Massachusetts man brings his open standards campaign to Europe
The erstwhile CIO of the state of Massachusetts has taken his open standards campaign to Europe, lobbying Euro MPs to ensure that public documents are not tied to proprietary formats.
Peter Quinn resigned from his post as CIO in early January following an investigation into travel arrangements, for which he was subsequently cleared. But not before he changed state policy on the use of proprietary formats and the dangers these present to citizens’ ability to access such documents – much to Microsoft’s chagrin.
With his Open Document Format legacy still intact at Massachusetts, Quinn is now taking on Europe. In the briefing he warned that not only does adhering to open standards ensure they are accessible to all, but that in the future, documents of the past will not become unreadable as they would where a proprietary format becomes obsolete.
Quinn quoted the fiasco over the Hurricane Katrina as an example where forms coded for use in Internet Explorer 6.0 precluded users of any other browser, such as Mac users, from accessing them.
‘When the flood damage from Hurricane Katrina threatened to destroy the city of New Orleans, the local residents could only claim compensation by downloading application forms if they had MS Explorer 6.0 on their PC,’ he said. ‘This kind of constraint is simply not helpful.’
Graham Taylor of OpenForum Europe, who hosted the event said: ‘Europe needs to learn the lessons from Massachusetts. Lock-in to proprietary solutions from a single vendor is probably the single largest barrier to achievement of i2010 and a more competitive ICT environment across Europe. Standards have to be genuinely open. European governments have to be prepared to lead in the same way as Massachusetts.’
Quinn noted that the drive to open standards isn’t an attack on Microsoft, still the dominant Office software platform within the public sector, but rather about the issue of access to information and freedom of choice.