Teenage Riot?

Now this is becoming interesting, or perhaps just very unfortunate: The countries appealing against the ISO procedure on the OOXML standardization have signed and sent a letter of protest to the ISO.


We, the undersigned representatives of state IT organisations from Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela,  Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay, note with disappointment the press release from ISO/IEC/JTC-1 of 20 August regarding the appeals registered by the national bodies of Brazil, South Africa, India and Venezuela.  Our national bodies, together with India, had independently raised a number of serious concerns about the process surrounding the fast track approval of DIS29500.  That those concerns were not properly addressed in the form of a conciliation panel reflects poorly on the integrity of these international standards development institutions.

Whereas we do not intend to waste any more resources on lobbying our national bodies to pursue the appeals further,  we feel it is important to make the following points clear:

1.The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast track processing of DIS29500 remains a significant concern to us.  That the ISO TMB did not deem it necessary to properly explore the substance of the appeals must, of necessity, put confidence in those institutions ability to meet our national requirements into question.
2.The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern.  Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.   
3.The large scale adoption of a standard for office document formats is a long and expensive exercise, with multi-year projects being undertaken in each of our countries.  Many of us have dedicated significant time and resources to this effort.  For example, in Brazil, the process of translation of ISO/IEC26300 into Portuguese has taken over a year.

The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads.  Given the organisation’s inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of  transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement.  What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks.  Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.

-Aslam Raffee (South Africa)
Chairman, Government IT Officer’s Council Working Group on Open Standards Open Source Software

– Marcos Vinicius Ferreira Mazoni (Brazil)
Presidente, Servico Federal de Processamento de Dados

– Carlos Eloy Figueira (Venezuela)
President, Centro Nacional de Tecnologías de Información

– Eduardo Alvear Simba (Ecuador)
Director de Software Libre, Presidencia de la República

– Tomas Ariel Duarte C. (Paraguay)
Director de Informática, Presidencia de la República

– Miriam Valdés Abreu (Cuba)
D irectora de Análisis, Oficina para la Informatización.”

The ISO of course, standing straight in the boots of stubbornness, will not pay any attention to that letter, will dismiss it as a something that has no importance, and Patrick Durusau will entertain us with one of his tirades on those lousy teenagers. Patrick will ignore that “only” South Africa, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela have appealed, as in case of a doubt, Microsoft and the pseudo-scientific arguments we had to bear for more than a year now about how much care the ISO has been taking on the standardization of OOXML will prevail over entire countries.

But who are we to interfere with the Masters of Scholastics of Geneva?

The most interesting part of that letter is not the protest itself: Those countries are outraged. Actually, the most interesting part of that letter is that it clearly shows that they have run out of options -and will- to appeal the ISO decisions. Which does not mean OOXML is a folded case; in contrary, the letter implicitly shows these countries will evaluate other kind of options. After all, the ISO has failed in its mission with OOXML. It has showed to the world that it could only accommodate the will of the mightiest and not reach consensus. Thus conclusions will be reached, and decisions made, and actions will be taken. And I don’t think it will comply with the ISO directions.

It is now the time for standardization experts to realize our standardization framework and processes are no longer effective when applied to the ICT sector. Oh, I know about the will of reform expressed by the ISO; and I am afraid it will lead to nothing good: in essence, to more patents on software. Here and there, lobbyists are at work. What I am talking about is the realization we are shifting paradigm in standardization and on many other areas when it comes to the information society.

What is being experimented at Digistan is in this sense quite interesting and telling of the future trends both in standards development and standardization framework. Wether Digistan as a project will be successful is of course another question. But we’d love to see everybody join in; the conversation has just started, and even Patrick Durusau is invited. He might find out that teenagers are not that stupid…

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