Germany Moving To ODF in 2010
The Federal Government of Germany [has decided] to implement use of the OpenDocument Format (ODF). According to the plan, German federal agencies will be able to receive, read, send and edit ODF documents beginning no later than 2010.
It is encouraging to see the continued onward march of truly open standards in the face of corporate influence. I am looking forward to seeing renewed proposals to standardize on ODF here in California, in Texas, and other states.
To be sure, some issues remain to be solved. How can the government continue to make use of existing software and processes with the new formats? Which documents presently stored in older formats should be converted to the new formats? How should the conversion be accomplished? And most importantly, which copy (old format or new) is now the legal record?
Truth be told, these same issues were already ahead. Remembering that the market-leading office software changed file formats in the 2007 version, every government agency, world-wide, should be asking these very same questions about now. One does not know how long support for the former formats will be available in the market leader’s products. It wasn’t too long ago that a “security” update removed support for older versions of those same formats. (Which was a lot of fun for those of us who support users. Suddenly, they had documents/spreadsheets/presentations that they had been using for years, but they could no longer open. After some outcry, the vendor released a fix that rolled back the changes, but we had to manually apply it.)
The point is, government documents are the property of the people. Proprietary formatted documents, even those which are supposedly open (but really proprietary formats in drag) require citizens to purchase the proprietary product or face a loss of fidelity. In some cases, the document may be unreadable without the proprietary vendor’s product.
This is why we must continue to work to spread openness throughout government.
Open source, open standards, open government. It just works better.