ISO/IEC officially redundant and history

Thanks to Andy Updegrove for bringing this to our attention.


We, the undersigned representatives of state IT organisations from Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay, note with disappointment the press release from ISO/IEC/JTC-1 of 20 August regarding the appeals registered by the national bodies of Brazil, South Africa, India and Venezuela. Our national bodies, together with India, had independently raised a number of serious concerns about the process surrounding the fast track approval of DIS29500. That those concerns were not properly addressed in the form of a conciliation panel reflects poorly on the integrity of these international standards development institutions.

Whereas we do not intend to waste any more resources on lobbying our national bodies to pursue the appeals further, we feel it is important to make the following points clear:

  1. The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast track processing of DIS29500 remains a significant concern to us. That the ISO TMB did not deem it necessary to properly explore the substance of the appeals must, of necessity, put confidence in those institutions ability to meet our national requirements into question.
  2. The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern. Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.
  3. The large scale adoption of a standard for office document formats is a long and expensive exercise, with multi-year projects being undertaken in each of our countries. Many of us have dedicated significant time and resources to this effort. For example, in Brazil, the process of translation of ISO/IEC26300 into Portuguese has taken over a year.

The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads. Given the organisation’s inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks. Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.


Aslam Raffee (South Africa)
Chairman, Government IT Officer’s Council Working Group on Open Standards Open Source Software

Marcos Vinicius Ferreira Mazoni (Brazil)
Presidente, Servico Federal de Processamento de Dados

Carlos Eloy Figueira (Venezuela)
President, Centro Nacional de Tecnologías de Información

Eduardo Alvear Simba (Ecuador)
Director de Software Libre, Presidencia de la República

Tomas Ariel Duarte C. (Paraguay)
Director de Informática, Presidencia de la República

Miriam Valdés Abreu (Cuba)
Directora de Análisis, Oficina para la Informatización.


The above is a joint and public statement from the State IT bodies of Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay when they met at a conference CONSEGI 2008 at the end of last week.

It is a really important development in the OOXML (DIS29500) fiasco and one that confirms what I have been saying for some time now; that ISO/IEC, in respect to ICT standards at least, are finished. They have no trust in ISO’s ability to produce Open Standards any more.

I was particulary interested in how much effort has been put into supporting IS26300 which was approved in 2006 and is now in widespread use around the world. This is the default (and currently the only really open standards) document format in many office suites like and also on many of the on-line services like Google Docs. It will even be supported in the next SP to, and release of, Microsoft’s Office product before they get around to delivering DIS29500 – if they ever do that is.

This has really been a sorry affair for ISO. They have lost all credibility, have been shafted well and truly by M$/ECMA and now are being told to “F” off in no uncertain terms by nation state IT organisations. What a complete mess.

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