David Berlind brings up a very important fact. Proprietary often means closed. And closed can mean closed access to those who may need the information.
If there ever was a value statement from a public official regarding the reasons for moving to open standards, perhaps that statement came from Eric Kriss, Secretary of Administration & Finance for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. According to a Computer Reseller News report written by Paula Rooney:
Kriss emphasized, however, that the state is not moving to open standards for economic reasons but to protect the right of the public to open and free access to public documents for the foreseeable future. “What we’ve backed away from at this point is the use of a proprietary standard and we want standards that are published and free of legal encumbrances, and we donâ€™t want two standards,” Kriss said.
It’s too bad the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn’t have the same foresight. As fellow ZDNet blogger Paul Murphy points out, FEMA’s online registration area for disaster aid is only accessible, according to FEMA’s Web site, by Internet Explorer 6. I confirmed the problem by going down FEMA’s registration path, clicking on Register for Asssitance from this page, and sure enough, I was stopped dead in my tracks (I was using Firefox). The IE6 requirement raises questions about the Federal government’s own public access policy, particulary since IE6 isn’t something that all of the public has on their computers (eg: Macs and Linux boxes).
As you can see above, FEMA and some other agencies have chosen the ‘closed’ propriatary path rather than the long sighted ‘open’ path for information.
There was a recent example of this when there was a ‘broadcasted’ fund raiser for relief after the Tsunami disaster.
Many of the folks that would have enjoyed hearing that ‘broadcast’ and seeing how folks were pulling together to help them were locked out because of the proprietary format of the ‘broadcast’ that generally only works in Windows. Many in developing nations are moving to Open Source because of cost and open standards.
Many of us see the need to do the same thing even in western civilizations because of the ‘closed’ nature of proprietary standards and the unwanted limitations of such a ‘closed’ system.
When will more in the federal governmetn — those who are using ‘our’ tax dollars to lock people out — realize this very simple concept??
There was a very interesting quote in a Star Wars movie that I think is pretty telling:
Princess Leia: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
This is not a Windows only world .. no matter what Micosoft thinks.