Worldwide engagement leads to standards that get people working together.

The open standards selected for sharing and viewing government documents have been announced by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.

The standards set out the document file formats that are expected to be used across all government bodies. Government will begin using open formats that will ensure that citizens and people working in government can use the applications that best meet their needs when they are viewing or working on documents together.

When departments have adopted these open standards:

  • citizens, businesses and voluntary organisations will no longer need specialist software to open or work with government documents
  • people working in government will be able to share and work with documents in the same format, reducing problems when they move between formats
  • government organisations will be able to choose the most suitable and cost effective applications, knowing their documents will work for people inside and outside of government

The selected standards, which are compatible with commonly used document applications, are:

  • PDF/A or HTML for viewing government documents
  • Open Document Format (ODF) for sharing or collaborating on government documents

The move supports the government’s policy to create a level playing field for suppliers of all sizes, with its digital by default agenda on track to make cumulative savings of £1.2 billion in this Parliament for citizens, businesses and taxpayers.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said:

Our long-term plan for a stronger economy is all about helping UK businesses grow. We have listened to those who told us that open standards will reduce their costs and make it easier to work with government. This is a major step forward for our digital-by-default agenda which is helping save citizens, businesses and taxpayers £1.2 billion over this Parliament.

Mike Bracken, Executive Director of the Government Digital Service said:

We had a huge response to this proposal, both from the standards community and the public as a whole. I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment.

Their feedback made it clear just how important choosing the right way of publishing documents is. Using an open standard will mean people won’t have costs imposed on them just to view or work with information from government. It’s a big step forward, and I’m delighted we’re taking it.

A rigorous process was undertaken which included considering over 500 public comments and talking directly to users.

One of the respondents to the proposal said on the Standards Hub:

From my perspective as IT manager for a UK charity, use of open standards for documents is key to controlling our overheads… From our perspective it makes sense to receive government documentation in ODF because it is possible to install up-to-date software on all computers.

The new standards will come into effect straight away for all new procurements subject to the Open Standards Principles. The Government Digital Service will work with departments to publish guidance and implementation plans.

Notes for editors

For more information about document open standards and the government’s decision-making process visit the Standards Hub.