Dutch Government and Parliament: Open standards in 2008
It took a few years, but the Dutch government and parliament agreed yesterday to implement open standards inÂ 2008 according to the “comply or explain” principle. This means that all central government institutions should use open standards from April 2008 onward, unless they have a very good explanation. The new policy isn’t just about open standards. When implementing ICT projects open source software should be taken into account as well and should be chosen when at least equal to that of proprietary software.
The Dutch Cartel agency, NMa, has been asked to do a market analysis of the software market in the Netherlands. Further, the ministry of Economic Affairs will sit down with it’s colleagues of Education in order to extend the use of open standards to schools and educational institutions as well.
In the days prior to the parliamentary debate, Microsoft tried to rally a final support for it’s own OOXML standard and to persuade the decision makers to set another time table. Microsoft beliefs this will stiffle innovation and might cost jobs. This didn’t work. Several major ICT companies in the Netherlands openly supported the new direction of the Dutch government as well as the open source organizations in the Netherlands (though one wouldn’t expect them to do otherwise).
No doubt there are a lot of challenges ahead to implement the policy and we can expect each mistake or problem to be blamed on open source and open standards. With this decision the Netherlands have put themselves on the forefront of adoption of open source and open standards instead of dragging somewhere in the back.
For Microsoft December 12th send out another clear signal. The way the company could do business in the last 10 to 15 years is on it’s way out. Both in Europe and on the national level governments and companies have decided that enough is enough, that new partnerships not based on vendor lockin are to be norm for the coming years. Microsoft has been dipping it’s toe in open source and maybe it is time to take the plunge. It is a company with a lot of innovative people and one that has proven to meet commercial challenges head on. With those assets it shouldn’t be much of problem to create a new line of products that are acceptable to the new playing field. The Dutch policy provides new opportunities for innovation, also for Microsoft.