The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has approved the open source OpenDocument Format (ODF) as an international data format standard.
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The OpenDocument Format Alliance, a cross-section of associations, academic institutions and industry suppliers, had been lobbying for the decision.
ODF is designed to make it easier for organisations to improve the access and retrieval of electronic government and business documents.
The ODF Alliance has more than 150 members worldwide. The group was created to resolve the potential problem of governments and their constituents having only limited ability to access, retrieve and use critical records and documents in the future, as a result of proprietary software.
Some government organisations are fearful of being locked into proprietary software licences from the likes of Microsoft, as it could prevent them from changing the document formats needed to deliver wider access to employees and the public.
ODF is seen as a potential solution to preventing such difficulties. Microsoft is now opening up the code of some of its document applications to convince users they have nothing to worry about.
ODF enables the retrieval of information and exchange of documents without regard to the application or platform in which the document was created, both now and in the future.
"Approval of the OpenDocument Format by the ISO marks an important milestone in the effort to help governments solve the very real problem of finding a better way to preserve, access and control their documents now and in the future," said Marino Marcich, executive director of the ODF Alliance.
"There's no doubt that this ISO approval will serve as a springboard for adoption and use of ODF around the world."
The OpenDocument Format emerged from work done at the open source OpenOffice.org project, which has developed an open source office productivity suite to compete against Microsoft’s Office suite and IBM’s Notes suite, among others.