France is about to overhaul its policy on the interoperability of government IT systems. The current proposal would be a boost for the Open Document Format (ODF), selected as a standard for editable documents. The other document standards are TXT, PDF and PDF1/A. The country has published a draft of the new policy; comments can be submitted until 15 May.
The draft policy describes ODF and PDF as pivotal formats, the former for editable documents and the latter for non-editable documents.
By publishing the draft, France hopes “to involve all stakeholders and to collect all ideas, comments, criticisms and additions that will make the updated policy an essential element to make truly interoperable public services”, explains the Interdepartmental Directorate for ICT. DISIC writes that the success of the policy (Référentiel Général d'Interopérabilité, RGI) “is based on understanding and respect for the needs of interoperability by all actors involved in the definition, design, maintenance and operation of information systems of the state, public organisations and local authorities.”
Updating the RGI allows France’s public administrations to take into account the evolution of IT technologies and standards since the first version, published in 2009. It will also place IT standards at the heart of the government’s approach to making its IT systems interoperable.
The upcoming policy will aggregate standards and recommendations. This will help public administrations by focussing on some of the key issues, and by limiting the choice of standards.
ODF is the default document format used by the main open source office suites. Across Europe, public administrations that use these open source suites report having interoperability issues when exchanging editable documents with those using a common proprietary office suite and its mix of proprietary document formats. The past few years, French, Swiss and German public administrations have pooled funds to improve how their open source office suites handle OOXML, the latest document format of this proprietary office suite.
If France decides to focus on using ODF for its editable documents, it will be the second large European Member State to do so. The UK government in July announced that all government organisations will switch to using ODF for their editable documents. That decision also followed a public consultation, drawing several hundreds of comments.