Here is an almost word for word transcript of the Oct. 31 MA hearing. There were a number of developments.
SYNOPSIS: This synopsis (part I) is an after the fact notation of my impressions of the hearing; my detailed real-time summary (and in some cases word for word transcript) of the October 31 hearing follows in Part II.
Part I summary:
1. Senator Pacheco doesn't understand the difference between open source and open standards (and certainly doesn't understand the difference between OpenDocument and OpenOffice). More than once, he indicated that he thought that the policy would require the Executive Agencies to use OpenOffice, not realizing that there are other compliant alternatives. He also thought that this would act to the detriment of Massachusetts software vendors, who (he thinks) would be excluded from doing business with the Commonwealth.
2. What he has most obviously been fed by MS et al is that "The way that this was handled is counter to what open source is all about" (e.g., this, even thought it seemed to be pretty clear that he doesn't really know what open source software really is, or what the GPL is, although he referred to it often). It's therefore hard to believe that he could have ever connected these dots on his own.
3. More than anything, this is a turf battle between different factions within Massachusetts, and Pacheco is going to make sure that Quinn isn't going to get away with it if he can help it (and he thinks he can). Pacheco views as high-handed behavior that hasn't kowtowed to the power of other agencies. On the plus side, there were some indications in his comments that a simple delay of a few months may allow honor to be satisfied.
4. The hearing was stacked against the positive, in that although Quinn and ITD General Counsel Linda Hamel were given plenty of opportunity to speak and answer questions, no one else who was in favor of the new policy was permitted to give testimony (I know of at least one major, supporting vendor that tried and was refused), nor were any questions from the audience allowed.
5. Pacheco doesn't think that it's over yet, and clearly wants (at minimum) a delay in the schedule to acknowledge the influence of other Commonwealth governmental interests.
6. Pacheco expects that the Auditors Office will have all of the time that it needs to chew over what sounds like is only a fairly high-level cost/benefit analysis supplied by the ITD. He clearly wants more, and also wants it reviewed by what he regards to be a neutral source -- the Auditors Office.
7. Supervisor of Public Records Alan Cody flat out stated that Quinn and Hamel are wrong in saying that they acted in accordance with law. Pacheco did not ask him whether he stated this conclusion based on advice of counsel, or otherwise how he reached this conclusion. Hamel, in contrast, researched the matter extensively, and answered (I thought) persuasively. Pacheco, by the way, cited several specific cases to make his points.
8. Pacheco repeatedly acknowledged that the Advisory Board does not have the power to tell the ITD what to do. What he did come back to was a contention that there was to be a "collaborative process," that would involve more parts of the government, and particularly its officers. Hamel, in contrast, cited a Supreme Judicial Court case to the effect that the high court expressly held that there was to be no central bureaucracy dictating IT policy.
9. The disability issues are real, and the ITD seems to have been caught off guard on this. They should have been all over this issue a year ago, but seem to be going in the right direction now. Still, a bad tactical -- and ethical -- mistake.
10. It seems fair to assume that Microsoft is playing a behind the scenes role. If so, they have been very careful to stay out of sight. There was no overt mention of what they may be doing, or whom they may have talked to, and Pacheco chastised Hamel at one point for suggesting that they had "bought" associations that made negative comments [imagine that!].
11. It was not clear what happens next vis-Ã -vis the ITD. It was clear that Pacheco expects to pursue matters further with the Auditors Office, regarding costs to implement the new policy, and that he expects to gather more data outside and after the hearing. It was also clear that the biggest issue in his mind is not the cost, and not the technology, but the process. He is clearly unhappy with how things have proceeded, and emphasized this over and over, including to reporters after the hearing.
12. All witnesses indicated that they had not been contacted in advance, and the representatives of the disabled community (including Massachusetts representatives)were telling and persuasive in this regard. Clearly, the ITD did not do its homework in this area.
13. Lastly, and in some ways most ominously, there was no real participation by Secretary of the Commonwealth Francis Galvin's office. Hence, there may be another shoe to drop, and we learned nothing about what that shoe may be today, or when it may fall.
These are what impressed me as being the high points of the hearing. I may revise this on Tuesday if I have a chance (while traveling to, and in meetings in Washington) to reread my record of the meeting.
Part II: The real-time testimony
I'm sitting in Room 437 of the Massachusetts State House waiting for the ODF Hearing to begin momentarily. I will update this post every few minutes with an account of who is testifying, and what they are saying. In the interests of time I won't be doing much tagging, so apologies in advance for mis-formatting.
