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Former Mass. CIO advises partnering on ODF projects

Quinn also suggests starting with small projects to show 'quick successes'

By Carol Sliwa
February 13, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - LOS ANGELES -- Citing his experiences as the CIO for the state of Massachusetts, Peter Quinn encouraged would-be adopters of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) to seek out partners willing to put "skin in the game."
Quinn, who left the CIO post last month, was the keynote speaker here at a workshop Friday on the use of the XML-based ODF in government. Quinn had spearheaded the state IT Division's controversial initiative to save government documents using ODF, a standard that was approved last May by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).
The ODF workshop opened the fourth annual Southern California Linux Expo, which continued Saturday and Sunday. Although Quinn's introduction drew a burst of applause, the workshop failed to attract more than 50 people at any point during the six-hour event. A show of hands toward the end indicated that only a small percentage were government workers.
One of the handful of government-employed attendees, Bruce Engelbach, a systems safety manager at Virginia Beach-based Kalman & Co., a contractor to the U.S. Air Force, said he was excited about the prospect of using ODF after hearing about its benefits. But Engelbach noted the challenges he would face asking the "powers that be" for funding without even a "micro-implementation" to reference.
"I feel your pain," Quinn told Engelbach, "but you do control an awful lot of what will happen here, and I would just encourage you to go and take that journey."
Quinn said the Massachusetts IT Division found partners -- which he later identified as IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. -- that were willing to put "skin in the game." The IT Division started with small projects to demonstrate "quick successes" and build credibility, he noted.
In order to change the paradigm and shift the culture in government, Quinn said, "each one of us has got to take that first step and actually demonstrate that we can make the changes, and then make some of that stuff happen."
Quinn suggested that Engelbach reach out to the speakers at the event, which included officials from IBM and Sun as well as the founder of the recently incorporated Open Document Foundation, a nonprofit focused on improving and enabling ODF.
The event speakers were hard-pressed to offer examples of ODF implementations outside of the state of Massachusetts. Quinn also mentioned that the Massachusetts IT Division got a lift when the Library of Congress stated that documents should be saved in open formats.
Reached by telephone in the U.K., Ian Lynch, a founding member of the Open Document Fellowship

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