There is a perfect script for a science-fiction or techno-thriller novel sitting in my diary where in future a government is unable to access its own achieve from way back in 1990s as it was saved in a proprietary, vendor locked format which became obsolete after the company went out of business and died. The government has ‘lost’ 3 decades of its data due to the use of a non-standard, vendor locked technology.

I remember a few weeks ago there was a post circulating on social network where an Apple user was not able to open his documents saved in Apple’s non-free format as the support for the version he created the document is had reached end of life.

Saving documents using non-standard or vendor locked technologies (no matter how popular they are at the moment) is a risk government should not take. No company has drank ‘Amrit’ or elexier. We have seen mega companies die.

UK has made the right decision by choosing ‘open standards’ for sharing and viewing government documents. The announcement was made by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.

“The standards set out the document file formats that are expected to be used across all government bodies. Government will begin using open formats that will ensure that citizens and people working in government can use the applications that best meet their needs when they are viewing or working on documents together,” said the official press release.

It means setting government documents free of vendor locked. Now UK citizens won’t need specialist software offered by only one vendor open or work with government documents.

Interchangeability is a huge mess, thanks to Microsoft’s non-standard document formats which leads to data loss when accessed by software offered by other vendors or open source projects. By moving to open standard the UK government has ensured data integrity.

The government has selected compatible standards for commonly used documents. It will use PDF/A or HTML for viewing government documents and Open Document Format (ODF) for sharing or collaborating on government documents.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said, “Our long-term plan for a stronger economy is all about helping UK businesses grow. We have listened to those who told us that open standards will reduce their costs and make it easier to work with government. This is a major step forward for our digital-by-default agenda which is helping save citizens, businesses and taxpayers £1.2 billion over this Parliament.

One of the primary objectives of this move is to create a level playing field for suppliers of all sizes. The move must put some pressure on Google to offer full support for ODF in Chrome, Android and Google Docs.

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  • brownieboy

    Google’s not the only game in town for online docs. Zoho supports ODF.