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Meanwhile, Back in Minnesota: Your Chance to Help

OpenDocument and OOXML

The action in multiple countries leading up to the closing of the ISO/IEC JTC1 vote on OOXML has all but erased the memory of a similar multi-state contest involving ODF and OOXML that played out earlier this year. That playoff, you may now recall, involved the "open format" bills that had been introduced in multiple legislatures in the US, including in California, Connecticut, Oregon, New York and Texas. All of those efforts failed to accomplish their original objectives.  As I noted in a summary of the rout I posted on June 10, each was defeated outright, except for the ones introduced in New York and Minnesota, where greatly weakened bills passed that called for the "study" of the open format issue.

 

 

 

Now, true to the legislature's instruction, the Minnesota IT department is indeed studying the issue, and will be reporting back its conclusions to the state legislature by January 15 of next year. As part of that process, the public (that means you) has been invited to submit comments on line. The details are below.

The specific language of the bill reads as follows:

 
 
The chief information officer of the state, in consultation with the state archivist and legislative reference librarian, shall study how electronic documents and the mechanisms and processes for accessing and reading electronic data can be created, maintained, exchanged, and preserved by the state in a manner that encourages appropriate government control, access, choice, and interoperability.
 
 

Further details can be found at this page, and a survey document that you can complete can be found here. But note: the comment period closes on October 15.

The survey is short, and shouldn't take long to complete.  The questions asked are these:

1. What mechanisms and processes can the State of Minnesota establish for accessing and reading electronic records to encourage public access?

2.  What mechanisms and processes can the State of Minnesota establish for accessing and reading electronic records to encourage interoperability and data sharing with citizens, business partners and other jurisdictions?

3.  What mechanisms and processes can the State implement to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of electronic records?

4.  Are there mechanisms and processes the State of Minnesota can establish that are specific to the management of electronic records in its various life cycle stages (creation, maintenance, exchange, preservation and disposal)?

5.  How should the State address the long term preservation of electronic records? What should the State consider regarding public access to such archived content?

6.  What changes, if any, should be made to the government records management provision in Minnesota Statutes? (MN Stat. 138.17-138.226)

7.  What constraints and benefits should the State consider regarding the costs of implementing a comprehensive plan for managing electronic records?

8.  What should the State consider regarding highly specialized data formats such as CAD, medical imaging, digital art and multimedia?

9.  What constraints and benefits should the State consider regarding potential savings or additional costs associated with defined formats?

10.  What existing programs, in the private or public sector, for the management of electronic records are appropriate for the State to examine? Please cite specific examples.

11.  What standards for the management of electronic records should the State consider adopting or evaluating?

12.  What else should the State consider about this subject?  

 

Is it worth offering comments? I think so. The reason has to do with how the legislative process works. Three years ago, legislators had never heard of "open formats," and that would go for most of their citizens as well. Then, Massachusetts put the topic on the public agenda in 2005, and the next year, a Minnesota legislator addressed the issue in a draft bill. That first bill never made it to the floor. But the next year, the sponsor introduced a bill again, and this time it did, as did somewhat similar bills in four other states. None of these bills achieved the desired results, but they did start the process of spreading the word, and began of beginning to educate elected representatives that up to that point (in the words of one Minnesota legislator) "Wouldn't know an open document format if it bit [us] in the butt.

 

 

 

Today, conferences for state CIOs and other IT staff invariably include panels and presentations on open document formats. And legislators are learning more about the importance of ensuring the future availability of public documents through their staff and constituents as well. They're also learning that more and more of their citizens care about the issue. And although elected representatives might not (yet) know an open document format if it bit them in the butt, they are pretty good about watching out for their butts – particularly at election time.

 

 

 

I expect that bills may once again be introduced in multiple states during the next legislative session, not only through the efforts of individual state senators and congressman, but as a result of the efforts of the ODF Alliance, which focuses on educating governments about the importance of open document formats. But legislators and IT departments need not only information, but demonstrations of public support as well. Otherwise, the only voices they hear, and more to the point, the only pressure they will feel, will be from lobbyists.

