Obama Voices Support for ODF

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-11-19 Print this article Print

The senator promises to put government data online in universally accessible formats if elected.

OpenDocument Format supporters are welcoming presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obamas promise to put government data online in universally accessible formats should he be elected. "We have to use technology to open up our democracy. Its no coincidence that one of the most secretive administrations in history has favored special interests and pursued policies that could not stand up to sunlight. As president, Ill change that. Ill put government data online in universally accessible formats," Obama said in a speech at Googles Mountain View, Calif., campus last week, where he also revealed his detailed IT plan for a more open and technically enabled government.
Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, applauded the move.
"Public information that can be read and downloaded by anyone without need of a particular brand of software is central to the mission of the ODF Alliance and a key feature of the OpenDocument Format," Marcich said. "We are excited that leading American officials are joining the growing chorus of international and domestic voices that have already recognized the importance of truly open standards." Click here to read more about why Massachusetts gave Open XML the official green light. The issue of open versus proprietary formats has been long and contentious and became a subject of public policy debate in 2005 when Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn, a member of then-Gov. Mitt Romneys administration, added an open format requirement to the states Enterprise Technical Resource Model. Romney is now also running for president. "Obama has introduced an IT hot potato into the presidential debate that has already riled the waters in multiple state legislatures and been the subject of heavy lobbying by vendors. Whether other candidates in general—and Mitt Romney in particular—respond in kind or opt to keep their distance remains to be seen," Andy Updegrove, a partner with Boston law firm Gesmer Updegrove, said in a post on his Standards blog. Barack Obama is refining tech policy. Click here to read more. But Obamas call for universally accessible formats does beg a number of questions, such as whether those formats would implement vendor-neutral open standards and, if so, what criteria would be used to qualify. Obama could also have been referring to formats that are accessible to those with disabilities, Updegrove said, adding that "overall, one can only applaud Obama for beginning a dialogue on the role of IT in government." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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