It's ten minutes past show time, and the room is filling up (and heating up), with even standing room running out. Rather ironically, there was a last minute room switch from a room that *was* easily handicap-accessible to one that either isn't, or was not obviously so to many, with about four steeps steps and swinging doors half way up. Given that much of the commentary today may focus on ODF's current Spartan support for the blind, it's not an auspicious beginning.
B. Caveats CAUTION: While I am a very rapid typist and got much of Pacheco's comments almost word for word, I could not hear everyone well, and sometimes was paraphrasing more than others as I tried to keep up.
AND NOTE: I will try and do some sort of summary later as well of the key surprises and/or inaccuracies that struck me as hearing progressed.
Press: I see Hiawatha Bray (Boston Globe), David Berlind (ZDNet).
Companies: I see folks I recognize from IBM, HP, Sun.
Constituencies: Many representatives of the disability community
Audience: c. 100, 2/3s of whom had to stand
At the front: Senator Marc R. Pacheco, Chair, Committee on Post Audit and Oversight Senator Richard Moore, and a Justice Stannessa (sp?), who never spoke.
1. First presenting: Peter Quinn and Linda Hamel (sp?), General Counsel of ITD.
Pacheco opens: Presents a statement of process, and reviews stakeholders. Right now he's noting the oversight committee; committee will consider testimony of all stakeholders and industry representatives with whom he and others have met over the past several weeks and years. "What we want to concentrate on today is the process that we have followed to get to this point in time; go over public records issues involved; look at actual procurement of services here in the Commonwealth and how its done; and certainly the costs.".
Thanks Quinn and Hamel, asks Quinn to review process and authority.
Quinn: I will read a statement first. I want to correct misunderstandings. Historical perspective: MA is a hodgepodge of applications. Agencies must now share across all boundaries; cannot do so without building extensive interfaces - everything must talk to everything without expensive retrofitting.
At recommendation of a study, began to build interoperable systems model, based on a framework released to by the Federal Government to the State CIOs, based on a service based architectural model (SOA). Various versions of the ETRM have been created and released and refined.
Many governments - local, state and national - are reviewing ODF, because some XML formats are proprietary. ODF was developed by an open process, and documents created using ODF will be able to be open and read 100 years from now.
The Commonwealth's documents belong to the people, and need to be accessible to the people now and in the future.
Let me clarify: the new policy applies only to the Executive Agencies. It does not apply to the Judiciary, although the Judiciary is actually way ahead of us, with over 2000 desktops already ODF enabled.
Second: Adoption of ODF does not apply to legacy documents, and legacy systems will be retained until such time as it becomes cost effective to access legacy systems using ODF compliant applications.
Next: Adoption of ODF opens the door to competition, rather than closes it. Any vendor has it within its control to support ODF. We really don't care how a document is created and manipulated - only that it be accessible in the future. ODF will provide that assurance
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present to you and cure these misconceptions. I hope that I will be able to directly address critical comments.
1:30 PM: Questions from Pacheco:
Q: You said that you were following recommendations from 2002. Can you tell me who made these recommendations?
A: Price Waterhouse/Coopers, the successful bidder. IBM bought the unit and the same team continued.
Q: How did the Advisory Board come into being?
A: We helped create it.
Q: Do you remember the one recommendation they have given to date?
A: [didn't catch it well]
Q: Involve all departments; engage the constitutional officers.
A: [Hamel]: We included each of the constitutional officers after they were accidentally got left out of the legislation - we got them back in, and have involved them.
Q: The intent was for them to be involved, and for their input to be seriously considered. That they would have a role and input.
A: Hamel: The intention was not that they have any role in creation of proposal, but that they create a strategic plan annually. The judiciary pushed very hard not to have a central administration involved in this type of decision. There was no question that they should be telling ITD what to do, or to check in with them. Q: I have some constitutional questions, but will come back to them later. After we had our last Post Audit Committee meeting on this in 2003, the Legislature proactively adopted a statute that laid out an advisory process that the Legislature assumed would be followed. That's the newest law that's on the books on the topic. Are you suggesting that the Judiciary ignored this intent, or do you think that the language passed was unconstitutional?
Q: Let me be clear. The intent was to expand the scope of the Advisory Committee, so why wasn't it done?
A: I want to distinguish between internal polices of the Executive Agencies and the idea of meeting to create a strategic policy that would involve the input of all. The Advisory is required to advise, but the ITD is not required to consult with them. I was personally "rapped on the wrist" by the Judiciary pointing me at a decision in the past that stated it would be unconstitutional to create a central authority for this purpose. So we were very careful to be sure that the legislation only said "advisory." There is nothing in the constitution of our state that would permit such a board, and would stray from the text of the enablement of the Advisory Board.
We have tried mightily to share our information with the Advisory Board, and I personally met with them to brief them on my meetings with Microsoft regarding their XML formats. At that point, we were not yet sure what we would do regarding the XML piece; this was back in May. We shared our efforts to try to work with the majority of desktops, and expressed our doubts in being able to do so. No one said at the Advisory Board not to go in this direction - I was there and made this presentation. They were our partners in pushing forward in this way.
Q: All that you said still doesn't answer my question. The legislation says that the Advisory Board (AB) "shall draft" a recommendation. Granted, it didn't have the authority to enact or dictate. It did recommend that the Constitutional officers be brought in and involved in the process before decision was made. It was to be a collaborative process, so that people could raise their objections. Isn't it true that some on the AB were critical?
A: Yes, there were some. Senator Hart delivered a dissenting letter.
Q: Quotes from ERTM Webpage: why did you not include all of Section 17 of the law??
A: I wrote that in about 45 minutes in the middle of a room full of people. Both the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the ITD have the authority over archives. But the Secretary only looks over paper archives. Only we have been involved in electronic storage. We have over 188 million employee records. We have tried on a number of occasions to reach out to the Secretary, and have not been able to do so.
Q: The full text of Section 17 includes more - the Supervisor of Records; The Records Conservation Board "shall determine". Are you saying that this is not a "regulation" and not a standard?
A: That's right.
Q: And therefore that it doesn't need the approval of the Supervisor or Records?
A: You have to read this in the context of the whole set of laws. There are laws that were created in a different world about how long to save records and when you could throw them away. We are a successor agency, and there is something of a "creative tension" between the old laws and the new laws.
Q: A "creative tension?"
Q: I'll have to look that up in the General Laws.
A: Gives examples of other situation where the old laws aren't working and need to be updated.
Q: Asks questions about Herald and Globe articles.
A: Are you asking me about the Globe or the law?
Q: [doesn't sell well]
A: I'm sorry.
Q: Has the Library of Congress adopted ODF? So we have a proposal from the ITD we go with ODF. Has the Library of Congress made the same decision? Have they said "use OpenOffice?" Answer me yes or no.
A: No - and neither have we. We haven't mandated the specific product?
Q: Isn't that the practical situation? Isn't that the only product? That's my understanding [of course, this is not true.]
A: That is not ITD's understanding. And as the PDF decision of Microsoft shows, they could support it as well.
Q: In the same time frame that your policy requires? Let us go back to the Secretary of State position. Are you aware of the 66 page booklet he has written on public records?
A: I have a copy on by desk.
Q: It says, we are working on electronic archiving policies that would apply also to all municipalities. That sounds different from what you are saying.
A: We look first to the enabling legislation. We do not think that such a booklet should be all that we look at.
Q: Let's look now at your statement that this is a standard, and not at regulation. In your policy, what would support this?
A: Quinn: The format is supported by a number of different products - that's a standard. Standards are good for industry and competition. This isn't a procurement play - the largest vendor could comply if it wished. Two years ago we made a decision to go to open standards, and everyone agreed. The standard was developed by OASIS, and has been submitted to ISO.
We've had hearings and meetings and invited comment. On June 9 we had a meeting, and everyone said that XML in an open format was the way to go - with the exception of one company. We also gave preferential treatment to vendors to give them the opportunity to support ODF. That one company has wonderful technology, and I hope they decide to support ODF. But they have taken "closed" positions in the past.
Q: I'm curious. We've seen this before; we have a memo, and then two months later we have a policy. Then negotiations with the ITD. It's my understanding that in January of this year that Secretary Kriss had announced at a MA Software Council meeting that there had been agreement that Office would be included in the new ETRM.
A: Yes, that was in the draft, which was put out for comment, and there was a firestorm of objection.
Q: So let me get this straight - there was agreement between you, Kris and this company that if the license agreement was satisfactory, that they would be in the ETRM?
