We're more committed to ODF than ever: SA government
Open standards are critical in ensuring that the South African government both avoids vendor lock-in and promotes democracy. This is according to South Africa’s minister of home affairs, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
In a prepared speech for the opening of the recent Second International ODF conference in Pretoria, Mapisa-Nqakula said that the department of home affairs was “forging ahead to make open standards a priority” to ensure future ability to process and share documents “using formats which have significant impact on the efficiency, interoperability and accessibility of public services”.
Highlighting the importance of interoperability the minister said that “the danger of poor interoperability between systems was highlighted following the tragic tsunami on the 26th of December 2004 when efforts in Thailand to rescue the injured and identify the dead were further frustrated by the lack of integration between the systems of different government agencies.”
The minister said that the choice of format used for the representation of documents in government was “absolutely critical” to ensure easy exchange and access to state and citizen information as well as being aligned with South Africa’s open source strategy.
“On the basis of the above we made the best rational and pragmatic choice available and specified that ODF – the Open Document Format – be used as the format for interoperability of government documents. This was specified in an amendment to our Minimum Interoperability Standard (MIOS).”
The minister also addressed the recent ISO approval process of Microsoft’s OOXML document format in which South Africa, through the department of science and technology, participated.
“South Africa was particularly frustrated by the acceptance by ISO of an overlapping document specification earlier this year. The ability and willingness of corporate private interests to dominate the multi-lateral, democratic process of consensus building within ISO has raised significant concerns, both here and abroad.
“South Africa appealed the process which was followed, and its outcome, together with India, Brazil and Venezuela. It is clear that, whilst we continue to engage with ISO through our national standards body, there is much which needs to be done to modernise and reform such international institutions to prevent such problems repeating.”
However, said Mapisa-Nqakula, “far from being deterred, our enthusiasm and commitment to open standards in general and ODF in particular, is stronger than ever. A benefit of gatherings such as this one, is that it provides the opportunity for organisations and state entities with a shared agenda to explore and create new opportunities for international collaboration in the increasingly important space of information standards.”
The minister’s speech was read by home affairs director general Mavuso Msimang as the minister was unable to attend. Thanks to Aslam Raffee for the text of the speech.