News came out over the weekend that representatives from six countries—Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Cuba—have written an open letter to the ISO and IEC criticizing the handling of the OOXML appeals.
See, for example,
- Groklaw: “CONSEGI 2008 Declaration — Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues”
- Andy Updegrove: “The CONSEGI 2008 Declaration: Six Nations “Just Say No” to ISO/IEC”
- Jomar Silva: “OpenXML: Newton’s Third Law”
- Open Malaysia: “OOXML won’t be accepted in South America”
- Charles-H. Schultz: “Teenage Riot?”
Several of these, e.g., Groklaw, contain the text of the letter.
I had hoped for better from the ISO and IEC. I had hoped that they would not try to force the opinions of the executives on the boards considering the appeals. I had hoped that ISO and IEC would understand that refusing to give a fair hearing to the concerns of emerging economies would be neither logical nor sensible.
I’m usually an optimist but in situation after situation, the response has always been “we are right and—wait a minute until we find it—we have a rule which justifies our forcing OOXML through the system.”
With the actions of the ISO and IEC, and with this letter from the countries, we’re seeing a serious backlash to the role of these standards bodies in creating and approving IT standards. That is, while they’ve created thousands of standards for safety, mining, agriculture, and other areas, perhaps people are now shifting away from thinking that these groups should have anything to do with IT and interoperability standards.
With the actions of the ISO and IEC, I think people have every reason to think that way. I feel that way.
So what will fill this void? Will the new leadership that will sit at the top of the ISO in 2009 make the necessary changes to help it regain its reputation in the IT world? Or will Fortress ISO continue to maintain its infallibility in all things OOXML-wise?
Will a new organization rise up to take the place of the ISO for IT standards?
Is it just the wrong model entirely for IT standards meant for global use?
What would an ISO that “gets ‘open'” even look like?
I know about the ISO, IEC, and WTO. Reviewing the language, I didn’t notice anything about it being in place or relevant “forever and ever and ever and ever.”
So here are a few things to remember about what’s coming out of the OOXML fiasco and how ISO/IEC handled it:
- There are a lot of very angry people out there, and these people are willing to work for significant change.
- These people are not going away, and the ISO and IEC can’t just “wait them out.”
- People are in this for the long haul. Some things can be done quickly, but if others take years, then people are committed to work on them however long it takes.
- ISO and IEC have damaged their reputations and caused people to question seriously their relevance to IT interoperability standards in important emerging economies.
- Change at this point in inevitable.