Skip to content, sitemap or skip to search.

Free Software Foundation

Personal tools
Join now
 
You are here: Home FSF News OpenDocument Massachusetts hearing

OpenDocument Massachusetts hearing

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on Nov 01, 2005 12:49 PM
Yesterday's hearing (Monday, October 31, 2005) at the Massachusetts State House was clearly an attempt to delay adoption of OpenDocument Format (ODF) --- delivering a swipe at Peter Quinn, CIO and Director of the state's Information and Technology Division.

The Senate Post Audit Committee Chair, Senator Marc Pacheco, was well-versed in the usual Microsoft talking points against ODF. The verbal testimony he sought, was a predictable and one-sided affair. No comments or questions were allowed from the large audience, and there was frustration that written testimony delivered to the hearing, and in support of Massachusetts adopting ODF, went unmentioned.

The Senator expressed some misunderstandings during the hearing, including that, OpenOffice was licensed under GPL (it's licensed under the LGPL), and that ODF would mean choosing OpenOffice at the expense of other vendors (OpenDocument is of course a format, not software).

After the hearing closed, I spoke with Jesse Stanesa, policy director for the Post Audit Committee, about having future direct discussions with the committee. The FSF is also collecting your comments in support of Massachusetts adopting ODF <campaigns@fsf.org>.

Amusingly, during the Senator's final statements at the hearing he commented, "We've got all self-serving perspectives in terms of industry groups. Certainly no one needs to speak for Microsoft."

Below are the detailed notes the FSF took from the meeting.

OpenDocument Massachusetts State House Meeting
Room 437, 1pm - 5pm
Notes taken by Tony Wieczorek, tonyw@fsf.org

These are the notes taken from oral arguments at on the OpenDocument format adoption by Massachusetts. These are not to be considered verbatim quotes, but rather real-time notes taken during the meeting. Where I could not discern the names of the people testifying I have indicated the response by a partial name or department.

Where I've had to rely on paraphrasing more so than the rest of the notes, I've indicated that wording by setting it with square brackets [].

Summary of Committee Meeting

The Senate Post Audit Committee held a meeting on Monday, October 31, 2005 in the Massachusetts State House regarding the IT Division's proposal to adopt the OpenDocument format. The IT Division (ITD), the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, several disabilities groups and finally the state auditor's office testified on what they thought the standard would mean for them. There were three main concerns that Senator Pacheco, chair of the meeting, raised:

  • Whether ITD has the authority to enforce the OpenDocument format (ODF) and move forward with it. ITD thinks they can move forward, while the Secretary's Office has said they cannot. This remains to be resolved.
  • If ITD collaborated with the correct people as they brought this proposal forward. The state's disability services agencies that testified believe they were not consulted appropriately, as did the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
  • If the preliminary cost analysis the ITD made regarding a switch to the ODF standard was accurate and included all factors. The state auditors have yet to look at the preliminary document and may give an interim report on their findings to speed up the process.

Senator Pacheco publicly asked Peter Quinn of the ITD to put a pause on any further action on the adoption of ODF until these concerns have been addressed. It was fairly clear from the hearing that the Senator's aim is to delay and quash OpenDocument from being adopted.

Observations on the room

Estimated attendance: approximately 50 people to begin with, dwindling down to about 30 by the meeting's end. There was a strong contingent present from the Free Software Foundation.

Senator Pacheco (Marc.Pacheco@state.ma.us) sits in the front of the room, this being his meeting. Seated to his right is Jesse Stanesa, the policy director for the Post Audit Committee (this is their meeting). To his left is Senator Richard Moore (Richard.Moore@state.ma.us).

Meeting Starts

The room, we are told, is changed from A1 due to another meeting in that room.

Senator Pacheco: [Sets the parameters of the meeting] Committee reviews government policies, in best interest of citizens and tax payers. By statute, they cover the evaluation of efficiency of operations, faithfulness of administrative compliance, effecting an agency of Commonwealth.

Policy should be adopted in best interest of tax payers and not one company, ensuring we have more competition, not less. Committee will rely on many stakeholders: IT, industry experts, citizen advocates, none should be excluded in a standard

Secretary of Commonwealth is chief IT person for the Commonwealth.

Haven been meeting with industry leaders for almost two years. They want to concentrate on process they have followed, go over the public records issues that are involved in electronic public records, looking at procurement of services in Commonwealth, and the cost of the choices they make should this move forward

Opening hearing by thanking ITD (Information Technology Division), Peter Quinn, Director.

Senator Pacheco has talked about procurement, cost analysis, proceedings with Peter in past meetings. Would like to have him address the authority that ITD believes it has under 110G 17, in terms of its agency and being able to move forward with the proposal.

