Brazil, India and Italy recently joined the Open Document Format parade, according to today’s press release from the ODF Alliance. Brazil will recommend ODF as the government’s preferred format, India decided to use ODF at its tax office, and Italy will recognize ODF as national standard. Is this good or bad news for technology liberators (or neither – is it neutral)?
Hard to tell without reading the full details (Brazil’s document is in Portuguese). But if these governments are in effect choosing technology winners and losers, then this is a bad thing.
Now, I understand that the stated mission of the ODF Alliance is, essentially, to ensure that documents are accessible across platforms and applications, even as technologies change. However, I get squirmy when governments approve and select technologies in a way that that appears to be more than government asserting its power as a customer, and is instead catering to an ideology backed by IBM, Sun, and other large companies with interests in non-proprietary software).
How can we ensure that documents are readable and interoperable without governments engaging in file format beauty contests? There has to be a better way…and there is! I’d rather have governments express their goals – long-term access, interoperability, disability access, etc – and let the market determine the best format. After all, ODF will one day be usurped by a better format, but vested interests in the status quo could delay its adoption by governments.