Munich, 21 May 2008 — The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) today endorsed two petitions which call for the use of free and open standards in e-government to ensure all citizens’ rights to fair and equal interaction with political institutions. In a letter  to the Members of the European Parliament the association urges them to back these initiatives and implement the requested changes. FFII calls on its members and the general public to lend their support.
Open Parliament is a petition for open standards use in the European Parliament as to enable non-discriminatory access for all European citizens to its representatives irrespective of software choices. “It is important that citizens enjoy the right to access government documents and to view parliamentary records without being required to buy the products of a particular vendor and that they can communicate with the authorities and their services independent of which software vendor they choose.” writes FFII board member Georg Jakob in the letter to the MEPs and asks them to base their communications and documentation on open standards.
The Hague Declaration, to be presented today by the Digital Standards Organisation project in the city, also calls for open digital standards to be used in government procurement. For the drafters of The Hague Declaration the citizens’ right to open standards is derived from the rights conferred by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the current transition to a digital society where government services are provided electronically governments are asked to protect these rights.
The Hague declaration calls on governments to:
- Procure only information technology that implements free and open standards;
- Deliver e-government services based exclusively on free and open standards;
- Use only free and open digital standards in their own activities.
FFII board member Georg Jakob explains: “The right to non-discrimination, as well as those to have a fair trial, an effective remedy, and an independent judge are applicable in important parts of public administration. They are jeopardized if governments do not adhere to free and open standards in their digital interaction with citizens. These rights are derived from the fundamental principles of civil liberties protected in international law, including the European Convention of Human Rights and the national constitutions of all EU member states.” He adds: “If governments use non-interoperable formats, they discriminate their own citizens by forcing them to use software by specific vendors or excluding them from the political process. “ Jakob concludes: “Both initiatives draw attention to a serious grievance and suggest suitable remedies. We call on the members of the European Parliament to heed them and ask all our supporters to sign them both.”
A digital standard may be considered free and open, if it is (1) maintained by a not-for-profit organization in a way open to all interested parties, (2) accompanied by a freely available and distributable specification. Furthermore, all patents on parts of the standard must be made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis and there may be no constraints on the re-use of the standard.
The OpenParliament Petition was launched jointly by OpenForum Europe (OFE), the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), and the European Software Market Association (ESOMA). The Hague Declaration was drafted by the Digital Standards Organization (DIGISTAN).
FFII Board Member
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About the FFII
The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in over fifty countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 850 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.