The UK government’s 400 IT departments are preparing their organisations for the use of the Open Document Format (ODF) as the default for its editable documents. The process should avoid making civil servants and other end-users bear the brunt of the switch, says Magnus Falk, deputy chief technology officer (CTO) of the UK government. “To unlock our digital documents, we’re leading a digital transformation.”
Falk addressed the participants of the ODF Plugfest, which took place in London on 8 and 9 December. He said that many IT departments find it difficult to understand how much they are locked-in by IT vendors. He stressed that it should be easy to exchange documents between applications supporting ODF and across computing devices. The majority of civil servants (some 60 per cent) in the UK uses PC workstations he said. Mobile devices are used by about 24 per cent and 12 per cent use a tablet to access office documents. “Interoperability between applications supporting ODF really matters”, Falk said.
According to him there are real as well as perceived problems exchanging ODF documents. Track changes in ODF is one of the known problems, as it is not supported by the ubiquitous proprietary office suite. He acknowledged that the move to ODF should increase competition in office productivity tools. “Currently, the market is dominated by a single product,” the CTO said, “it is not a commodity [market].”
The UK government in July announced that all government organisations will switch to using ODF for their editable documents. “Getting us to this starting line was a major undertaking”, Falk said at the ODF Plugfest. The next - current - step is to convince all the IT departments. Falk added that ODF has the “full support of the political leadership.”
According to the CTO, other European governments, including European Union institutions, have noticed the UK’s ODF policy. “Europe is aware [of the policy], and is asking us about it,” he said.