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Viewing government documents: proposal

Date submitted:
Tue, 28/01/2014 - 6:41pm
Submitted by:
lhumphries
Category:

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

Citizens, businesses and government officials need to be able to access and read government documents on their own devices.

Users must not have costs imposed upon them, or be digitally excluded, due to the document format in which government documents are provided.

User need approach view more
Achieving the expected benefits view more
Functional needs view more
Other steps to achieving interoperability view more

Comments

Comments:

1. although it is implied that accessibility (as...

Comments:

1. although it is implied that accessibility (as human functioning, not only device access) is in scope, I wonder whether this would be worth calling out explicitly. In this respect, there are implications for the way information resources are planned and developed around user needs. i.e. maybe "other steps" should be broadened.

2. I am curious about HTML4.01 being included. If possible, a HTML5-based strategy would seem to be neater, more powerful, and more future-proof, although there are doubtless still plenty of users for whom a shim is needed. What was the GDS experience?

3. There are probably a large number of caveats around HTML, both profiling which parts of the standards should/not be used, and requiring good structural semantics. More other steps??

Cheers, Adam

I agree with Adam that accessibility (ensuring that ICT is...

I agree with Adam that accessibility (ensuring that ICT is accessible to all and especially people with disabilities) needs to be called out explicitly.

Standards that neeed to be added are:

WCAG 2.0 http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

PDF/UA ISO 14289-1:2012 http://www.iso.org/iso/home/store/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnu...

I am suprised that there is no mention of epub as a forat, with...

I am suprised that there is no mention of epub as a forat, with the increasing use of ebooks and ebook reader this may well be the best format for the future.

You beat me to it.  epub2 would meet all of the criteria.  There...

You beat me to it.  epub2 would meet all of the criteria.  There are event freeware programmes such as sigil and calibre for creating and reading them on many platforms.  

I've never had to use them but I think there are specalist text to speech and text to braille systems out there that accept epubs as input.

A big advantage would be the ease with which html based documentation could be easily converted into epub because of the underlying technologies involved.  Epub3 could even provide the 'rich' functionality they want.

The OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition has set up a project to...

The OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition has set up a project to investigate Accessible Documents and welcomes comments see http://www.onevoiceict.org/node/130 .

As just a humble citizen who happens to work in a small charity, I...

As just a humble citizen who happens to work in a small charity, I fully support the proposal to move to the ODF. It is not very often that I support Govenment proposals, but this is one that seems very sensible and reduces dependance upon a format that is used by Microsoft to maintain rrliasnce upon their software.

"PDF/A should be used as the default for non-editable documents....

"PDF/A should be used as the default for non-editable documents. PDF 1.7 should be used where more rich functionality is needed."

PDF/A generally seems the best option all round. 

I am not convinced that PDF 1.7 and rich functionality is a good idea.  For "viewing" documents, additional features beyond PDF/A shouldn't be needed.  Where features such as form-filling are needed, I would strongly prefer ODF (cf. your other proposal at http://standards.data.gov.uk/proposal/sharing-collaborating-government-d...).  The reason for this is that the more features are used, the more likely some area of incompatibility or non-interoperability will be encountered.  The final test should be "is there freely available software for a wide range of platforms that will properly render this document?"

Standardisation on ODF for downloadable, editable and storable...

Standardisation on ODF for downloadable, editable and storable documents along with PDF for non-editable downloads and HTML for content that is only for online viewing rather than downloading seems eminently sensible to me. I do not use proprietary operating systems on any computers that I would use to view, discuss and respond to Government proposals. Consequently, I do not want to receive Government documents which contain proprietary formats, especially something as ill-defined and subject to arbitrary changes as Microsoft's Office formats. In my opinion none of the MS Office formats, which include OOXML, are sufficiently well-defined to serve as a standard. 

Generally this is an excellent idea and should be encouraged....

Generally this is an excellent idea and should be encouraged. There is direct benefit as described above. There is also the indirect benefit that if a major customer and IT user like UK Gov moves to this system, there will be great pressure on others to do the same, and on all suppliers to really support these formats 100%. Much of the FUD about these formats arises from minor or niche features not transferring properly, but that can be fixed if they go properly mainstream.

Your real challenge will be to allow the list of standards to increase (e.g. where there is an XML or other format which is entirely relevant and mainstream) whilst keeping out things which are nominally "standards" but which are actually minor, or very difficult to comply with, which have been pushed into an ISO process by an interested manufacturer. We know that some formats have "standard" status, but due to the complexity and poor support are never implemented properly. The manufacturers involved will be pushing hard to get "their" standard in, and they are canny players to identifying the factor which makes a "proprietary standard" different to a "real standard" will be difficult.

There are few documents nowadays that won't require the ability...

There are few documents nowadays that won't require the ability for later editing or searching. So these requirements should be added.

PDF is not really the best format, except at present for sending to a printer. Other formats (e.g. ODF) would be theoretically better, except that there has beenn little effort in the industry to validate software conformance to generated print layout. PDF's main success has been due to Adobe's insistance on effectively being a single standard reference for output format. Additionally the cost of the standards documents (CHF 122/140) is a deterrant to occasional use by software developers. So effort should also be put into output (print) format validation of software packages, not dependant on a single company's implementation.

If it is decided to use PDF, I wish to suggest the use of a "hybrid PDF" format, as can be generated by OpenOffice or Libre Office. This format acts just like a PDF, can be displayed by standard PDF viewers, but in addition includes the original source document in ODF format. Hence it can be re-edited, searched, passed to screen reader for visually impaired, etc.

