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Denmark Pretends MSOOXML Already an "Open Standard" & Mandates a Trial of ODF/MSOOXML
Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 03:39 PM EST

Denmark has announced that open standards are going to be a requirement going forward there, starting in January, which is being hailed as a great step forward for openness. However, if you look closely, you will see that it is pretending that MSOOXML has already been approved as an open standard, equivalent to ODF. ODF is already an ISO approved standard. MSOOXML is not. It was specifically disapproved, and the next meeting will be in February, which is after the January starting date in Denmark. In short, Denmark simply doesn't care about ISO approval.

Denmark ranks the two as the same, and mandates a trial of both. I wonder what the outcome of that trial will be? Why even bother to pretend?

The announcement does say this:

The agreement secures that from 1 January 2008 all public authorities - national, regional and local - must use seven sets of open standards in all new IT solutions, unless it will significantly increase the costs of the project. Moreover, all authorities must be able to receive office documents in two open document standards - namely ODF and OOXML. This allows citizens to communicate with government using open standards.

But let's look at another detail:

During the test period, public authorities must be able to receive both standards, known as ODF and OOXML, and new procurements must be able to handle at least one of the two standards. The test period will be evaluated during the first half of 2009 by a third party in preparation for a new assessment by the Folketing.

In the autumn, the Science Minister will report the status of implementing the timetable to the Folketing's IT spokesmen, and at the same time it will be discussed what criteria are to be evaluated in 2009 in relation to document standards.

Ah! New procurements need to be able to handle at least one. Get it? MSOOXML is thus anointed as an "open standard" before ISO approval, and everyone can use only that. How does Microsoft do what it does? And why even bother to vote in February if ISO approval is not required before a government mandates use of an as-yet-unapproved "standard"?

The EU Commission's report, however, says that to qualify as an open standard the following must be true:

The openness of a standard implies that: * the standard must be fully documented and publicly available;
* the standard must be freely implementable without economic, political or legal constraints on its implementation and use, now or in the future; and
* the standard should be managed and maintained in an open forum via an open process (standardisation organisation).

I don't believe any of those three can be said to be true of MSOOXML, and in fact ISO National Bodies will not be allowed to even discuss the legal restraints at February's Ballot Resolution Meeting. See how the game is played? Standards are now a farce. Politicians anoint whatever they please, and technical experts are simply ignored. The technical experts at the various ISO National Bodies told us that MSOOXML should not be approved. But Denmark's politicians have deemed otherwise.

Update: Here's the latest from Leif Lodahl:

First it was strategical decision in Folketinget (the Danish parliament) in summer 2006. This summer 2007 the agreement between government and the Danish municipals was a fact. And now we are getting close to the operational level. It all should start on January 1th. 2008, where all Danish authorities must be able to receive both ODF and OOXML documents.

A few days ago the Danish IT- and Tele agency published a 'manual' for the authorities. I think the manual as it is leaves the spirit of B103 behind and leaves the authorities with a choice of 'make he easy choice' with no respect for the original purpose and spirit of the resolution.

The manual (in Danish) can be found here.

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