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South Africa ODF Adoption Outdated


29 Apr 2008


Trade & Society

South Africa’s recent adoption of the ODF standard represents a tact that will blunt innovation, much needed for their developing economy. The policy choice – which actually reduces software choice – runs contrary to worldwide policy trends, where multiple standards rule, thus threatening to separate South Africa from the wealth creating abilities of the global ICT industry.

For CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the overall concern for the global ICT industry is to ensure that lawmakers adopt flexible policies and set policy targets rather than deciding on fixed rules, technologies and different national standards to achieve these targets. Such rigid approaches pull the global ICT market apart rather than getting markets to work together and boost innovation for consumers and taxpayers. “The adoption sends a negative signal to a highly innovative sector” says Hugo Lueders, CompTIA’s Group Director, Public Policy EMEA.
The “South African Bureau of Standards” (SABS) approved the Open Document Format (ODF) on Friday 18 April as an official national standard. This adoption, if implemented, will reduce choice, decrease the benefits of open competition and thwart innovation. The irony here is that South Africa is moving in a direction which stands in stark relief to the reality of the highly dynamic market, with some 40 different formats available today.
“Multiple co-existing standards as opposed to only one standard should be favoured in the interest of users. The markets are the most efficient in creating standards and it should stay within the exclusive hands of the market”, Hugo Lueders explains.

In light of the recent ISO/IEC adoption of the ECMA OOXML standard, the South African decision will not lead to improvements in the ICT sector. CompTIA urges Governments to allow consumers and users to decide which standards are best. We fear that the choice of just one standard runs the risk of being outdated before it is even implemented, as well as being prohibitively costly to public budgets and taxpayers.

Governments should not restrict themselves to working with one standard, and should urge legislators to refrain from any kind of mandatory regulation and discriminatory interventions in the market. The global ICT industry recommends Governments to embrace the reality and logic of choice and to devote their energies to ensuring interoperability through this choice.

For more information please contact Hugo Lueders +32 475/63.33.52, or Timme Dossing, cabinet DN +32 2 234 58 57,

About The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA): CompTIA is a global trade association representing the business interests of the information technology industry. For more than 26 years CompTIA has provided research, networking and partnering opportunities to its 22,000 members in 102 countries. The association is involved in developing standards and best practices, and influencing the political, economic and educational arenas that impact IT worldwide, see: