and maintenance of international open standards - a "one-stop shop". I had hoped that ISO would be able to grow into that role, but perhaps not. ISO seems to be stuck in the past.

Most obviously, ISO still permits closed standards to be standards. In particular, standards can be created with required patents, preventing full and open competition. At least in software, allowing standards with patents is foolish; they cut off one of the primary software development approaches (free-libre / open source software). Closed standards are good for the "winning" vendors, but they're bad for the public. ISO can try to balance different people's interests, but it must decide if a subset of vendors or the public are the most important. If the public is not the most important, then it's time to dump ISO, since then it would not be serving the public good. ISO would be revealed as just another self-serving industry consortium.

Another real problem: ISO still actually charges money to get electronic standards, money that it did not earn. ISO does not pay the people who develop the standards - it just takes the money due to other people's work. When there were a few standards, used by only a few large companies, and publishing was expensive, that made sense as a way to pay for the printed paper. When there are millions of standards, people compete in small units, and nobody wants the paper, it's stupid. ISO has a choice: Does it exist to encourage standards, or does it exist to make money it didn't earn? Pick one.

If ISO just accepts incompatible standards done by anyone willing to pay it, won't even follow its own rules, and doesn't pay people to develop standards, exactly what value does it provide?

There's a need for an international body that creates and vets open standards, as defined by Digistan's definition of "open standard". I'm not anti-ISO; ISO has, in past, performed a really important role. I hope ISO can grow into a body that is relevant to the future, not just the past. But if ISO cannot adjust to the modern world, then another organization must be formed to replace it. Let's hope that ISO realizes the seriousness of its problems and does an about-face, very very soon.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspicks Thread Seed Post
Authored by: Weeble on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 01:23 PM EDT
Since I couldn't find one anywhere else.

---
You Never Know What You're Going to Learn--or Learn About--on Groklaw!
(NOTE: Click the "Weeble" link for Copying Permissions and Contact Info.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Filling Vacuums
Authored by: mlwmohawk on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 02:27 PM EDT
Nature Abhors a Vacuum. It will be filled by someone. The only way ISO can come
back is a wide spread dismissal of the standards world "Tom Delays"
ram-rodding agenda motivated standards through with little or no regard to
integrity.

Short of that happening, the proprietary standards makers Microsoft, Apple, et
al will be able to create "de facto" standards with no respectable
standard based counter offer.

We are all pissed off at ISO, but in the end, we still lose. It is
"us" that lose when we lose standards.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT: Need some RAM, been a while
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 04:56 PM EDT
I have two systems at home that have half a GB of RAM.

It has been a long time since I have added more RAM to a system (circa six
years).

I have to check available slots and match what RAM I currently have, from what I
recall (size and speed wise, I believe that is correct, reading this data off
the chips).

I either want to add another half a GB or just replace what is there with a full
2 GB.

Anything else I need to care for or that I might be missing? Like I said, it has
been a while.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How... can ISO/IEC claim that the OOXML approval has not been damaging to ISO/IEC's reputation?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 05:35 PM EDT
PJ Wrote: "How in the world can ISO/IEC claim that the OOXML approval has
not been damaging to ISO/IEC's reputation now?"

Easy.

ISO/IEC is more concerned with their reputation with Microsoft, that with that
of governments.

Now why they might be more concerned with their relationship with Microsoft than
with governments is anyone's guess; but I'd have to guess money's behind it
somewhere.

[ Reply to This | # ]

CONSEGI 2008 Declaration -- Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 07:07 PM EDT
I'm NOT a lawyers or attorney. But, as a citizen, I know, any time you use proprietary technology, especially like Microsoft, you will become dependent. Microsoft like so many corporations want their customers to become dependent, thus insuring returning consumers, repeating sales, and ever more control over how customers purchase their products, services and even information. Microsoft's Concept of Doing Business:
Embrace: Hey, we'll join your open source club. Extend: Now that we're compatible, why don't you run some of our software too? Extinguish: That software of ours that you are now reliant upon? Well, here's the new version, and it doesn't work with your open source software anymore, so pay up!
Microsoft's "XAML" markup language, positioned to replace HTML (the current industry standard for publishing language on the Internet), is designed from the ground up to be dependent on Windows.

