Friday, April 21, 2006

Standardisation of the Open Document Format 1.0 in Malaysia

I had a fantastic opportunity to attend the Standardisation process of the Open Document Format 1.0 in SIRIM's Technical Committee on E-Commerce today. This was the first time I was attending this committee, and I was thrilled of the outcome.

Basically it was just a formal process of going through the ODF spec and supporting it by the members of this Committee.

The formal process:
The standardization consortuim OASIS developed a specification, Open Document Format 1.0, and decided the specification's value would be improved if the specification were to become an international standard.

OASIS decided to employ a process in another organization, JTC 1, known as the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) process. OASIS has PAS Submitter status, which enabled them to submit specifications (such as ODF v1.0, and ebXML) to JTC 1 for approval as international standards.

In October 2005, OASIS submitted ODF 1.0. The six-month ballot period began November 1 2005 and ends May 1 2006.

It was explained that Malaysia was a Participative Member and is obliged to vote.

IBM played an important role in this, the rep from IBM, Hasannudin Saidin (Manager, Government Programs) outlined the importance and advantages of this format. The talk was very high level, i.e. the specs were not scrutinized, but the response from the committee members were very encouraging.

Simon Seow from the Malaysian National Computer Confederation (MNCC) supported it, saying that it would encourage local software development based on a common platform. The barriers of entry would be lower as people can now develop apps to generate documents which can be shared and re-used.

En Sidek Jamil from the Arkib Negara Malaysia (Malaysian Archives) was very supportive of this format as he is very interested in adopting a format which was open and would last a long time. I found it uplifting that the custodian of our heritage and 'intellectual property' supports this format too.

There were futher concurrs via email, from Telekom Malaysia, Institute of Engineers, Malaysia (IEM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and The Association of Computers and Multimedia of Malaysia (PIKOM).

I added as a rep from FMM, that our members would be considered Users, and wholly support this format as it we are all for any reduction in costs, and increase in efficiency to be more competitive. But I also asked,
"With such strong support from our committee members who are represented from the entire IT industry, from Software Developers to Government Departments like the Archives and Customs, to Users like us, will there be a push or initiatives by the Government to educate the masses about the support of this standard so that it is known and recognised as a Malaysian Standard?"

I then cited the example of the Commonwealth of Massachusettes' directive and transition period from 2005 - 2007 before the cut-over to the ODF format.

The Chairman reiterated that this session was not for the rollout for ODF, but it was just a stamp of approval and support for the standard. However he directed the question to the representative from The Malaysian Administration and Modernisation Unit (MAMPU) as they are closest to the Government to drive such an initiative.

She however was very poor in her response. She just mumbled about something like MAMPU supports Open Standards and any standards are good for the government ... etc.

It was very dissapointing that unlike the rest of the committee members who 'get' the idea of how significant the ODF can benefit Malaysia, while she, arguably the most 'important' member, does not. :sigh:

Why do they always send such substandard representatives to important events? How will we ever get Governments' support if its these people we rely on to convince the Government to take up these as standards? I sure hope that there are more competent people in MAMPU driving this through or we mampus.

Also the representative from MDC (now MDeC) did not turn up, so there was no input from them.

Microsoft was also not represented, although there was an email comment from Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, stating:

"Consistent with our stand, Microsoft has no objections to the submission of the ODF standards despite being one that is not widely used and relatively new in the industry today."

Hmm... I wonder how widely used and new is the Microsoft OpenXML format?

More importantly, he adds:

"ISO has recognized the merits of competition and choise and has allowed for competing standards on the same subject ... Hence we would like to request assurance that this effort should not lead to the precluding [of] other competing document standards in the future. This includes the OpenXML standard that is being produced by ECMA and which will subsequently be submitted to ISO for acceptance"

So he wanted us to guarantee that we would also vote for OpenXML if he consented with this one. Unfortunately I dont think he has any leverage here...

So overall there was no objections to the submission of this as a standard, and it was interesting that it could be pushed as a Malaysian Standard (MS). The committee was also interested in joining the rapidly growing Open Document Format Alliance.

The meeting ended early, and the feeling and outcome certainly made my trip all the way to Shah Alam worthwhile.


4 lewsers:

Anonymous said...

Rocking :-)


aizat said...

Amazing man, I wish was allowed to join. Perhaps if it is open to the public, can you forward it to the mailing list?

thank you,

Anonymous said...

Happy Belated 32nd Birthday ;)

Uwe Dippel said...

Rocking && Amazing !

I'd really wish this became Malaysian Standard; then I could share all my stuff as ODF (instead of PDF) with my colleagues. Just waiting for the whiners to tell me 'cannot-open-lah'.
I'll answer: 'What ? This is a Malaysian Standard !'

Keep the good work going !