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Challenge: Sharing or collaborating with government documents

Short description: 

Citizens, businesses and delivery partners, such as charities and voluntary groups, need to be able to interact with government officials, sharing editable documents. Officials within government departments also need to work efficiently, sharing and collaborating with documents.

Users must not have costs imposed upon them due to the document format in which editable government documents are shared or requested.

User need: 

Users in this challenge include citizens, businesses and delivery partners who need to share information with government using editable documents. Users are also officials within government departments who need to share and work on documents together.

Users need to:

  • Submit editable documents to officials or government services
  • Open editable documents from officials or government services
  • Edit documents and be confident that the information in their documents remains usable and editable when it is shared with other users

As part of the challenge phase, these needs will be investigated further and may be refined or expanded based on feedback.

Expected benefits: 

  • Users are able to share and work on editable government documents
  • Users are not required to buy new software to submit documents to government officials or services due to the document format requested
  • Users are able to re-use data and text, where the licence permits

Functional needs: 

Citizens, businesses and delivery partners must be able to interact with government officials and services, or those working on behalf of government, sharing appropriately formatted, editable documents.

Users should be able to work on their device of choice and must not have costs imposed upon them due to the document format in which government documents are provided or requested.

Documents should be editable on different devices without loss of integrity - the information should not become spoiled. Documents in this context include:

  • Word processed texts
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations

As part of the challenge phase, these needs will be investigated further and may be refined or expanded based on feedback.

Status: 

Completed

Related meeting minutes: 

Response received via email on 15 January 2014. Posted here on behalf of the Dutch Standardisation Forum.

ODF is a ratified ISO standard which comprehensively defines a unique version of a file format. Viewers are available for all common platforms listed in https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/end-user-devices-security-guid... . When a user expects to travel to somewhere no Internet connection is available, ODF text documents (in UTF-8 etc), drawings / charts, formulae, images and spreadsheets can be worked on using a standalone desktop / laptop. ODF files also have intrinsic support for reasonably nontrivial encryption (128-bit Blowfish CFB), which would act to augment the encryption already used on Government portable devices.

Online web-based editing is preferable, as this minimises the amount of persistent state on user devices.

ODF it's an internationally recognised open source document format which fully satisfies all the requirements of both government and citizens which doesn't impose any cost to either.

Switching to ODF format would allow anybody to open and exchange documents without having to purchase a set of applications made only by one vendor.

Governments achieve lowest operational costs and most flexibility when they embrace a small number of popular and widely supported open standard formats. Governments should not expect files in any single standard to be readable or editable by every potential recipient. Remaining flexible and choosing applications which best support their range of open standard formats offers the prospect of engaging with citizens by allowing for a degree of latitude in how that collaboration takes place. By focusing on "how to get the job done", rather than "how the job is done", governments are able to improve the quality and value of the services they provide for citizens.

The ODF format meets all the requirements and also ensures future proofing.

We would argue for a managed reduction in legacy formats that are not standardised. Minimal use of transitional standards and use of ODF thereafter.

 

However in a period where most full featured products support to one degree or another a wide range of standards and new online platforms are seeking more streamlined flexible approaches than 'fat' applications many of the key issues in this challenge are beyond choosing a standard and lie in properly managing installations and internal simplification processes.

The government should not depend on and require citizens to use badly documented "standards" as Office Open XML and use the free alternative ODF instead and thereby avoid the need to buy additional software in order to communicate with the government.

Open Standards would give "consumers" of Government Documents the freedom to use any method of viewing and editing information they wish. There should be no dependency on any one vendor's file types

 

The Challenges reflect today's approach to Documents – seeing them as a standalone document maintaining the integrity of the original copy. This has substantial potential legal implications as well as ones of user access. Equally changes inevitable result of the Government's 'Digital by Default' strategy where a document is just a transient 'page' within an online transaction.  Finally the role of different stakeholders  may need to be refined  as a result of  Cloud based services, where providers may 'transparently' offer a layer of  protection between document formats supported.

In recent years there has been something of a push towards organisations considering adoption of Open Document Format ( ODF ) for their documents as opposed to staying with proprietary, established formats such as Microsoft Office (.doc formats for example). 

The goal of having a standard interchangeable format is well intentioned to allow for free sharing of files without regard to the application generating the files. While that is the goal of the standards organization OASIS, there is a fundamental issue that can prevent the goal from being achieved in that the standard intentionally allows the format to be extended.

 

There are multiple issues around ODF that require distinct clarification and at the very least further investigation.

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Update: The time period for commenting on this proposal has been extended to 17:00 GMT on Friday 28 February.

Citizens, businesses and delivery partners, such as charities and voluntary groups, need to be able to interact with government officials, sharing and editing documents. Officials within government departments also need to work efficiently, sharing and collaborating with documents. Users must not have costs imposed upon them due to the format in which editable government information is shared or requested.

[Incorporated in a standards profile]

Citizens, businesses and delivery partners must be able to interact with government officials and services, or those working on behalf of government, sharing appropriately formatted, editable documents.

Officials within government departments also need to work efficiently, sharing and collaborating with documents. Documents in this context include word processed text, spreadsheets and presentations.

Citizens, businesses and delivery partners, such as charities and voluntary groups, need to be able to interact with government officials, sharing and editing documents. Officials within government departments also need to work efficiently, sharing and collaborating with documents. Users must not have costs imposed upon them due to the format in which editable government information is shared or requested.

[Incorporated in a standards profile]