By Kirsten Fiedler

Today, we are celebrating the Document Freedom Day to raise awareness for Open Standards. Open Standards allow us to share all kinds of data freely. They ensure availability, transparency and interoperability of software and document formats – and prevent us from being locked in to using a particular software or service.

We believe that the European Commission should lead by example – unfortunately in many communications that citizens have with the institutions this is not yet the case. We have therefore joined an open letter to the European Commission to request that it maximise inclusiveness and engagement through the use of Open Standards. Here is our joint letter (pdf) to the Commission:

opendocday

Today is Document Freedom Day, the international day to celebrate and raise awareness of Open Standards. On this occasion, we would like to reflect on the importance for public institutions in general, and for the European Commission in particular, considering its leadership role, of using Open Standards in all their digital communication and services.

Open Standards are formats and protocols which everybody can use free of charge and restriction and for which no specific software from a particular vendor is required. They are essential for interoperability and freedom of choice based on the merits of different software applications. For a public institution such as the European Commission, this is especially important because every EU citizen and company should have the right to communicate and interact with its administration using Open Standards exclusively, and not be forced to install and use software from any specific vendor. That is why we take this opportunity of Document Freedom Day, to voice our concerns on the improper use of standards in the context of applying for EU programmes.

Nowadays, when applying for most EU programmes, applicants are typically required to fill in PDF forms that use elements only implemented in proprietary software from a particular vendor (Adobe), software that is currently not available on all platforms. This is a problem for many applicants who end up bereft of choice or excluded from the process altogether. It does not have to be this way, when a number of efficient alternatives exist that are entirely based on Open Standards. Generally, we would advise against the use of PDF for online forms, and would instead recommend solutions based Open Web Standards like HTML5 and XForms. With this joint statement, we call on the European Commission to address this situation and ensure that all interactions with the public can be performed entirely using Open Standards, thereby ensuring maximum inclusiveness and freedom of choice for all European citizens. »

Signatories:
Jean-Christophe Becquet
President
April

Karsten Gerlof
President
Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)

Andreas Krisch
President
European Digital Rights (EDRi)

Graham Taylor
CEO
OpenForum Europe (OFE)

Peter Ganten
Chairman of the board
Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA)