Obama Voices Support for ODF

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.


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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."


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