Monday, December 31, 2007

A Happy and Open 2008

Two Dutch parliamentary commissions have approved an action plan to set a soft deadline for the application of open standards and open source software in government environments. Mr Heemskerk, vice-secretary at the department of Economic Affairs and a former software application entrepreneur, has set a hard deadline for January 1, 2009. The action plan should lead to more competition and lower costs for the government.

The action plan, entitled The Netherlands open in connection, is ambitious in its objectives and its time window. The plan has three objectives: increasing interoperability, decreasing dependency on software suppliers and promotion of a level playing field in the software market. All objectives can be reached by defined open standards. The proposal distinguishes between open standards improving the interoperability and the use of open source.

If there is equality between open source software and software of a closed system, the open source should be preferred. When government bodies want to use a closed application rather than a open source application or open standards, they will have to explain the reason why and offer a time scheme, telling when the open standard will be applied; the so called comply or explain/commit principle.

The action plan contains rigid deadlines. Government bodies are obliged to apply the comply-or-explain/commit principle, while other (semi-) state bodies and institutes have December 2008 as a deadline. From January 2009 implementation strategies have to be formulated for tendering, buying and using open source software by all government ministerial departments. One year later these strategies should also be applied for semi-government bodies such as education, health and social care institutes.

The Dutch citizen should notice the first results by January 2009, when the Open Document Format (ODF)or the OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications should be in use for text files, spreadsheets, graphs and presentation by all ministerial departments.

In the meantime the vice secretary of the Economic Affairs department has asked the Dutch monopoly watchdog to perform a market analysis. The government estimates that it would save no less than 5,6 million euro (8,8 million US dollars).

It is not surprising that the reactions to the action plan were a mixed bag. Microsoft’s CEO in The Netherlands thinks that the Dutch government will burn its fingers, if the action plan will be executed without change. “In fact, innovation will be curbed”, he said (Hear Microsoft!). So far Microsoft’s Open Office XML standard failed to achieve certification by ISO. The Dutch association of ICT entrepreneurs ICT~Office reacted ambiguously, as could be expected. It profiles itself as an association for open and closed software developers, while it has only a few open source software developers among its 450 members. ICT~Office stresses that the focus of tenders should be on facts and not on emotions. The OpenDoc Society is happy with the action plan as far as the support of open standards.

So I wish you a happy and open 2008. One of my first actions will be to order an ASUS EEE with Linux OpenOffice software.

Blog Posting Number: 965

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