When document integrity is a requirement, this should be done properly, such as by digital signatures. It should not depend on the false assumption that integrity is guaranteed because most citizens don't posess the software to edit the document.

In order to achieve stated objectives specific to accessibility in...

In order to achieve stated objectives specific to accessibility in final-form documents, ISO 14289 (PDF/UA) should be included in the list of standards to be used.

NOTE: These opinions are my own and not representative of the ISO 14289 committee.

On growing upon TXT CSV and HTML please allow me to suggest to...

On growing upon TXT CSV and HTML please allow me to suggest to your honorable consideration the extremely simple and beautiful FictionBook and the extremely friendly and powerful EPUB; without adittional DRM modules. Such beloved formats are here for the centuries.

Love PDF. Nowadays, problem with PDF is that is hardly human-...

Love PDF. Nowadays, problem with PDF is that is hardly human-auditable.

Good news about this process is that You are going to change the...

Good news about this process is that You are going to change the digital landscape :)

Please do not allow Yourself to forget JSON for non-SQL databases...

Please do not allow Yourself to forget JSON for non-SQL databases ;)

While I am not a UK citizen I feel that my comments may be useful...

While I am not a UK citizen I feel that my comments may be useful.

I am a small business owner, To save on expenses I have chosen not to use proprietary products for our computing and software needs, really they are unnecessary for what we do. We instead prefer to use Free Open Source Software where ever possible, this includes using a Free Open Source Office suite for all our documents and spreadsheets.

In general the use of this Free Open Source Software has reduced our running expenses to approximately 20% of what we calculated businesses of similar size spend on Computers and software (we were able to use older refurbished hardware, and we have kept it longer). The one fly in the ointment, so to speak, is that recently we have had to purchase a computer specifically to run Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, simply because a small number of Documents from both our Government and some larger businesses are formatted in a proprietary document format that our Free Open Source Office Suite is unable to render perfectly. This was an unplanned expense that left us out of pocket for other items we wished to purchase (we are a very small business).

What I urge you do do is mandate the use of fully open document standards such as ODF. As I believe the problem we have is one that is shared by many small businesses like ours, world wide. Where in order to utilise modern technology they are required to over spend on the computing side of the equation just simply to be able to render documents correctly on their office computers.

If the UK government does indeed mandate open standards many other governments, including my own, may well be forced to follow.

I completely support the proposals, both as a citizen and as the...

I completely support the proposals, both as a citizen and as the treasurer of a non-profit.

I am writing to confirm our strong support for the efforts of the...

I am writing to confirm our strong support for the efforts of the UK Government to promote open standards and open source for the Public Sector through its latest step to assure the highest degree of access for citizens who seek out or are presented with government documents.  Mandating the use of these standards will not only provide greater freedom and efficiency for citizens when interacting with their government, but will also serve to promote full compliance with the UK Government's 'Open Standards Principles" and be a positive example for public administrations throughout the United Kingdom.

Unsurprisingly, for an organisation that supports openness, and...

Unsurprisingly, for an organisation that supports openness, and for those who have read OpenForum Europe's detailed Response, OFE strongly supports the proposals made for both Challenges. They recognise not only the practicality of the market as it slowly moves to a digital on-line way of working, but also that they don't ignore the need for a smooth transition from the past. OFE would refer the UK Government to its full Response in detailing specific points in the Proposal.

Mozilla MAFF is the Open Format I use to save my personal...

Mozilla MAFF is the Open Format I use to save my personal documents.
"http://maf.mozdev.org/maff-file-format.html".
The latest version is distributed under a choice of several Open Source and Free Software licenses: the Mozilla Public License 1.1, the GNU General Public License 2.0, the GNU Lesser General Public License 2.1, or any later version of these licenses.

Prefer the big standards composed of several small, simple,...

Prefer the big standards composed of several small, simple, beloved and established standards to monolithic, cryptic and clumsy ones; Following this brings resilience.

PDF and PS can be keeped. Just look at SASS and LESS effort to...

PDF and PS can be keeped. Just look at SASS and LESS effort to humanise Cascading Style Sheets. Transcompilers are the key to save Machine Oriented Document Formats.

Why so little comments in such a big issue?  Please check your...

Why so little comments in such a big issue?  Please check your site security.

Haml CoffeeScript :)

Haml CoffeeScript :)

In the future OOXML could be brougth if normalized, modularized...

In the future OOXML could be brougth if normalized, modularized and profiled adecuately, 'a la' XHTML.

However, on OOXML, the promoters have to offer aceptable Open...

However, on OOXML, the promoters have to offer aceptable Open Licences for the Basic Profiles. And the Office Interface have to have clear and inmediate access to Save As... on All of these Basic Profiles. Failing to acomplish this in the two main and most used implementations will terminate the Government Support.

My main concern about accessibility has already been made.

...

My main concern about accessibility has already been made.

However, I am concerned that the examples given for "Access information on a device and platform of their choice", namely laptop, tablet or smartphone are too IT focused and may mislead some people in their thinking about how users may display, interact and consume HMG documents. Many people will be using consumer devices such as eReaders, TV's and Consoles.

Ok, you all convinced me, any scripting modules in Gov. software...

Ok, you all convinced me, any scripting modules in Gov. software should be heavely evaluated. That goes for JS on PDF and MAFF, too.

What about JAVA functionality in Open an Libre Office? How about...

What about JAVA functionality in Open an Libre Office? How about security? Can they work without it?

We will have to bring back Billions of docs xlss ppts from zombie...

We will have to bring back Billions of docs xlss ppts from zombie land. We can not just sink the other ship.