Adoption of Open Standards in European public administrations

The Case of Document Formats

A few words about

  • Created in 2002 ;
  • Not-for-profit, industry, advocacy organisation ;
  • We work with companies, civil society, academia, public administrations ;
  • Primary focus : ensure a legislative/political environment friendly to open source and open standards.

Why choose open (document) formats ?

  1. Accessibility & freedom of choice : ensure everyone can read and write, using their preferred tool ;
  2. Sustainability : guarantee control over time ;
  3. Fair competition : allow all companies to provide a service and pick the best one ; avoid vendor lock-in.

In case you've been living under a rock for the last few years :


A (very brief) history of document formats

In the beginning...

OK, not that far back

2006 - 2008

Hey look at us, we're an open standard.

Pfft... we can be open, too.


De facto standard - Microsoft Office binary format


New de facto standard - Microsoft OOXML

Look ma, we're ISO standards!

OOXML strict & transitional

Still around : old Microsoft binary formats

Confused yet?

So what's changed since 2008 ?


Application support


What HASN'T changed since 2008

Administrations still need offline document editing & to ensure long-term sustainability.

ODF is the only standard for offline document editing fully supported by multiple applications, including FOSS.

Why haven't all public administrations switched to ODF?

CC BY NC SA 2.0 Retrogasm

CC BY 2.0 Doug Waldron

It's complicated

  • Power of inertia ;
  • Up-front costs without any immediate clear benefits ;
  • Macros and scripts built using Microsoft OOXML ;
  • What do you do with legacy documents?
  • No good support for ODF on mobile.

So how are administrations addressing all this?

Case study #1 : the UK Cabinet Office

What say you?

Viewing government documents

Sharing or collaborating with government documents


Standard =/= Software

And now for the REAL challenge

CC BY-SA 3.0 Takeaway

Case study #2 : the EU institutions


Theory VS reality

Tentative conclusions

1) Document formats still matter.

2) "Choice of standards" is no real choice.

3) A policy is only as good as its implementation.

4) Software =/= Standard.

Adoption of Open Standards by European public administrations - The case of document formats

By maelig

Adoption of Open Standards by European public administrations - The case of document formats

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