Friday, November 11, 2005

Government procurement, why it’s different

Mass. reference model controversy over open formats

Since its release last September, a technical reference model issued by Massachusetts has sparked considerable debate within the government technology community—and beyond.

At stake is the issue of how active a role public offices should take in fostering open standards. Should an agency adopt a new open format—one that would better suit its goals but may prove more difficult to deploy and manage? Or should agencies follow the best practices of the commercial IT industry, taking full advantage of cost efficiencies and new features that may follow?

If a private company decided to migrate to open source systems, that would be that. The customer is always right and there isn’t much a vendor can do. But with the multiple decision makers involved in government systems, elected, appointed and civil service, it is an entirely different situation.

Why would a government insist on open standards?

... Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn has indicated that the reason behind the move to OpenDocument is that it will allow the state to better keep permanent records.

“Ease of access to electronic records created in proprietary formats is limited in time. Once the proprietary vendor abandons a particular version of an application or format, documents created and formatted in those applications and formats may become inaccessible to all readers,” according to the frequently asked questions section of the state CIO’s Web site .

Massachusetts Enterprise Technical Reference Model - Version 3.5

Dan Bricklin’s audio files of the public meetings the state has held on the matter.

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