A: Hamel: we entered into a negotiation with them, based on our understanding of what "open" means. Since then, we've met with the open source; I mean open standards; community, and we've been educated. We did express that we did not get everything that we wanted, and we briefed the AB on that (what we got, and what we didn't). We were told by them, and now understand, that "it wasn't open enough."
Q: You're asking me to believe that Secretary Kriss didn't know enough?
A: Hamel: I'm not going to assume I know what he did or didn't know.
Quinn: I'll send you a document saying what his assumptions would and would not be in the Microsoft license.
Q: Why did you correct yourself about "open source?"
A: Open Standards can be implemented in open source or in proprietary software.
Q: So let me see if I understand. Isn't ODF distributed under something called the GPL?
A: Not necessarily; some are and some aren't.
Q: That's not what I've heard, and I want to be sure that I understand what's going on here. I want to be sure that an objective body like the ITD would review cost and some of the assumptions that have been made. I am concerned when I look at proprietary companies bidding on work under the ODF that if you have an OpenOffice product that has GPL as one of the elements, then in order to meet the standard the proprietary company would need to release its code?
A: No. That is not correct or necessary, no more than Microsoft would need to reveal PDF code. Quinn: We don't care about the code - just that we can open the document later. Procurement is not the issue - the standard is. That makes it an open field.
Q: If at the end of the day that's what we're talking about, then that's something else. What we want is for everyone to be able to compete and participate. There's a large portion of Massachusetts software vendors that I understand this policy would preclude from participating. I need the ITD to help us with that.
But more important than the technology piece is that when you look at the governmental responsibility of cumulative government services that the costs -- or savings -- and the statutory entitlement. That this went right. That's why we're here today and what we're looking into.
A: Hamel: In order to stimulate competition, you have to look at the situation today, where almost all the desktops are from a single vendor. We see this as flinging the door open.
Q: I've had numerous meetings with industry, and we've all been told that they can participate today. So it seems like there is one entity that the way the structure is set up, unless they change, I'd be curious to see what type of message that sends - telling people what type of business model they have to assume. Why is it that Citizens Against Government Waste have taken a position against this, saying its anti-competitive? Have you read their concerns, and tried to understand what they are saying?
A: Hamel: I think that with the exception of the disability organizations, almost all of the organizations that have come out against ODF have been funded by Microsoft. No individual citizens (the disabled aside) have said that their due process rights. The playbook was written, and orchestrated by Microsoft.
Q: Are you saying that these are subsidiaries of Microsoft? Are you saying that they have been bought?
A: I am saying that they have been influenced.
Quinn: On August 16 everyone, with the exception of Microsoft and one person who didn't know what he was talking about, came out in favor of open standards.
Q: It still seems to me that you're telling me that, in effect, you're telling me the "type of tires I have to put on my car" rather than how long a car can be, so that it can fit in a parking space. Now maybe you're telling me know that this isn't the case. But I suggested that the policy be delayed until two other officers could review it? And why, two years ago, when you knew that there were concerns from the disability community, would you move forward without pursuing a more collaborative approach?
We've got people calling in from all over with strong concerns over how this has been done, and they are in favor of open standards. Why are there all these concerns if these concerns were handled as the process went along? We talked about this in December of 2003, and now its October of 2005 -- and there are still concerns about what you're doing. I go back to this OpenOffice piece - you reference other products. OK, if that's all accurate, maybe that's not what this is about, but that's what these other officers are about - checks and balances to be sure that's the case. That's why there's an AB, playing an advisory capacity, not to tell you what to do. I think the last six meetings have even been cancelled.
Quinn: Let me talk about the disability community issue. The disability community has been denied access in many ways for many years, and we are committed to making sure that they get the consideration they need. Now I have had someone spending a significant amount of time since September 1 reaching out, and also working with the w3C, and we are just a few weeks away from announcing that we will have an answer to create accessibility. I have committee three times, first, to create a memo on the subject, two, have priority, and three [couldn't catch it]. Sun, IBM and others are working to create global accessibility standards. The structure has already been built into StarOffice, Mozilla, and other products. We are a couple of weeks away from being able to put this in front of the disability community and the state. Hamel: Microsoft has been a great business partner, and that's why we'd like to continue to work with them. They've been good at solving disability issues, and we look forward to working with them.
