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GDS makes new push on ODF usage



Five-step plan focuses on getting more departments publishing on GOV.UK to use the open format

A fresh push is under way to encourage government bodies to publish documents in open formats.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has produced a five-step plan to inject fresh momentum into a drive that began four years ago.

It says in a blogpost that significant progress has been made with far fewer documents published on GOV.UK in closed formats, but that some departments have not update their workflows to publish in its preferred Open Document Format (ODF). This is free of proprietary licences and can be used in a range of programmes to ensure documents are readable for years to come.

“Every modern office suite supports ODF, but we still hear from users who are confused about how they should open these files, especially on mobile devices,” it says.

It also acknowledges that more departments are publishing documents in web language HTML, which makes it accessible without uploading or sharing files. It says this is a positive movement, but that it is still eager to see more documents published in ODF.

Guidance on publishing

The five steps include an update of the guidance on publishing on GOV.UK and on using ODF. GDS is also planning to review historic documents that are often downloaded and work with departments on republishing in ODF or HTML formats, and to collect quarterly statistics on which files have been uploaded and downloaded.

It will also take action if it sees a department regularly publishing in closed formats without providing an open equivalent – visiting the publishing teams to nudge them towards open formats.

“We cannot have important documents published in formats which do not meet open standards,” the blog says. “Government documents are for everyone. Whether you're using Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux, Chrome OS, iOS, Android, or any other system, you have the right to read what we have written.”

Image from Free Software Foundation, CC ANDW 3.0

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