Mass. Municipalities to Have an Opportunity to Assess ODF

One of the more bizarre, but less noticed threads in the OpenDocument Format (ODF) story in Massachusetts involves whether or not the many hundreds of municipalities in Massachusetts would be required to use software that supported ODF, or at least be able to work with documents created using such software when they interacted with State government.

My choice of the word “bizarre” is deliberate, and arises from two events. The first is that when the Information Technology Division (ITD) put forth the latest draft of its new version (3.0) of its Enterprise Technical Reference Model for final comment last August, one of the pieces of disinformation that was promoted by opponents of ODF was that all towns and cities in Massachusetts would be required to use software that supported ODF. This was not true — ETRM version 3.0 was intended only to regulate the Executive Agencies of the state government.

The second event provides the bizarre twist. After (inaccurately) lambasting the ITD for seeking to overstep its authority, the proposed amendment that was introduced last fall to strip the ITD of any policy power was itself modified — to provide that all of the State’s municipalities would also come under the thumb of the politically appointed task force that the amendment was intended to create!

At the same time, there are still great differences of opinion between those that are directly involved in Massachusetts. As I noted in the introduction to the interview with State Supervisor of Public Records Alan Cote that I posted a a few days ago, the positions taken by Alan are directly contradicted in many respects by those described at the ITD site and in the legal brief of ITD General Counsel Linda Hamel.

All of which has understandably left the CIOs of Massachusetts in a state of some confusion as to what the future may hold.

On March 28, those CIOs will have a golden opportunity to have some of this sorted out for them at a meeting of the Massachusetts Government Information Systems Association (MGISA). The speakers (besides myself) will be as follows:

Louis Gutierrez: ITD Director & Chief Information Officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Timothy Vaverchak: Director of Open Source Initiative — Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Alan Cote: First Deputy Secretary & Supervisor of Records — Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth

Patrick McCormick: Former City of Somerville CIO and a past President of MGISA; currently working for the Town of Brookline.

I’ll be beginning the program by presenting the chronology of events to date, after which each of the other speakers will present their perspective on the ODF issue, after which I’ll moderate a panel discussion, and take questions from the audience.

As of now, the event is not open to the press, but invitees (MGISA members) may bring guests, so if you work in a municipality or know a local CIO, you might find this an interesting event to attend. Hopefully, those in attendance will have an excellent opportunity to form their own judgments about ODF.

If that happens, what began as a commercial and political scuffle will instead turn into an opportunity for hundreds of cities and towns to consider adopting ODF themselves — not because they are ordered to do so (or not to do so), but because they can evaluate whether it would be beneficial to them, and those that they serve.

[To browse all prior blog entries on this story, click here]

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