July 2006

Now, have greater control over your documents

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The Department of Management Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, in association with NIC, hosted the first National Seminar on Open Document Format (ODF) on 23rd June with the aim to increase awareness about ODF in India. The seminar was supported and represented by the leading technology institutions and academia like Center for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Open Source Software Resource Centre (OSSRC), International Congress on Electronic Governance (ICEG), Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, National Informatics Centre (NIC), IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay and global IT majors like Sun Microsystems, IBM, TCS, Red Hat and Novell.

The seminar was inaugurated with the traditional lighting of the lamp by the eminent dignitaries such as R. Chandrashekhar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology, Aruna Sundarajan, CEO, Common Service Centre Initiatives, Government of India, Jaijit Bhattacharya, Country Director, Sun Microsystems, Prof. Rajanish Das, IIM Ahmedabad and Dr. D. Moni, NIC among others. The speakers deliberated on the potential of ODF in India and action points, which when adopted, would change the way data is managed in the country.

ODF is an open XML based document file format that enables the retrieval of information and exchange of documents (including spreadsheets, charts and presentations) without regard to application or platform on which the document was created. The Open Document Format is created to enable its users to have greater control over and direct management of their own records, information and documents. ODF is available for implementation and use free of any licensing, royalty payments, or other restrictions. ODF has been an approved OASIS standard (Organisation for the Advancement of Structure Information Standards) since May 2005, and has been implemented by multiple vendors in a variety of products as well as in multiple open source software projects. Bringing this to India are the key members of the National ODF Alliance – which primarily include Sun Microsystems, IBM, Red Hat, IBM, Novell, CDAC and faculty from IIT Delhi, IIM Ahmedabad and IIT Mumbai.

Welcoming this initiative and highlighting its importance in Indian IT Scenario, R. Chandershekhar, said ODF is a great tool to realize India’s vision to deliver services in integrated manner. Considering the need to adopt open standards to make the data systems more interoperable, ODF is a great technological leap. He congratulated this initiative of leading private & public organisations and wished them all the best in this endeavor.

Prof. Yadav, Director, IIT, Delhi reiterated that the stress on the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) shows importance of e-Governance for a transparent and accountable government.

Emphasising the importance of ODF for Indian economy, Jaijit Bhattacharya, said, “As documents and services are increasingly transformed from paper to electronic form, there is a growing problem that governments and their constituents may not be able to access, retrieve and use critical records, information and documents in the future. Through the use of a truly open standard file format that can be implemented by numerous and varied applications, the Alliance seeks to enable governments and their constituents to overcome the issue and provide access year after year.”

Similarly, Aruna Sundarajan stressed on the importance of ODF in a developing country like India. She said, ” IT is one of the most powerful tools to reach out to the poor and inaccessible. Therefore, it is extremely important that the building blocks of this technology should remain extremely sovereign and open”. According to her, ODF is the most appropriate tool for the Common Service Centres that are to be set up as part of the NeGP initiative since it reduces cost and leads to long shelf life of IT assets.

Prof Rajanish Dass talked about the economic aspects of ODF. Quoting the IIM, Ahmedabad study, informed that between September ’04 and December ’05, out of its total IT software purchases of Rs 30 lakh, the Delhi government spent over Rs 24 lakh on buying licences for office suites. With OpenOffice available for free download from the internet, the government can now save the entire amount. Thus he added, “ODF is cost-effective, it provides the freedom from vendor lock-in and is very useful for nurturing the ICT enabled economy”. Recognising the advantages of ODF, it has been adopted already by the Life Insurance Corporation, Allahabad High Court and the Election Commission. However, Dass cautioned that the road ahead for ODF Alliance is quite challenging and suggested to create awareness regarding the benefits of ODF among decision makers and common people promoting ODF right from the level of school and colleges.

Rajdeep Sahrawat, Vice President, Nasscom said, “In today’s borderless economy, every firm regardless of size needs to integrate with its customers and suppliers through exchange of documents. Adoption of consistent document standards like ODF can significantly increase inter-operatibility and reduce the cost of B2B and B2C transactions. This is especially true for the small and medium enterprises (SME’) that can compete effectively by leveraging digital infrastructure at par with larger organisations. Similarly, SME firms in the IT industry engaged in developing IT products will be able to reduce the cost of product development by adoption of standards like ODF. ODF is a great technology leveler.”

“Government has  been encouraging open source”


R. Chandrashekhar
Additional Secretary, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Govt. of India

On Indian government’s stand on open standards
“The government has already given the indications that it is supportive of open standards. Apart from the government stand for and adopting open standards, government has also been encouraging open source and a National Resource Centre for Free and Open Source Software has been set up by CDAC.”

On the awareness among the government officials regarding the open source and open documents
“Among the government officials involved in implementing e-Governance, there is some degree of awareness. It certainly requires a lot of action and lot of awareness building. But outside of the community that is implementing e-Governance, the awareness of ODF is really quite low. It needs to be promoted really actively.”

There were also talks by B. Singh of Bureau of Indian Standards and Dr. M. Moni, NIC where they informed the steps being taken towards standardinsation and open documents by the Indian government. Umashankar from the Electronic Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT) informed that the state wide area network (SWAN) in Tamil Nadu being implemented by the ELCOT is totally based on open sources.

The seminar concluded with a resolution to organise more such seminars and to add more partners to the ODF Alliance to familiarise people and organisations with ODF.

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