You can now petition the European Union to 'fix my document'

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International open data hackathon 2011: Better tools, more data, bigger fun

Last fall, Open Forum Europe (OFE) initiated an effort to help the European Union (EU) institutions live up to their commitments to support open document formats when communicating with the public.

Inspired by the pothole identification and alert site and app,, OFE, through its, is giving a crowd-sourced voice to public frustration with software interoperability limitations that stand in the way of citizens who are seeking to communicate and interact with government.

It should be noted, however, this is more than a vehicle through which to vent. Many parts of the EU are legitimately working hard to implement ODF, the open document format for office applications. will help them better identify software and documents that are presenting the most pressing and immediate problems. As an added benefit, it should not go unnoticed that more fully deploying ODF and other open standards will help the EU avoid vendor lock-in.

In its brief existence, has already reported—on its blog—small signs of progress. In the first month, 51 web pages, which contained more than 15,000 documents, were reported. For better or for worse, only one of these pages has been fixed. As the blog notes:

While this may not seem like a lot, we choose to take it as an encouraging sign: We have had regular exchanges with the EU institutions over the past month, and they have clearly expressed that they take this issue seriously. Of course, considering the number of documents uploaded on a daily basis on the different websites of the EU institutions, and more importantly the number of individuals involved in this process, it inevitably takes time to address the issue.

A January blog posting reports and implicitly seeks to take some credit for the fact that the European Commission began last November to prospectively issue press releases in .pdf only (instead of including .doc). As the blog points out, other EU institutions such as the Council of the European Union, have yet to follow suit.

Nonetheless, the site is still very new and is working hard to gain traction and attention. While limited to focusing on the EU institutions for reasons including resources and bandwidth, invites anyone to contact them if there is interest in deploying this model in other jurisdictions.

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Paul Brownell is EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) Public Policy Director for Red Hat. While currently located in Europe, he previously led Dell’s Federal Government Affairs team in Washington, DC. He also represented the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and the American Electronics Association (AeA) before the US government.


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This is an excellent move by the European Union!

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