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Norwegians protest OOXML, quote SA minister

By   |  April 9, 2008

South Africa’s minister of public service and administration, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, took centre stage at a protest march in Norway today. The march was held to protest alleged irregularities in the ratification of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format as an ISO standard last week. Sections of a speech, given by the minister ahead of the ISO vote last week, were read out to the gathered crowd by Steve Pepper, former chairman of the Norwegian committe responsible for that country’s OOXML vote.

Pepper said: “Ms Fraser-Moleketi, the people of Norway are behind you … the ISO standard was approved by only three votes in the end. One of them was Norway’s. Reports of irregularities are coming in from other EU countries, including France and Denmark. Those votes must be changed from Yes to No and OOXML withdrawn as an ISO standard.”

Bob Jolliffe of the South African department of science and technology, and one of the key figures behind South Africa’s no vote on OOXML, was at the Norwegian protest and sent through pictures and quotes published on the personal blog of Aslam Raffee, chairperson of the South African government’s open source working group.

Pepper and the majority of his technical team were opposed to approving OOXML as a standard but claim they were overruled by the bureaucracy at Standard Norway.

Jolliffe said that Steve Pepper quoted this part of the PSA Minister’s speech (to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd):
“The adoption of open standards by governments is a critical factor in building interoperable information systems which are open, accessible, fair and which reinforce democratic culture and good governance practices. In South Africa we have a guiding document produced by my department called the Minimum Interoperability Standards for Information Systems in Government (MIOS). The MIOS prescribes the use of open standards for all areas of information interoperability, including, notably, the use of the Open Document Format (ODF) for exchange of office documents. ODF is an open standard developed by a technical committee within the OASIS consortium. The committee represents multiple vendors and Free Software community groups. OASIS submitted the standard to the International Standards Organisation in 2005 and it was adopted as an ISO standard in 2006. South Africa is amongst a growing number of National Governments who have adopted ODF over the past year.

“It is unfortunate that the leading vendor of office software, which enjoys considerable dominance in the market, chose not to participate and support ODF in its products, but rather to develop its own competing document standard which is now also awaiting judgement in the ISO process. If it is successful, it is difficult to see how consumers will benefit from these two overlapping ISO standards. I would like to appeal to vendors to listen to the demands of consumers as well as Free Software developers. Please work together to produce interoperable document standards. The proliferation of multiple standards in this space is confusing and costly.”

Jolliffe also said that it was “amazing to get people out on the street over document standards!”

More details on the call to action from Steve Pepper can be found here. Thanks to Karl for the heads up.

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2 Responses to “Norwegians protest OOXML, quote SA minister”

  1. Boycott Novell » Norway’s Protest Against Microsoft Abuse Goes More Public (Updated)
    April 10th, 2008 @ 7:36 am

    […] here is some more media coverage of the protest in Norway. Simon Phipps writes about it […]

  2. Dwayne Bailey
    April 10th, 2008 @ 8:44 am

    I’m glad that our minister’s speech could act as a rallying point for these undeveloping nations :)

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