On Friday (June 2, 2006), the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) had its last session before the Summer break, and on a very long agenda, the very last issue (#57) was the second and last reading of Morten Helveg‘s Proposal for Parliamentary Resolution on Open Standards (B103). I posted a bit about it earlier this week, and said then that it was still pending, and that it was opposed by the Government. That was accurate information as of a week ago.
But politics is the art of changing things, and over the last week, crafty politicians have been at work, and changed things. Morten Helveg pushed for settlement, and then Danish Peopleâ€™s Party’s Morten Messerschmidt and JÃ¸rgen Dohrman put their fingerprint on the resolution with an ammendment, so a majority vote would be reached. And to cut a long story (see below) short, on Friday afternoon, the Parliament voted and decided the following resolution (my translation):
Parliament imposes on the government a duty to ensure that the public sector’s use of IT, including use of software, is based on open standards.
The Government should adopt and maintain a set of open standards by 1 January 2008, or as soon as technically possible, which can serve as an inspiration for the rest of the public sector. Open standards should be part of public IT and software procurement with the object of promoting competition.
The Government should ensure that all digital information and data that the public sector exchanges with citizens, companies and institutions, are available in open standards based formats.
Note that the translation is mine, and might not be 100% accurate. It for example differs slightly from the one provided on Groklaw. Furthermore, the original decision in Danish is
actually not now available yet in the Parliament’s public information system (case file here, around 50 documents, in Danish), so be advised that a formal translation of the decision is, well, pending.
The challenge is not just one of language nuances between Danish and English, but indeed also one of interpretation of the resolution itself, and of its reach and scope in particular. And here caution is an absolute necessity, because we know how distorted things in our field always get.
A few specific observations:
- Anne Ã˜stergaard’s Denmark to follow in the foot steps of Massachuchets on open standards is flawed, in my opinion. The decision does not say that the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation has to make a law proposal in the next session of Folketinget.
- SÃ¸ren Thing Pedersen’s Denmark mandates open standards by 2008 is accurate enough, but only because mandation can mean many things. I do agree with SÃ¸ren in his assessment, though. Also, check his site for a link to a video with the 30 minute reading in Parliament.
- Jeff Kaplan’s Looking for IT Leaders? Try Denmark is a must read.
At any rate, Friday was indeed a good day for the Danish IT policy, as Morten Helveg also said during the reading in Parliament. On Saturday, he made a post tited Victory! (Sejr!) in his blog. He writes (my translation):
But it was a bizarre procedure. Wednesday afternoon, the Liberals attempted to outvote the resolution’s formal vote-taking. Completely uheard of! Then the Standing Orders Committee intervened to ensure that I of course could get my resolution to a vote in Parliament.
A majority without the Government was established with Danish People’s Party, and then the Liberals and the Conservatives turned on a dime. Even if it was a pitiful attempt to demean the resolution made by the Liberals, considering they would vote for the resolution. It didn’t make sense. I think it was pretty clear to everyone who saw the debates that the Liberals were out on a limb.
On Thursday before the Parliament session, Michael Aastrup Jensen from the Liberals made a press announcement where he announced that the Liberals would vote for the resolution. The argument put forward is that the proposal carries good intentions. But Jensen also argues that the resolution will have no effects, and that the Liberals would have wanted to go even further. During the reading session, his tone sharpened, and he called the resolution “empty symbol politics of the worst kind”.
Helge Sander, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, is from the Liberals. On August 15, he has invited the IT-spokespersons from Parliament to a meeting, where he according to Jensen will present how the Government wants to proceed.
In conclusion, the vote in Parliament ended in an unanimous decision, but not in fence-mending. Quite the contrary, actually.
But at the end of the day, and that’s what counts, Denmark is now a nation who has a parliamentary mandate for open standards. Thank you to the three Mortens: Morten Helveg, Morten Messerschmidt and Morten Ã˜stergaard, and to JÃ¸rgen Dohrman and Anne Grete Holmsgaard for carrying this through, and thanks also to Michael Aastrup Jensen and Helge Sander, and all other MPs for voting for this historic resolution!
Bonus news: In the report from the Science Committee, one can read that there’s more to ODF in Denmark: Also the Ministry of Finance will from September 1, 2006 publish its new publications in ODF “unless certain contractual or content-related conditions occur”. The Government aims to have 3-4 or more ministries in the pilot launched by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
So, we will have concrete ODF adoption projects in Denmark. Now. Very exciting! Kudos to Helge Sander for rolling that showball!
Why didn’t you make decisions like that when I worked for you? Allow me to give you a hint: You know about Massachusetts, right? Did you know that they recently made a Request for Information (RFI) titled “OpenDocument Format Plug-in for Microsoft Office Suite”, and got some very interesting response? You should get your guys to talk to guys in Massachusetts. You could also make your own RFI, of course.
Danish readers: I posted more over at my Danmark 2.0 blog.