by Kaj Kandler
Jim Rapoza makes in interesting argument at eWeek, saying that the ODF Alliance focuses too much on convincing governments to adopt Open Document Format (ODF also known as ISO 26300). Jim argues that he didn’t see a real adoption of ODF before Google did support it with its Docs and Spreadsheet applications. He procalims that states are usually behind the curve of technologies and the ODF Alliance would be better spend their resources in finding more compelling uses for ODF.
I think Jim, a self confessed Open Office user, repeats sterotypes, such as a government is behind the curve of technology adoption. I think there is no real basis for the assumption that government agencies do not to use leading technology. As a matter of fact, some of the most advanced technology is developed for or by the government, weather it is for military purposes or for medical and health purposes, minting coins or printing money that is hard to counter fit.
I also think Jim has not given propper thought to why the state of Massachusetts did want to use ODF. It is not for the purpose of being hip and advanced. The state of Massachusetts did realize that it needs a reliable way to retrieve documents long after they have been created and archived and the formats they are stored in and the applications that created them, are out of favor and often not produced or supported anymore. This is an important function for a government to collect and archive material that has historical significance, such as protocols about procedings, deciscions, laws and documents that can proof guilt, innocence or ownership of property, family relationships, marriage or devorce. So, when the state’s IT people realized that a perfect digital copy of a document is not enough, they acted on their duty to find ways to archive documents in a way that they will be accessible in the foreseeable future. I think ODF was one of the few formats available that fulfilled the criteria required. In that respect the ODF alliance did help the state of Massachusetts and other governments rather than outright lobby them.
I’m not naive and do believe the ODF alliance does lobby governments for the use of their format and that the mostly companies behind it hope to gain with their applications. However, the history of Microsoft’s multiple steps to accomodate the real and vital requirements the state of Massachusetts layed out, shows that they didn’t just promote their competing format. They offered a better product that did fulfill a need that the widely used proprietary formats did not.
I would agree with Jim, that the ODF Alliance should spend more resources to explain to private organizations and individuals that this storage issue is not only relevant for government documents. It starts with every citizen’s interest of having access to the records of their government and it goes further with history as recorded in business contracts, news papers and correspodence. And it continues into our personal lives with e-mail, blogs, notes, contracts, letters, poems, and photographs or home videos.
Ask yourself which documents from your current live do you want to re-read when you are sitting in a nursing home and look back on your live, may be collecting the memories for a book for your grand children. You will understand how important it is you can still share them.