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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.

Notes

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]

Answer
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.


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