27/04/2010 09:00

Guide on open document standards for Dutch government agencies

On April 27, 2010, the Dutch government published a "Guide to open document standards for the government' (‘Handreiking open documentstandaarden voor de overheid’, PDF, 1.2 MB) . The document is aimed at organizations and their management, helping to understand how open document standards  (ODF, PDF/A-1 and PDF1.7) can and should be used in their organisation. "So that their information can be organized and presented in a way that citizens can process without problems. Now Handreiking open documentstandaarden voor de overheid and in the future," as Bert Bakker states in the preface. Bakker is chairman of the OpenDoc Society, one of the parties who contributed to the creation of the publication. 

Besides OpenDoc Society contributions to the guide were made by the National Library, National Archives, e-Government for Citizens (Web Guidelines), the municipalities Ede, Woerden, Gouda and Assen, KING (Quality Control of Dutch Municipalities), the Association of Dutch Municipalities, Digital Heritage Netherlands, SABIC, Adobe, DO Consultancy and the Ministry of Justice. The publication, co-produced by the program office NOiV and Forum Standaardisatie (the Netherlands Standardization Forum), focuses on coordinators, heads of I & A and IT-architects of governments that are seeking a first introduction to this subject. According to the authors of the publication, these have the primary responsibility for a proper introduction and assurance of standards in the field of data in their organization.

Download Handreiking open documentstandaarden voor de overheid’ (in Dutch)

Preface Bert Bakker

Bert BakkerThe casual nature with which we catapult a seemingly constant flow of documents from our computers into the digital world, creates the risk that we are not aware of the discomfort and annoyance that may cause to others. A city council member that is traveling on the public transport using a netbook for browsing through the city intranet, only to discover that reading her meeting papers requires special software that can only run on PCs with a particular operating system. A blind citizen a that gets a pile of unreadable print through an Freedom of Information Act request, because some parts had to be blanked out. A digital brochure aimed at young people which is not available on the mobile phone they would be most likely to read it on. An archivist that gets sent a batch of important documents in a fragile application dependent format. And so on.

As publicly funded organizations, we can not arbitrarily discriminate between people, between folks with and without disabilities, between rich and poor or between customers of IT supplier A and B. And even less between users of this generation and the next. Documents must be reasonably accessible to everyone, inside and outside our organizations, now and in the future. Because in the information chain where we do our work, the document we consider 'final', is but the starting point for the work of others.

Fortunately, there are open standards like ODF and PDF that we can fall back on to to store our information and share information in a sustainable and easily accessible way. Such standards are neutral and future-proof, and help governments to meet the legal requirements in areas such as archiving and accessibility.

Is that difficult? Actually, not. This handy booklet will help organizations and their managers to understand how open standards for documents may be used.  So that their information can be organized and presented in a way that citizens can process without problems. Now and in the future. The booklet also addresses specific questions, and on how to apply open standards in the most appropriate and cost effective way.

Open standards are an important component of our digital society. As chairman of the OpenDoc Society, I am pleased that our government is actively working on a quality improvement in this regard, amongst others through the plan Netherlands in Open Connection and the work of the Standardization Forum. Is your organization joining us?

Bert Bakker
Voorzitter OpenDoc Society