OOXML reconsidered for e-governance

By Archita Bhatta
Published: Saturday 31 May 2008

the Department of Information Technology (dit) has drafted a fresh policy on open standards for e-governance. The new draft may lead to a reconsideration of the departments earlier decision to reject Microsofts document format, ooxml, as an open standard format. The draft has provision for multiple standards, which can allow ooxml, used to save digital documents, to be accepted as a standard open format, besides the existing open document format (odf) developed by the Open Document Alliance group.

Earlier, a committee was constituted to prepare an initial draft policy, which was submitted in December 2007. The draft said that a domain should have a single open standard. The Bureau of Indian Standards (bis) rejected ooxml as a standard document format in March 2008 (see foss time in India, Down To Earth, April 30, 2008). This step was in agreement with the policy of single standards recommended by the committee. Currently, odf is the only document format accepted by the centre. Renu Budhiraja, director of e-governance division, dit, modified this draft and has sent to various dit officials for approval.

The policy on open standards for e-governance is yet to be finalized. Besides, voting for ooxml asan iso standard was done by a committee constituted by the bis, which had various technical reasons. None of them had anything to do with single versus multiple standards, Budhiraja told Down To Earth (dte).

dte has a copy of the draft which has a provision that, goi will choose a single standard for a specific purpose within a domain wherever necessary for seamless interoperability and data preservation. The earlier draft policy noted: goi has to choose a single standard for a specific purpose within a domain to ensure seamless integration and data preservation. An official, on the condition of anonymity, said, As per this new modification, we have to allow multiple standards (odf and ooxml for Office-document domain; Adobe-e-Form, Microsoft-e-Form, W3C-x form for Internet domain and so on).

Another provision in the earlier draft which says selected standard should not duplicate already existing standards, has been done away with in the new draft. The 2007 draft said, Open Standards used by India shall have the following characteristics which cannot be compromised under any circumstances. The part, cannot be compromised under any circumstances has been deleted in the recent draft. It says, Multiple standards that are available within a domain will need to be validated against mandatory and desirable characteristics of the policy.

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