Mandatory Open Standards in Denmark

I’d be interested in the international reactions to this piece of news:

On Friday, the Danish Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Helge Sander, made a press announcement (Danish) about his plan for following up on the Parliament Resolution 8 months ago.

The implementation plan is presented in a report which suggests that “open standards should be implemented gradually by making it mandatory for the public sector to use a number of open standards when this becomes technically feasible”.

The report identifies an initial sets of open standards as candidates for mandatory use from 1 January 2008 “if an economic impact assessment shows that this will not involve additional costs to the public sector”.

The implementation plan’s elements are as follows:

  • “From 1 January 2008, all new public IT solutions should make use of the mandatory open standards relevant to the IT solution in question unless there are significant reasons for not complying with these standards.
  • If there are significant reasons for not complying with the relevant mandatory open standards, this must be reported on signing the contract, stating the reasons for applying the exceptional provisions.
  • In case of IT solutions where the technical procurement is above the EU tendering limit, the reasons must be reported to the National IT and Telecom Agency for the purpose of publication.
  • All ministers must ensure that mandatory standards are drawn up within their respective areas of responsibility where this is relevant. This must be made in cooperation with local/regional administrations in line with the existing common public projects in the area of digitalization.”

In short: The Danish Interoperability Framework gets a new level of status: Mandatory.

The proposed mandatory standards from 1 January 2008 falls within the following areas:

  • Standards for data interchange between public authorities
  • Standards for electronic file and document handling
  • Standards for exchanging documents between public authorities (Open Document Format and Office OpenXML)
  • Standards for electronic procurement in the public sector
  • Standards for digital signatures
  • Standards for public websites / homepages
  • Standards for IT security (only within the public sector)

Around a dozen standards: Compliant XHTML or HTML, complaint CSS, WAI Level 2, OCES (digital signature), XML 1.0, XML Schema 1.0, NDR 3.0, FESD (docuument management), OIOUBL, UNSPSC, and DS484 (ISO 17799).

With regard to standards for exchanging documents between public authorities, the report proposes that “it should be mandatory to use at least one of the document standards Open Document Format or Office OpenXML”, and that it is up to the individual agency to decide what they want. The report explains that a study will be conducted this year with “the purpose of obtaining the necessary experience with these standards before 1 January 2008”.

A revised governance model should ensure more mandatory standards over time. The minister is given more authority, but not much actual power to rule over the sectors. The report goes into the “comply or explain”-principle and how it will be practised, and here, it discusses exceptions … I’ll quote in length from their English summary:

“Requirements regarding the use of mandatory open standards will not involve any obligation or incentive to expedite procurement, upgrading or implementation of new or existing IT solutions by public authorities.

To ensure the value of open standards to the individual authority, it is important to avoid the authority being compelled to make inappropriate choices. For this reason, a number of exceptions are made to the general rule of using mandatory open standards.

In connection with contracts and development projects, authorities are exempted from the rules of using mandatory open standards if this means that the authority is compelled to adopt a solution which:

  • is significantly more expensive in relation to using other standards,
  • degrades the security level critically in relation to using other standards,
  • involves a significant reduction in functional performance which is a direct result of the solution being based on mandatory open standards,
  • increases the implementation time markedly,
  • leads to conflicts with standards applicable within specific areas as a result of international commitments.

Furthermore, public authorities are exempted from the rules of using mandatory open standards if the solution does not involve data interchange with other systems.

In case one or more of the points above are in evidence, the relevant authority may choose to dispense with specific mandatory open standards for the solution concerned.

New solutions where technical procurement involves overall costs exceeding the EU tendering limit must be reported to the National IT and Telecom Agency on signing the contract, stating the reasons for applying the exceptional provisions.

New solutions with overall costs below this limit should also make use of mandatory open standards, unless they fall within the exceptional provisions. However, these solutions are not subject to the reporting requirement.

Download the English summary as PDF or ODF. The full report in Danish is here.

The consultation period ends 23 March.

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