Bonum Certa Men Certa

British Government Laughs at Digital Standards Organisation with a Straight Face

The Digistan electronic petition was posted a couple of months ago asking: “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to adopt the Hague Declaration of the Digital Standards Organisation.” It was later accepted by Prime Minister’s Office.



For context and background about Digistan, see [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12].

The details of Petition were as follows:

We call on the UK government to: (1) Procure only information technology that implements free and open standards; (2) Deliver e-government services based exclusively on free and open standards; (3) Use only free and open digital standards in their own activities. as adopted and proclaimed by the founders of the Digital Standards Organization in The Hague on 21 May 2008.

Having signed the petition, I was among those who received a shocking response:

The UK Government champions open standards and interoperability through its eGovernment Interoperability Framework Version 6.0, 30th April 2004 (eGIF) and through the publication of its Open Source Software Policy which is available in the document “Open Source Software, Use within UK Government, Version 2.0, 28 October 2004”.


Were recipients of this statement rolling and laughing on the floor at the sight of the word "champions", as in "UK Government champions open standards"? Were they furious? If not, perhaps they should have. When it comes to open source and open standards, the British government is abysmal and among the worst in the western world. What is it raving about?

Is it the iPlayer, which is a BBC project and thus government backed [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]?

Is is the British Library, which seems to have been corrupted by Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]?

Is it the Newham fiasco [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]?

How about BECTA [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]?

The NHS fiasco [1, 2]?

BSI, which was pulled to court over OOXML? As a quick refresher:



Let's now forget Alex Brown and his Microsoft mischiefs [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21].

A lot more could be written about the stories above, but this was covered before.

There is nothing whatsoever that the government does for standards (or the buzzword "inter-oh!-perability"). They just point people to pages with words on them. Words are cheap. Deeds are needed.

As we wrote some days ago, despite what some press audaciously says, the OOXML debacle is not over yet. Those 7,000+ pages of buggy proprietary rubbish specs could still be eliminated as a standard given further complaints that are taken to a higher level. Groklaw has the details and it concludes with:

I'd certainly love to hear about OOXML being applied in practice. So, even ignoring the creative possibilities of periodic review, defined so vaguely one could, I think, ask for one at any time, unless I've misunderstood what ISO has on its website, which is always possible, I see another possible step in the appeals process.


Perhaps it's time for ISO to be replaced [1, 2]. These suggestions have come from several independent directions. ISO's denial and vanity are beyond repair and it is not willing to acknowledge the corruption. As for Microsoft, that's another story.

"Microsoft corrupted many members of ISO in order to win approval for its phony ‘open’ document format, OOXML. This was so governments that keep their documents in a Microsoft-only format can pretend that they are using ‘open standards.’ The government of South Africa has filed an appeal against the decision, citing the irregularities in the process."

--Richard Stallman, June 2008

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