Note: Nominations for the awards noted below will close on October 8, so please act now
I almost missed this story, until I caught a link to it at Bob Sutor's blog. As I was about to do the same and simply add a link to it to my News Picks column, it occurred to me that there's more of a story here than meets the eye.
That said, let's start with the superficial story, as announced in a posting at the ODF Alliance Web site, issued on September 9, which begins as follows (as usual, the full text appears at the end of this blog entry):
Know someone in your community—an individual, government official, NGO or other entity—who has significantly advanced the cause of document freedom, yet whose actions have not received the public recognition they deserve?...The purpose of the award is to recognize the contribution of individuals or entities in promoting ODF adoption, the mission of the ODF Alliance. Here’s how you can help! Nominate an individual or entity you work with closely or someone you have observed who stands out as a leader in the ODF community.
What's remarkable about this story, of course, is not that the ODF Alliance is giving awards to those that deserve them it (why not? It's a great way to advance the Alliances cause as well), but that there are so many people in so many countries around the world that are eligible by reason of their service in support of what was once an obscure software standard. Now, how often does something like that come along?
The answer, of course, is "not often," and the reason is that IT standards rarely (until now) had broader social dimensions. The fact that ODF has become broadly recognized as important to causes such as public access to government, accommodation of those with disabilities, equal opportunity for those in the third world, and more is vitally important in its own right. But it also marks a watershed event that transcends this single standard, because ODF is only one among an increasing number of standard that will be similarly important. I’ve referred to them in the past as "Civil ICT Standards." And when implemented in free and open source software, the impact of such standards can become geometrically more powerful.
Recognizing and acting on the importance of such tools, however, can have a cost, and particularly so for public officials. Massachusetts, where the ODF story in many respects really began, saw the resignation of two CIOs in succession, in whole or in part as a result of commercial opposition to their support of the ODF standard. Their principled stand in support of open standards has been echoed at the local, state and/or national level in many countries around the world, in countries such as Brazil, Great Britain, France, India, Malyasia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, and Venezuela, to name only a few. The positions taken by those individuals have not always been popular, and in some cases, their careers have suffered.
The initiative of the ODF Alliance in offering recognition to such individuals is therefore important – as is yours. Receiving an award from the Alliance may be useful to those outside as well as inside of government that have acted in support of ODF, and may provide added incentives to others in the future that may be faced with difficult, and even risky, choices. And not just in support of ODF, but of other important Civil ICT Standards as well.
So if you know someone whose actions deserve recognition, and especially if they have not received it already, please nominate them today. All you need to do is send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- name of person/entity
- email address
- brief description of this person or entity’s actions, and importantly
- the reasons why you are nominating the person/entity
How easy can you get? It will take only a few moments of your time, and you’ll feel virtuous all day.
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Know someone in your community—an individual, government official, NGO or other entity—who has significantly advanced the cause of document freedom, yet whose actions have not received the public recognition they deserve? Thanks to the efforts of its supporters worldwide, ODF has become the format of the future, a truly open standard that has achieved growing popularity and support in a variety of software products, bringing to an end the era of closed formats that have kept users tied to a single vendor’s products.
The purpose of the award is to recognize the contribution of individuals or entities in promoting ODF adoption, the mission of the ODF Alliance. Here’s how you can help! Nominate an individual or entity you work with closely or someone you have observed who stands out as a leader in the ODF community. This may be an individual who has successfully mobilized grassroots activity in support of ODF? A government official who in the face of resistance to change has broken down the barriers to public access to information, improved eGov services, and saved taxpayer money in the process? An NGO that raised awareness about document freedom by hosting speakers, events, and spread the word about the importance of open documents. The award is not restricted to ODF advancement in government, and can include other categories, for example, ODF advancement in education, community or rural development. In your nomination, please be sure to include:
-name of person/entity
-brief description of this person or entity’s actions, and importantly
-the reasons why you are nominating the person/entity.
Nominations are to be sent to mmarcich at odfalliance dot org no later than October 8, 2008. The ODF Alliance and its affiliated national chapters are not eligible for nomination. Winners will be announced at upcoming national or local ODF events.