Q: It's the process that's my concern. We had the 2003 memo; we had a policy that was put in place in November of that year that got a green light; we had a Post Audit Committee meeting in December where we raised some of these concerns; but the AB committee came out of 2004, and recommended MOUs with the Constitutional Office to address some of these issues, and it wasn't done. The standard itself was released on Labor Day Weekend. [ASU: not correct] Let me just say that a statement was made the standard was created through an open and transparent process -- the open source movement -- and yet it seems to me that the intent of the ETRM subverts the whole spirit of the open source movement, and that's what I'm concerned about the most.
And that takes me to the last piece I want to ask about, and that's the cost. Let me take you back to the November of 2003. Was there a cost analysis done then? A: Quinn: There was not.
Q: So there was a decision by the Executive branch, through the ITD, to send 50,00 desktops in a different direction, with no cost analysis.
A: Let's back up a minute. Back then we didn't have any standards, and there was agreement that we should get software that could talk too each other. So each time we needed to replace something, we looked to see whether it should be replaced with open source or open standards, based on cost. So it wasn't a single decision, but a decision made every time.
Q: When we met in 2003,I thought we had this discussion, and that you were going to do this analysis. Now we're here two years later, and we just received an analysis two weeks ago. I've sent it to the State Audit Office IT division for an audit. There were assumptions built into that analysis, like moving to MS Office 12. Why was that in there?
A: You asked "what would it look like if we converted the entire set of desktops?" That's not what we're proposing. Sometime over the next several years all of these desktops will be replaced in the ordinary course of things, due to the need for more speed and functionalities. I'm sure that the Audit Office will look at this, it will prove out. We've been doing the same sort of changes over the last 15 years.
Q: One thing we requested and you had for a time suggested was that Office would still be there for a while. Is there a fee?
A: Its a one-time fee. We don't have maintenance fees in our contracts. Will there be some Office applications around? Sure. Two or three times a week I get things I can't open. We'll always keep around some licenses so that we can open what we get from the public - something we can't control. You mention OpenOffice: that can open everything, and will be able to do that in years, and we won't be able to do that with Microsoft.
Q: Explain to me again the components that you look to when you do your cost analysis. I would think that in 2003 you would have done a cost benefit analysis.
A: Quinn: [goes through methodology of adding up costs for replacement in comparison to upgrading to Office 12; goes through labor costs, upgrade costs, etc.]The spreadsheet shows it all.
Q: How about maintenance?
A: I do it the same way everyone else does (and most people don't buy maintenance on Office), but we handle it the same way for all products.
Q: We usually look at total costs and benefits of competing products, and estimated maintenance, consulting, or other costs. It's interesting that you don't have anything in there for productivity options. It's my understanding that we don't actually have to do to office 12 at all, and that the existing systems can be updated under our existing agreements without any additional costs, even if we replace the hardware. I can ask my IT specialists to look at that. Did you look at the alternative choices, and if so, where's the backup.
A: Let's look at things one at a time. You never "have" to do anything. But we've been looking for a year at how people use their desktops, with all of the powerful tools. In fact, most people just open documents and spreadsheets, browse the Internet, and use calendars. So we've bought this powerful tool (Office) with all these functionalities, and its like a TV remote with all these features they don't use. So our question is really why should we be spending so much for something that we don't really use? For the most part, people didn't get even the free upgrades. Upgrades are more like an annuity for vendors - its' a pretty dismal investment for us.
Q: So you're telling me that when the Auditors Office is done, that using your assumptions, there will be a savings of $26 million, even though in a memo you received back in 2003 from then Sec. Kriss, he acknowledged that "the policy will take time, energy and money. We have a large installed basis of systems using obsolete technology that cannot quickly be replaced." What was he talking about - these systems?
A: The system over all. We've been gradually changing all kinds of systems - he wasn't talking about desktops, and we haven't been touching them until now, because its difficult. But now there's a compelling reason, based on what we think we know over the past several years.
Q: There are just a couple of things I'd like to request today. One is that I'd like to specifically ask General Counsel to send to us your analysis of how you can move forward statutorily, so that we can analyze what you have told us today, and give us time to study it from a legal perspective. Also, on the AB piece, I heard reference to constitutionality issues, and I'd simply like to refer you to Doe v. the Attorney General [didn't catch cite]. You might want to take a look at it from a cautionary perspective. Also , MBTA v. the State Auditor (2000), saying that the ITD is barred from challenging the constitutionality of laws. I'm saying today that that law establishing the AB did not set forth a dictatorial tone, but a desire to obtain as much collaboration as possible. That's what we were hoping to see. We'd like to get an opinion back from your office in this regard as well.
