I already explained in another article that open file formats are essential to save money in Public Administrations and make them more efficient and that the right choice for office document is the OpenDocument Format (ODF).
Since I regularly follow these themes, in September 2009 I received this request from outside Italy:
I have read in a report that: "According to Microsoft Italian regional authorities have examined ODF, but proposal for adopting ODF as the mandatory standard have been rejected" (translated by the sender of the message). This fact probably comes from this Microsoft paper. And we are trying to fact check it... can you help?
Back then I knew, just as I know today, that there is no law or regulation in Italy, not even at the city level, that mandates ODF as the only accepted format for office documents, regardless of the context. What I did come across in the last year, instead, were cases where nobody seemed to know about ODF or law proposals that, albeit unvoluntarily, may make the situation even worse. However, I did not remember ever reading about proposals of that kind.
When I got that email I tried to find those proposals online but without success. Therefore, on September 8th, 2009, I wrote what follows to the Microsoft italian press office, firstname.lastname@example.org:
I am a freelance writer for several Italian and foreign magazines and websites. As you can read at http://mfioretti.com I also write about open file formats.
I am writing to ask you more information and sources for the statement about Italy that I read in the Microsoft Report titled “Neutral Government Software Procurement Policies”, that I just downloaded from the Microsoft website.
I refer to the paragraph titled “Italy: Government and Private Organizations Reject Document Format Preferences”, that says:
“Several regional governments in Italy have examined open document formats, but proposed ODF preferences have been rejected. In addition, several organizations have also rejected ODF preferences, and the National Trade Association issued a public statement in support of file format neutrality.”
May I ask you:
- the detailed list of the Italian regions or other Public Administrations that rejected such law proposals or regulations, and links to those proposals
- the complete text, or a link to it, of the NTA public statement that you mention
Since I haven’t had any answer from Microsoft Italia in six months, I am asking the same questions again in public, hoping to be luckier this time. Now, considering the general situation in Italy I would not be surprised at all if what Microsoft asserts is 100% correct and complete, however:
- it would be great to know which administrators rejected those proposals, especially now that in Italy it is time of regional elections and many candidates have officially committed to support Free Software if elected
- in general, asking for “file format neutrality” is simply ridiculous, for the reasons I already explained. And would remain ridiculous even if the company asking for it weren’t the same one that recently suggested to fix the bugs of its own software with new taxes. Saying that all file formats are equal you only risk to keep wasting lots of public money.
- above all, certain statements shouldn’t be made without quoting sources. The potential of OpenDocument to save lots of public money is too big to dismiss it in that way. In that Microsoft report the paragraph about Italy (and many others) give no source for the information they include. Therefore, that report should be rewritten and you shouldn’t rely too much on it until it’s rewritten.