The Standardisation Board of the Netherlands wants to make the use of the Open Document Format mandatory for Dutch public administrations. ODF is one of the required ICT standards in the Netherlands, following a policy dating from 2007. However, the document format is ignored by most. This should change, said Nico Westpalm van Hoorn, the chairman of the standards board, speaking on Tuesday at the ODF Plugfest in The Hague.
“We need to tell the government that ODF needs to be enforced”, said chairman Westpalm van Hoorn. “Technically, there are no reasons not to use it.”
To make public administration documents re-usable, ODF is the only way, said Westpalm van Hoorn. He cautioned that the country’s policy makers will hesitate to enforce the standard. “The use of ODF is a no-brainer, but acceptance will cost a tremendous amount of energy.” Westpalm van Hoorn added that adoption will require political and institutional support.
Within the country’s central government organisations, ODF is used as the default format for editable documents that are made available online. Documents are by default shared as HTML, PDF (for archiving) and as ODF. The latter makes it easy for others to reuse the text and information.
All PC workstations managed by the central government have software installed to create and edit ODF, said Steven Luitjes, the director of Logius - a ministerial department that helps government organisations with building e-government services. Luitjes opened the two-day plugfest in the National Library in The Hague.
He admitted that ODF is ignored by public administrations, who continue to rely on a mix of proprietary document formats. “We are simply users”, Luitjes said. He contrasted the failure to use ODF with the country’s 17th century standardised shipbuilding. “In the time that Sweden built one beautiful warship, Holland constructed 25. These were not very beautiful, but fit for purpose”, he said. Now, the country’s failure to take the document standard serious is driving up the cost of IT, the Logius’ director said. “We have made life difficult for each other, less productive and not very cheap.”
The focus on open standards is essential, said Luitjes. “It is our economic and social responsibility.”
In a press release published by the Standardisation Board on 28 September, the organisation says that "on behalf of the Dutch government, the board is determined to accelerate the adoption of ODF for the entire government."