We would also like to have further discussion on cost benefit analysis, after the Auditor's Office has a chance to review; we'll have more questions. We thought the analysis would be a lot more detailed, with a lot more backup. For example, just in the case of HR, we would have looked to see it broken down across cost centers. I want to be sure that what you gave me is what you want to have on the public record. I'd think you'd want to take a second look, and I'd also like to know when the analysis was done, what meetings were held, what IT officers in the Executive Agencies you talked to, and what they had to say. I'm sure that the Auditors Office will want to see a lot of the same things, so it won't be duplicative.
Sen. Moore: Just an observation. I've watched the ITD and others implement policy. You are calling them "standards", but for all intents and purposes they are in effect regulations. Another agency we looked at hadn't implemented any agencies, and I think that neither agency is doing it right. My major concern as Health Care Finance is that these issues be satisfied, so that there is access for all people from the Commonwealth for health records. I need you to make me comfortable with that issue.
Quinn: No, I don't have a closing statement, but I would like the opportunity to wrap up at the end of the day.,
2. Supervisor of Public Records Alan Cody takes witness stand.
Statement: I am responsible for putting all records into custody. My office recommends the policy for doing so. For many years, electronic records have been a major focus. Let me assure you - we do not have a crisis. We are in a transition. But this does not alter the basics of records management. The vast majority of records have a lifespan of 7 years, after which they are supposed to be destroyed, whether they are electronic or paper, and this is vital. For those records that must be maintained longer, we have a policy to review the record to see if it has archival content, and if so, to preserve it. All records are converted into multiple formats to guarantee future access. We use many different types of proprietary and non-proprietary software, and gives us flexibility to keep up with technology. A rigid process, such as the one before you, that bars a vendor and introduces rigidity will not serve the Commonwealth's best interests. I would be happy to answer any questions.
Q: Pacheco: It's obvious that you do not favor the ITD policy at this time, but would like to study it further. Earlier I referenced a section of the law (17A) from which the ITD stated it derived its authority. What is your view?
A: It's absurd to think that one authority will be able to control all policies all across the Commonwealth.
Q: So you're saying that if the ITD were to move forward with a policy that is contrary of what you are recommending, that they would be in violation of law?
A: Absolutely. If ITD thinks that their authority is exclusive, I don't know where they are getting that, and have told them that.
Q: Is it clear that the Secretary Quinn and General Counsel Hamel were aware of the degree of your opposition to ODF and their read of their authority?
Q: So its safe to say that you did not collaborate on this policy?
A: That's right. I was allowed to see it, but it always seemed to be changing, and I wasn't sure what they wanted, or when they wanted it. I was told at the very beginning that this would go forward.
Q: So they said right in the beginning that it would happen regardless?
A: That's right.
Q: And to be clear: you think that they do not have the authority to move forward unilaterally?
A: No I do not believe that they do.
Q: To what extent did you have any conversations with any one in the AB regarding the MOU?
A: I have not attended any of the meetings at which this may have been discussed,
Q: We've looked at many AB meetings since this process began, and they've been infrequent and in the last six cases or so cancelled.
I didn't expect you to be as direct or as certain about what we had assumed, so I really don't have a lot of other questions, as I'm hearing you to say that you do not believe that they have the authority under Mass. General Laws to proceed. Is that correct?
Q: Sen. Moore: The Health committee is very concerned about medical records, in the wake of the Katrina disaster, and we will want to discuss that with you in the future. Q: Pacheco: I want to compliment you on your work over the years working with the public records.
Is there a motion that can be filed in the courts in a situation such as this, where there is a disagreement between parts of the government?
A: There is vague language in the statute that may offer an avenue. I don't know if you want me to go into that now.
Q: Please get back to me on this. I'm quite frankly more concerned about the process than the technology. We have a process here, and the integrity of the process needs to be maintained. The legislature has put forth an AB in 2004 that's supposed to be advisory, yes, but certainly collaborative as well. And it seems that this has been prevented. While there have been a few calls going back and forth and some meetings, this isn't enough.
[brief break - and my batteries are running low.]
[I returned too late from a phone call to catch the first five minutes of the next speaker
3. I now call Myra Berloff, and Barbara Lyberger of the Mass. Office on Disability
We learned only when the public learned of the new policy proposal. Our concern and goal is to be sure that whatever software is used gives the same accessibility to those with disabilities as to those that are not disabled. Access issues are being tested in the courts. Certainly it would be fundamentally wrong in the court of public opinion to take a step backwards regarding access. We are pleased to be working now with ITD to achieve this result.
