December 14, 2005

Bangkok Post: OpenDocument & Sovereignty

Don Sambandaraksa's article in the Bangkok Post represents the most comprehensive mainstream journalistic effort that I have seen in the English language to synthesize the issues of open file formats with simple examples of how open standards can improve the efficiency of government services. The principal example is the response of the Thai government to the tsunami one year ago this Boxing Day.

The article quotes Bob Sutor effecively on several aspects of the open file format trend:
"You're seeing the last battle of vendors who are still trying to maintain some sort of market position by controlling data and information," Sutor said.

He also cited the response at the Federal level towards Hurricane Katrina. The FEMA web site would only accept requests for aid from people using Microsoft Internet Explorer. People using Linux, Macs or Firefox on Windows were effectively cut off from state aid, which Sutor said was "just not appropriate."
The article also mentions the Berkman Center's Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems, which would make awfully nice bedside reading over the holidays for anyone wishing to catch up on where the open standards & eGovernment conversations lie in places like:

- Denmark
- the Netherlands
- the United Kingdom
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- Brazil
- New Zealand
- Canada
- Japan
- Sweden
- the European Union

The quality of coverage demonstrated by the Bangkok Post is blatantly absent in the US, UK & Europe. What's wrong with the media? Are you afraid Microsoft will pull their ad spend? It's apparently not the case in Thailand. Editors should be ashamed of their shrinking cowardice.


At 12:26 AM, Blogger Jeff Kaplan said...


I think you're absolutely right to decry the possibility (even likelihood) that two competing format standards will exist risks confusing users.

Though not all the details are out on MS's patent covenants for its open XML standard (or are they?), my read is that it would not meet the requirements for an open standard. At least as defined by our Open ePolicy Group in the Roadmap. In particular, the criteria that an open standard ...

* cannot be controlled by any single entity with any vested interests; and

* platform independent, vendor neutral and usable for multiple implementations.

On the first count, it appears that MS will retain substantial control. And second, users of 3rd party products may not easily be able to display MS files with same visual characteristics or functionality. Hardly platform independent or vendor neutral.

Not to mention the timing of this MS initiative.

Obviously, forestalling the spread of ODF is integral to its open XML standard initiative.

So, will it succeed? I think people need to speak clearly, loudly and early about what is and isn't an open standards.

(And hey, I like your blog template also! Though seeing yours makes me think I need to tinker, and learn some more HTML skills. I'm a novice at it.)

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