The Massachusetts revised Enterprise Technical Reference Model 4.0 (ETRM) has been posted. Earlier versions of this document were a focal point for the industry discussion around openness in document formats. Among other things, the 4.0 version of the ETRM includes the addition of ECMA 376 Office Open XML, and OASIS ODF 1.1. In both cases, the ETRM calls for a move from binary formats to XML-based formats and recommends use of translators to move between formats.
I'd like to point out that the ETRM goes out of its way to drive to the most important issue:
Information that traditionally has been presented in text form is increasingly being enriched through the use of multimedia data types such as graphics, audio and video. The variety of data formats used however raises concerns regarding interoperability and accessibility. Given that XML is the cornerstone of the Commonwealth’s Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) vision of a unified enterprise information environment, it is crucial that the schema used to create XML files meet the open format definition as well. The target state is the ubiquitous use of open formats to capture and store data within applications and in individual data files. - MA ETRM Domain: Information - v 4.0 linked 8/1/2007
The whole point of the promise of XML, and the move to standardization of formats is that the highest order requirement can be met. The State is in control of its data while having the ability to choose the best applications that will meet their solution requirements while taking into account things like value for money.
Now let us jump across the pond for a second. This week also marked an interesting development in Europe.
On July 13, 2007, the German Parliament passed a Resolution (FYI this document is in German.) on open standards that supports competition and innovation, supports multiple open document format standards, and calls for intellectual property provisions aligned with those of international standards organizations.
It is important to remember that standards are about contributors AND implementers. It is optimal to have innovators bringing technologies into standards organizations - you want to have contributions that lead to quality specs which lead to great implementations. Having IP in a standard spec is in fact a sign that contributors are bringing value technology to the table. If I am not mistaken there are more than 100 years of law built up around standards-setting activities to encourage contribution and implementation while protecting all parties involved.
Finally (sorry - long post), I was recently pointed to an interesting piece of government work around standards in Sweden (FYI this document is in Swedish). This report is titled "The Invisible Infrastructure" and was part of an inquiry through the Swedish legislative system. The report was written by a committee, consisting of politicians, officials and experts and is regulated by inquiry directives provided by the government. The remit of this group was to look into how to speed up the introduction of e-government, enhancing e-government security and to also examine the legal implications of open source software.
They concluded that open standards for documents are a good thing, but do not specify a specific standard nor a specific implementation to achieve this goal. The report also addresses the idea that standards are an important part of promoting interoperability, and that archival of government documents in standardized formats is a good thing. They also conclude that open standards and interfaces should be promoted, not open source software.
In the end, governments who are looking at these issues are coming to the conclusion that implementations should be selected on value for money and the quality of the solution rather than a mandated standard or model of production. Standards have an important role to play, but it is best for the government when they shoot for neutral principles that address their real needs.
Links to people talking about MA ETRM today: