You may not be aware, but the UK government is currently in the process of making important selections about which open standards to mandate the use of in future. These decisions WILL likely impact you; either as a citizen of the UK, a UK business or as a company doing or wanting to do business with government.

An important current proposal relates to sharing and collaborating with government documents. The government proposes to mandate Open Document format (ODF) and exclude the most widely supported and used open standard for document formats, Open XML (OOXML). We believe this will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don’t support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office or, for example, Pages on iOS and even Google Docs. Microsoft Office has supported ODF since 2007, but adoption of OOXML has been more widespread amongst other products than ODF. This move has the potential to impact businesses selling to government, who may be forced to comply. It also sets a worrying precedent because government is, in effect, refusing to support another internationally recognised open standard and may do so for other similar popular standards in the future, potentially impacting anyone who wishes to sell to Government.

We believe very strongly that the current proposal is likely to increase costs, cause dissatisfaction amongst citizens and businesses, add complexity to the process of dealing with government and negatively impact some suppliers to government. Our Area Vice President, Michel Van der Bel, has written an open letter to Microsoft partners which details our concerns and draft response. You can read it here

To be very clear, we are not calling for the government to drop its proposal to use ODF. Nor are we calling for it to use only Open XML. What we are saying is that the government include BOTH Open XML and ODF. To do so offers it most flexibility, the widest compatibility and the lowest Total Cost of Ownership for everyone – government, businesses and citizens alike.

Please take a few minutes to read the email and seriously consider responding to this consultation. Whether you agree with our proposal or feel that the government proposal is correct, please do take a few minutes to have your voice heard and respond before the consultation closes on 26th February 2014.

It’s worth remembering that the government is seeking responses from anyone, organisations and citizens, so it is possible for you to respond in a number of capacities. Although our response is very detailed yours can be much shorter and simpler, just covering the key points you want to make. You will need to register on the Open Standards Hub site before you can submit your response.