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02 September 2008, 12:00

Renewed protest against the ISO certification of Microsoft's OOXML

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Government officials from Brazil, Ecuador, Cuba, South Africa and Venezuela have published an open declaration in which they reiterate their concern about the controversial proceedings in which the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certified Office Open XML (OOXML). In a statement of protest adopted by the Congresso Internacional Sociedade e Governo Eletronico (CONSEGI), the countries charge that the international committees bent their own rules. The emerging nations even argue that these proceedings call into question the future use of ISO standards in their administrations.

At the end of May, Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela officially contested the certification of Microsoft's comprehensive document format. Their main complaint is that no consensus was reached about which changes should be made to the specification at consultations related to their objections at the end of February in Geneva, after OOXML failed to be adopted as a standard in the first round in September of 2007. At the time, there were numerous reports of irregularities in the standardisation proceedings. The four countries did not obtain the required majorities in the technical oversight committees at ISO and IEC.

Now, the signatories to the open letter to Geneva officials have expressed their special concern that the ISO standard for OOXML could conflict or overlap with the Open Document Format (ODF) already certified in Geneva in 2006. Their open declaration reads, using the official designation of the ISO standard for ODF – "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".

In addition, the open declaration argues that OOXML standardisation proceedings raise a number of general questions. "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."

(Stefan Krempl)


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