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Why the UK government must adopt Open Document Format

By: Stuart J Mackintosh
Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 14:06 GMT Jump to Comments

Today is Document Freedom Day. As of November 2012, all government bodies have had to adhere to Open Standards Principles; an agreed set of standards to make IT more open, cheaper and better connected.

These were developed following the public consultation ‘Open Standards: Open Opportunities – flexibility and efficiency in government IT,’ to help government to deliver more innovative IT services and further drive savings, encouraging more open competition for government contracts.

It was a major initiative and went a long way to making government documents more accessible and available. Today, as the globe celebrates International Document Freedom Day, it’s time to take this initiative even further.

Document Freedom Day (DFD) is the international day to celebrate and raise awareness of Open Standards.

Many people around the globe will be coming together to run local events and let the public know about freedom of information accessibility. But document freedom starts at the top, at government level, and on this day UK public sector bodies can really adhere to Open Standards Principles and enable UK industry innovation by making Open Document Format (ODF) their default file application.

Open Source and Open Standards are influencing almost every aspect of modern life from
communications to industry and education.

Many private sector companies have built their success on these principals and there are a growing number of successful Public Sector case studies.

The UK government has an equal opportunity to provide better services more efficiently by adopting these principles and taking responsibility to train and lead the people within government to ensure these best practices become the norm.

ODF is the ultimate open reference point for all new UK government documents and should not be confused with OOXML, a closed standard controlled by a single, proprietary supplier.

The UK government should only purchase fully compliant ODF applications and ODF should be the default option for all UK government applications. This reflects community requirements transparently.

By making ODF the default option for all UK government applications, all official documents will become futureproofed, application lock-ins will be removed, and any future migration to new standards and software will be transitioned seamlessly.

In order to help government departments make the switch, I have today issued an educational paper to public sector personnel, demonstrating how easy it is to make the switch to ODF, and the risks of doing nothing.

Open Document Format frees documents and data from their applications of origin, enabling them to be exchanged, retrieved and edited with any Open Document-compliant software, database or tool.

This is essential to prevent Public Sector ‘technology ghettos’ where information is not sharable, and locked in to certain software – the very thing that Open Standards Principles were set up to overcome.

Many existing applications used by government teams already provide the facility to save files in ODF, making the adoption of ODF as a default practice relatively easy.

The switch to ODF is seamless and will enable government departments to get more out of technology providers, prevent being locked in to certain software, and ensure Open Standards compliance.

The risks of not defaulting to ODF could be critical to government organisations, particularly considering how easy it is to make the switch.

It’s a more open and cost effective use of taxpayer’s money and will go a long way to ensuring seamless transfer of data between data stores and software throughout the Public Sector.

If adoption of Open Document Format starts today, on International Document Freedom Day, it could secure document freedom within the UK government for many years to come.


 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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