 

 

 

So if you have some time, spend a few minutes of it letting the Minnesota IT Department – and through them, the Minnesota legislature - know what you think. The result may be that when the sponsors of the last two open document bills in Minnesota step to the plate for a third time, they may get on base.

 

 

The folks in Minnesota are still trying. We should, too.
 

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Electronic Documents Study

In its 2007 session, the Minnesota legislature directed the state's Chief Information Officer, Gopal Khanna, to undertake a study related to preservation of electronic documents. The pertinent legislative language (Minnesota Laws 2007, Chapter 148, Article 2, Section 77) reads:

The chief information officer of the state, in consultation with the state archivist and legislative reference librarian, shall study how electronic documents and the mechanisms and processes for accessing and reading electronic data can be created, maintained, exchanged, and preserved by the state in a manner that encourages appropriate government control, access, choice, and interoperability.

The steering team has to report back through the CIO to the Legislature on its findings and recommendations by January 15, 2008.

Study scope
The study will be coordinated by the Office of Enterprise Technology (OET), working through a project steering team comprised of the state archivist, legislative reference librarian and OET's director of strategic planning. The study has to consider, among other issues:

  • the policies of other states and nations
  • management guidelines for state archives as they pertain to electronic documents
  • public access to information
  • expected storage life of electronic documents
  • costs of implementation
  • potential savings

Study methodology
The study will follow this process:

  • Background research and data gathering
  • Collect input from stakeholders using a structured process
  • Publish all research and input
  • Analyze all research and input
  • Publish preliminary report draft
  • Collect reactions from stakeholders
  • Develop and issue final draft

Providing input to the study
To allow all potential stakeholders a fair and equal opportunity to comment on the topic before the data gathering and analysis is completed, the OET has chosen to use an electronic survey with structured questions tied to the legislative requirements.In this way we can give all stakeholders equal access and a common format for sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

The survey instrument will be available from Monday, September 24, 2007 until Monday, October 15, 2007. At the conclusion of the survey period, all comments will be published on the OET website.
To participate in this survey, click on the following link:
 http://survey.oet.state.mn.us/surveys/eds_stakeholder.htm


Note
The terms "records", "data", and "documents" are often used interchangeably; the language that calls for this study itself uses "documents" and "data" without distinguishing the two. But all of these terms have a separate legal meaning and significance in Minnesota, so it will be important to understand the exact distinctions any respondent makes in this survey.

In this study and in the survey, to avoid confusion, the term "electronic records" will be used inclusively. The definition is borrowed from the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 325L). It reads:

  • Electronic records" mean "records created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means.
  • Records" mean "information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form."

In the responses to the survey, please be sure to indicate if the use of any term other than "electronic records" carries any special meaning or has any special implications.


Background information
Responders are urged to consider specific examples in their answers. Background information on the issues is contained in the following reports:

Ditch, Walter. JISC TechWatch: XML-based Office Document Standards. (August 2007).
http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/services/services_techwatch/techwatch/techwatch_ic_reports2005_published.aspx

National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). Electronic Records Management and Digital Preservation: Protecting the Knowledge Assets of the State Government Enterprise. PART I: Background, Principles and Action for State CIOs and PART II: Economic, Legal, and Organizational Issues. (May/July 2007)
http://www.nascio.org/committees/ea/pubArchive.cfm

National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council (NECCC). Digital Archiving: From Fragmentation to Collaboration. (December 2006)
http://www.ec3.org/Pubs/2006NASS_WhitePaper.pdf

Pardo, Theresa A., G. Brian Burke and Hycukbin Kwon. Preserving State Government Digital Information: A Baseline Report. Center for Technology in Government, SUNY-Albany. (July 2006)
http://www.ctg.albany.edu/publications/reports/digital_preservation_baseline

 

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