Please do yourself a favor and discover what is happening here by reading the article by Lawrence Lessig. Who is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. For those that haven't yet read,"How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Creativity" www.lessig.org

Intellectual Property Rights has increasingly become an instrument for securing huge investments. But for a democratic society, that thrives on a large diversity of freely expressed and discussed cultural expressions, it's succumbs to stagnation and regression, all because of some bureaucratic encumbrance of intellectual property rights.

The technical term for this is "rent-seeking," meaning special-interest coalitions who pressure the government to transfer wealth to them. The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, the No Electronic Theft Act, etc...

Copyrights are selfish; they place the good of the one (the creator) over the good of the many (the audience). Instead of allowing a work to be improved and redistributed by those who may be more qualified than the original author, works are restricted in the name of monetary profit.

Berkeley law professor Pam Samuelson points out, copyright law is way too verbose; it's now swollen to an unbelievable 200 pages long. It's complex, incomprehensible, designed to favor large copyright holders over defendants, and thoroughly out of touch with reality.
Some corporations abuse copyright privileges by suing or threatening to sue those who clearly are within their rights under fair use, but who cannot afford to defend themselves in court.
Where does an algorithm end and a patentable invention begin? How can DRM identify "fair use" of copyrighted material? How much variation distinguishes one idea from another?
"...The time and money we spend on patent filings, prosecution, and maintenance, litigation and licensing could be better spent on product development and research leading to more innovation..." - Robert Barr (Cisco Systems Intellectual Property Department) 2002

and...

"Because it is impossible to know what patent applications are in the application pipeline, it is entirely possible, even likely, to develop software which incorporates features that are the subject of another firm's patent application. Thus, there is no avoiding the risk of inadvertently finding oneself being accused of a patent infringement simply because no information was publicly available at the time which could have offered guidance of what to avoid." - Mitch Kapor 1994

So just imagine the world not adapting real standards, that are open. Thus, causing more isolation, higher cost, which is exactly what any economist would tell you, that is how the capitalist system operates, by artificially increasing demand, which earns greater profits.

Open source is FREE to all, so they can build upon prior innovation, which is WHY Microsoft considers the GPL3 as a CANCER to it's own intellectual proprietary.

Either open societies adapt open solutions for all, or some dictator will end up dictating the terms for all. Just as China isn't going to open up while under a totalitarian regime. But, why can't an open society such as the United States realize the importance of doing just that, to support and provide open standards, for all?

What about intellectual sovereignty (independence) rather than intellectual property restrictions (dependency)?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Yeah, whatever ....
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 09:53 PM EDT
Somehow, I don't think that appeals by what will be perceived as 'Cuba and its
leftist lackeys' will carry much weight with ISO.

One could, for instance, question the level of technical competence of countries
such as Cuba and Venezuela. Are they making a technical objection to ISO, or are
they making a statement against Yankee economic imperialism?

[ Reply to This | # ]

CONSEGI 2008 Declaration -- Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues
Authored by: hamstring on Wednesday, September 03 2008 @ 08:18 AM EDT
You also miss a big point in the letter being published, which is that other
countries will now follow suite.

I do hope you're not so closed minded that you think China and India (just as 2
examples) were happy with ISO's management of this issue.

Similar to the first appeals, others will follow now that a precedent has been
set.

Thumbing noses at the US economy is simply a nice side effect of countries
denouncing ISO.

---
# echo "Mjdsptpgu Svdlt" | tr [b-z] [a-y]
# IANAL and do not like Monopoly

[ Reply to This | # ]

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