OpenDocument in Government

Proprietary formats vs Open standards

Proprietary formats are owned and controlled by a single vendor. They are generally secret and are designed to be used in only one product.

International open standards are controlled by an independent standards group. These formats are agreed upon by several competing vendors and are designed for interoperability.

Governments and open standards

Most governments already have a mandate to promote the use of open standards whenever possible. There is good reason for this, proprietary formats skew the market in favour of one vendor and tend to cause monopolies. This can be especially problematic when the monopoly belongs to a foreign company. This is both an issue of national security, and a financial issue: money spent on a foreign monopoly does not create local jobs and does not produce tax revenue.

Promoting OpenDocument need not be hard

We understand that government officials are under constant scrutiny and almost any action will draw criticism from someone. Fortunately, there are simple, low-risk actions that a government agency can take to ease the adoption of the OpenDocument standard:

  • Accept documents in OpenDocument format
    Nothing distorts the market more than requiring the public to buy products from a particular vendor to communicate with its government. Establish a policy to accept ODF files and let the citizens choose the product they prefer.
  • Provide documents in various formats including ODF
    As above, this is simply about not distorting the market. Allow citizens to choose any product they like without affecting their ability to communicate with the government.
  • Use ODF applications internally whenever possible
    The government itself is a large software buyer. Avoid rewarding foreign companies that distort competition in the government software procurement process by withholding support for open file formats. This often keeps the money in the local economy where it can generate tax revenue.