Q: So I heard you to say that you did not have advance warning of the policy?
A: That's right.
Q: And you said that you are meeting with ITD now?
A: That's right. We've been meeting with ITD for six weeks, and have been given assurance that new software will not be installed that does not have as good access as now.
Q: And did I understand you to say that you don't think that this can be achieved by the schedulded implementation date for the policy?
A: I'm not a technicion, but I'm told by others that are that the schedule is very ambitious. And also that the programs do not exist today that would be adequate, and that when there are, they will be untested initially.
Q: So the conversations were not held with the Office of Disabilities, and therefore also this could not have been factored into the cost analysis.
A: I can't speak to that.
Q: How many people do you think will be impacted by this in the Commonwealth?
A: I knew you'd ask, and we don't keep such statistics. And assistive technology figures don't include everyone who may actually have problem. The Federal Government says that 19% self-identify as being disabled. I would estimate that more that 19% of Massachusetts employees use some type of assistive technologies. In fact, not everyone who is disabled can work.
Q: If you would like to supplement your testimony at any time in the future, or if you have any estimate of your own cost center and your own budget, we would be better informed if you would provide it. And we will update you as well. Thank you.
Next, I call Gerry Berrier - Bay State Council for the Blind and John Winske - Disability Policy Counsel 4. Statement of Mr. Berrier: I have used many technologies over the years, and today I am pleased to say that there are many programs that the blind can use. And we oppose this policy until we are assured that this will not work to the disadvantage of State workers with disabilities. We've had many situations in the past where we were told "let's just put this in place and see what happens." Its like building the house first, and being promised that the wheelchair ramp will come later. Sometimes accessibility can't be provided later, and when it can, it is always more expensive. Accessibility planning needs to be done advance.
One of the most problematic programs, as a matter of fact, has been PDF. In order for it to be accessible with a screen viewer, it must be created with the latest standards, and I think that most people don't even know that these standards exist. I've learned that the Labor Department has recently moved away form ODF, because of a lack of technical support for the ODF platform. They believe, and I do too, that open source is still in its infancy, and that the support is not there yet.
If we want to have accessibility, we're going to need a full-time office in the Commonwealth that works to achieve accessibility. We've been through many technology swings, and we want to make sure that this is not another bad experience for those with disabilities. Its a matter of our civil rights.
Pacheco: Thank you for your testimony. It would be helpful if we could get your comments in a way that we can share them with others. If you can get us a copy of your testimony that would be helpful.
A: Do you have a particular format in mind?
5. Testimony of John Winske
[it was extremely hard to hear this speaker]
We are here to protest the policy proposed. [missed sentence] This will have an adverse economic impact, and we are concerned about this move without due consideration for our community. As a self-described techno-junky, I subscribe to [?] and saw the first ODF story; I was [not pleased?] We received no responses from our comments, and during the public comment period, our calls only received a "we will get back to us shortly."
Why are we concerned? Because those with disabilities use many assistive technologies, none of which work with ODF today. Right now, ODF implementation would mean that no employee depending on assistive technologies could use their computers. Already, those with disabilities have great difficulty gaining employment; the Commonwealth is a significant employer of those with disabilities. We cannot afford to be further impacted.
As far as I know, two agencies involved with training and working with those with disabilities were unaware of this new policy. The equipment they use would now be useless. I now feel like we are in the closing seconds of a process, and only now is anyone saying, "Oh yeah, we need to worry about people with disabilities." We also worry about whether people can speak up, and keep their job.
Over time, equipment can be made to be made accessible, but promises can be broken. People with disabilities are a small part of the population; there is not enough incentive to vendors to build products to assist us. And there is no incentive to build more than one screen reader, so we will not have options.
Also this is a poor policy to make public documents accessible. A great many records are already not accessible, possibly in violation of the law.
I do use open source software, and I do not like monoliths. But I can say that this policy has been made rashly, and we are being closed out again. I thank you.
Pacheco: I hope that you will make your statement available to us.
A: I will within the week.
