Norway mandates open formats

According to “this article”:http://www.digi.no/php/art.php?id=501077 (Norwegian only, sorry) on “digi.no”:http://www.digi.no/ the Norwegian government has mandated the use of open document formats from January 1st, 2009. I’ll give a brief overview of what the article actually says.
There are three formats that have been mandated for all documentation between authorities and users/partners, namely:
* HTML for all public information on the Web.
* PDF for all documents where layout needs to be preserved.
* ODF for all documents that the recipient is supposed to be able to edit
Goverment, state and regional agencies, authorities and services _may_ also publish in other formats, but they _must_ always publish in one of these formats. The decree is retroactive, and by 2014 all documents published prior to this decree _must_ have been converted and made available in one of the three formats.
While the decree doesn’t mandate any format for internal documentation, I still have hopes that every interested party will standardize on the same formats for internal use as well, and it is also my hope that a real competitive market for information systems is created.
Either way, for me as a dedicated user of Linux, proponent of open formats and standards, this is delightful. I’ll end it with a quote from our minister for information technologies, Heidi Grande Røys, with some emphasis added from my side:
bq. Everyone should have equal access to public documents. _From 2009, every citizen will be able to choose which software they want to use to get access to public information. The goverment’s decision will also improve the terms of competition between software providers._ In the future, we will not accept that govermental agencies lock the users of public information to closed formats.
*YAY!*

21 Comments

  1. I just love Heidi Grande Røys! She has done more for open standards and free software in Norway the last couple of years than any minister has ever done in any numbers of years previously! This is fantastic news for open standards, free software and free market proponents everywhere. Wonderful stuff, thanks for sharing (particularly since I never read digi anymore)!

  2. Philo

     /  2007-12-19

    Except that PDF is not an open format. Adobe threatened to sue Microsoft for including PDF exporters in Office 2007, which clearly indicates they feel they own the format.
    Near-ubiquitous? Yes.
    Open? No.

  3. Scott

     /  2007-12-19

    @Philo:
    PDF is an open format.
    http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pressreleases/200701/012907OpenPDFAIIM.html
    And it has been an open spec since 1993, granting all a royalty-free license to build tools:
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/01/28/adobe-releases-pdf-to-the-world
    /s.

  4. @Philo: PDF now IS an open format. Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pdf
    It’s even on its way to become an ISO standard.

  5. Philo: It is not true that PDF is not an open format. It has always had an open specification available from Adobe and Adobe has never prohibited anyone from making PDF software. Early next year PDF will be an ISO standard, ISO 32000 which is now in the final stages of becoming a public standard.
    You can obtain the Office 2007 PDF tools by downloading them from the Microsoft site. Microsoft chose to not bundle these tools with the OS because they have already gotten into anti-trust trouble doing that kind of thing (I suppose).
    Jim King — PDF Platform Architect, Adobe Systems
    See my blog about all this.

  6. The PDF format is published standard, and anyone is free to create software to work with it. PDF 1.7 also became an ISO standard about 2 weeks ago. Practically, there are multiple open source libraries available to convert documents to PDF, to generate it from scratch, and to manipulate the files; and some of them are in very wide use. What more could you want?

  7. @Philo:
    (i) Adobe prevented Microsoft from including PDF in Office 2007 because of it was being included in a pay-for monopoly product, not because it was PDF. Adobe for all their sins have never prevented access to the PDF spec and never prevented anyone from creating pay-for PDF products or including PDF capabilities in multi-skilled free to use products.
    (ii) PDF is available as an open format since their ISO approval, initially in specialist subsets (including PDF/A, specifically developed for archival format and probably the best for the mandated use in government) and now in its entirety as ISO 32000.

  8. J Ødegård

     /  2007-12-21

    Excellent. Can use my deskUNPDF PRO even more converts PDF’s to ODT, HTML, and the ever-lovely Word.
    Tusen takk Heidi

  9. Nick

     /  2007-12-21

    Chris Puttick:
    Still, since Adobe prevented Microsoft from including PDF, that is still a major reason to not use that format. Whether you like it or not, Microsoft Office is the most important office suite out there, and preventing Microsoft from including the format is going to really hamper it’s widespread use.

  10. Ctrl-Alt-Delete Windows

     /  2007-12-21

    @Nick
    That’s the idea.

  11. Sum Yung Gai

     /  2007-12-21

    This is Microsoft’s “must install Internet Explorer 4.0” requirement turned back against them. Poetic justice indeed! For those who don’t remember, Microsoft purposefully wrote their programs to require installing IE. They also wrote Visual Studio to include IE-dependent bits in their programs by default, which is why nearly all the other vendors’s programs also suddenly started requiring IE 4.0 or later. During the antitrust trial, Microsoft repeatedly kept saying, “yes, you must install IE, but you may run any browser that you wish.” Well, Messrs. Gates and Ballmer, what comes around, goes around. Right on, Norway!

  12. I think PDF is not an open format… correct me if i am wrong.

  13. yaysies!
    detta blir bra!
    takk skal du ha Heidi!

  14. Go Norway ! Wish all others countries went their way.

  15. Nieves

     /  2007-12-21

    Awesome news even if I’m not from Norway. It’s good to see a Government actually care about making their documents available to the general public via Open and Freely available standards.
    There is NO good reason why the United States can’t follow this example and by not doing so, it delivers the only message one can read – The U.S. is run by commercial interests that far outweigh the needs of it’s people.

  16. Cavan

     /  2007-12-22

    Exellent, Norway really is a progressive country.

  17. Well, they chose some good formats.

  18. Dear Norway,
    It’s great to see our fellow Europeans doing the same things as us. Let’s exchange ideas on how we can help each other in the implementation phase.Here is the English translation of the recently approved Dutch policy document on open standards and opensourcce in the public sector. http://appz.ez.nl/publicaties/pdfs/07ET15.pdf
    Share and enjoy!
    Best regards,
    Arjen

  19. Awesome! Almost makes me want to be Norwegian, except for the fact that the Dutch government *also* is progressive 🙂
    They want open formats and open source software by April 2008 🙂

  20. Garin

     /  2008-01-03

    And why is the U.S. not doing this?

  21. Michael A.

     /  2008-01-07

    Norway IS progressive.
    There is an increased focus on free software and information in Norwegian public institutions. Arve probably already knows about yr.no (detailed weather forecasts anywhere in the world – free); a lot of the underlying software that met.no developed for that site is (or will soon be) GPL.