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Downing St ambivalent on open standards

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The UK government has made a statement offering cautious and qualified support for the adoption of open standards for government documents, but warns that there is no such thing as a document storage panacea.

The statement forms part of Number 10's response to a petition calling on the government to promote the use of Open Document Format within its ranks.

1,310 people signed the petition, which argued that the government should use open standard's based formats to properly future proof the documents they produce. The petition author, John Imrie, wrote:

Government documents must be available for tens if not hundreds of years. Currently much electronic documentation is stored in proprietary formats, such as Microsoft's .doc format. In order to allow future generations access to these documents it is imperative that they be in a fully documented standard.

Broadly, the government's response is that it does champion open standards, where possible, but that no single standard could ever solve the problem of storing multiple document formats:

Where possible the Government only uses products for interoperability that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments. Interoperability and open standards also support the sustainability of digital information beyond any single generation of technology.

All very helpful, as far as it goes. And as to future policy, the government defers to the experts:

A policy on digital preservation, which includes guidance on the selection of sustainable data formats based on open standards, is being formulated by The National Archives, and will help define the standards for desktop systems.

You can read the petition here and the government's full response here. ®

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