Q: Mr. Berrier, were you contacted in advance? A: No, we were not. [Ben Highland (sp?) joins in at the witness table] Q: I think that its important that you have come forward to speak. Mr. Berrier now gives a demonstration of using a screen reader, using MS Office. When I use the reader, it repeats what I say, and tells me what font I am using, and I can change it. I worked in a large corporation until recently, and was able to edit what other people wrote. In fact, other people would come to me to help find typos, because the typo correction software is so good. Training is required, but it is not difficult. It opens up a whole new world; I can look up a word in a dictionary, or order groceries, or do many other things. I'm not a Microsoft flunky, but I'm not a Microsoft basher, either. Its simply the best of what's out there today.
[technical difficulties curtail the demonstration]
6. Next the committee calls John Beveridge (sp?), IT Audit Division
[it was hard to hear this speaker as well] We are having a first meeting with Mr. Quinn tomorrow, and what I would like to speak about today is my reaction to the cost analysis. I deemed it to be a high level overview, rather than a detailed analysis. We submitted a proposal on August 9th [did I hear the right date?], but its difficult to tell right now whether the benefits claimed will really be achievable.
What I would really like to see would be for a real, long term analysis to be done, and not work with data that is several years old. I think that what's needed is to build real models that would also reflect management costs.
Pacheco: Is it possible for any analysis to be complete in this type of situation? A: Its difficult; you'd have to map it across assumptions. It's been very useful for me to sit here today; I've learned a lot. The technology should help people do their jobs. I think there's merit to the thought that we don't use all software functionalities. I'm not sure that the solution is to take them away, however. I'm somewhat on the fence about ODF. But that's different from keeping to a January 2007 deadline. I'd like to be able to be back to you with more exact thoughts soon.
Q: I've met with a number of associations, who favor the ODF policy, although I've heard different things from each of them about what it would mean to them. It surprised me that they would be supporters, but for different reasons. It puts you in a position where quite frankly you don't know who to believe. And that's why we have an independent Auditors Office, so it can take a look at what the Executive Office is putting on track and, in this case, quite quickly, when some in government aren't even aware of it. That's stunning, that we would be moving forward that quickly with an agenda that may not be all that it's cracked up to be. That's why I was hoping that the ITD would hold up - maybe just a bit - a month or two - to let the officers weigh in, and let your office really take a look at this.
I'd like to see some independent direction, and quite frankly, we haven't received that. We've received self-serving testimony from all kinds of groups. I've met with just about everyone who's involved here, and they're all great. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they are not going to each put their own spin on it, and I don't blame them for doing so. So I'm looking for some objectivity from you.
So I'm hearing that sufficient information is not there right now.
A: I'm hopeful that that will begin to be available, staring tomorrow.
Q: But what can we expect?
A: It will probably take us a few weeks to get our arms around it; we'll need to understand how it relates to other initiatives; I expect that a few weeks from now we'll begin to be able to give you an estimate.
Q: I hope that we can have an interim report in some reasonable period of time. Can we have any faith in the document we have right now? Who the ITD has talked to? What time frames they used? So we'd certainly appreciate your viewpoint.
A: [There is a second person at the table who's name I did not catch; I believe he is from the same office.] Q: I thank you very much. 7. That completes our scheduled witnesses. I had promised Mr. Quinn that he could return. Quinn: Perhaps I should let sleeping dogs lie. Pacheco: then thanks to all of you. Let me tell you what happens next.
We'll be recontacting some of those that testified today, and getting written documents from them; we may be in touch with certain industry groups; we want to be in touch with the Auditors Office and the IT folks as this goes on; and we certainly want to stay in touch with the disability folks to hear how discussions are proceeding involving them.
One final comment that I would like to make on the record. We have called this hearing not because of technology issues, because its not about that - we'll get what we want at the end of the day. We've called this hearing for a number of reasons: One, we want to understand the statutory position. We hear the ITD say they can move forward, period. And we heard also that they cannot. We have a problem.
The second point for the hearing: process. Keeping faith with what the open source community itself has put on the table each time we have talked to them - open process. And from what we've heard today, we've had far less than democracy, when a policy could impact a large part of the workforce. That's far from a collaborative process.
And finally, we called this meeting because of the potential costs. We may go forward with an initiative, and we need to know what the costs and the impacts will be. And we need to know what these impacts will be. I thought that the Ways and Means Committee, on which I sit, surely would have had a discussion about this. And they first learned about it from me. And I've also learned today that any cost analysis we have today is deficient.
So I'd like to say on the public record that our concerns have been born out in each of these three areas.
[The meeting was adjourned by Senator Pacheco at 4:40 PM]