Peter Quinn: I would like to read statement. Welcome opportunity to have questions to clear up misunderstanding of ODF format. Would like to put their commission in context. How could the Commonwealth better use tech? There is currently a hodgepodge, with information silos. State agencies must share information, and cannot do so without building expensive interfaces as it currently stands. Their goal: everything can talk to anything, without expensive retrofitting of technologies. There was a specific recommendation from a previous commission. This architecture is based on framework from Federal Government. Focused on open standard of technologies. Adoption of industry standards can allow them to operate seamlessly. ITD has published various version of the document. [Then, follows a definition of ODF and XML as technical standards.]

Chose to adopt as a standard, along with Library of Congress, a standard text format called OTF. Want them to be saved in a non proprietary XML format. Anyone who thinks that documents should be stored otherwise does not know what they are talking about. Many other places are thinking about something similar to this. Proprietary formats are copyrighted, and essentially worse because burdened by patents. ODF is available under copyright licenses that offer the most latitude to programmers and users. Documents created in proprietary formats will be inaccessible centuries from now because the ability to read them is tied to one particular company. These docs in ODF are far more likely to be readable 300 years from now.

The docs belong to the people and it should not restrict access to the people. Wants to dispel myths in a statement. This decision is limited to executive agencies, not just judiciary. Does not apply to members of the public. Would require ODF when sending documents to members of the public. Does not require migration of current documents to new format.

Applies only to office documents and not legacy technologies. Those other formats will be maintained until other systems are found.

Informed by members of the disability community that there are no programs that work with ODF for them. But ITD is working with many other people to make sure these applications are available and will be available by the time this standard comes out.

Misconception that this decision limits competition.

ITD doesn't care about how agencies create and design documents - but when they are done, these docs need to be in a format for longevity. The ODF is totally unencumbered by patents. Our responsibility for generations to come to follow this kind of standard.

Sen. Pacheco: [asks question about the consultants for their study] Peter Quinn: original consultant was Price, Waterhouse, Coopers; they got purchased by IBM in the middle of the process.

Senator Pacheco: you are aware that the est. of 2004 advisory board?

Senator Pacheco: Had worked to file legislation to create advisory board of 2004, want to engage public members in that advisory.

Senator Pacheco: What was the one recommendation out of that board?

Peter Quinn: Strategic business plan on high level, innumerous discussion about technologies that could be used to implement that plan.

Senator Pacheco: There was one recommendation to include all the partners, referring to engagement of constitutional officers

Linda Hamel, ITD Counsel: ITD included each of constitutional offices, in future budget, they were deleted, ITD felt that they agree with SP that every constitutional officer should have a voice; they were left out by the legislature.

Senator Pacheco: Have they had or not had input?

Linda Hamel: The recommendation was that as a group, that the branches meet to propose a strategic plan on a regular basis. There was never any question that they would be called upon. The involvement recommendation was that they work together annually and avoid a dictation from a department.

Senator Pacheco: Has questions of constitutionality. Wants to go back to 2004 commission. The legislature pro actively adopted a statute that put forth an advisory process of which Mass. legislature had assumed would be followed. The newest law that's on the books in terms of advisory. Are you suggesting that the executive branch or your agency simply ignored what the legislature had seen as an important role in putting all of the agencies together? Or, you don't think the language was constitutional? Legislature adopted the language of the advisory committee. Why wasn't the committee expanded?

Linda Hamel: Internal ITD policies only refer to Executive branch. IT advisory board is required to meet annually, several times a year to arrive by consensus a strategic plan for all of the branches. This would involve participation of constitutional offices. But the board is to advise the ITD. In the process of drafting legislature. she was rapped on the wrist verbally for failure to ensure that whatever they did would abide by the opinion of the justices. Prior efforts were struck down as unconstitutional that they wanted people from different branches to participation. They have tried mightily to share the information and about the work they were doing. At end of her presentation, that was based on the results of that negotiation. They were not sure what they were going to do. Over 90% of the desktop business is affected by this decision.

Senator Pacheco: Still doesn't answer the question. The question was that there was an advisory board established by legislature. The advisory board shall advise the chief information officer on technology issues. Should draft, recommend things that include tech. standards. The role of the advisory board is to advise, not the authority to implement or dictate. The advisory board was supposed to be advisory in nature. Should have presented it before any adoption came forth. It was to be a collaborative process. To have everything explained so that people could raise their objections. Even with existing advisory board, there were members of the board that expressed opposition to moving forward. Senator Hart was member of advisory board.

Linda Hamel: there was clearly an absence of unified response on that issue on May 11. The legislature talks about a strategic plan for information technology is an extremely general document. The ETRM is a blueprint for what sort of technology they will use and what formats. The ETRM only applies to ITD. The strategic plan was the overall contribution.

Senator Pacheco: The board should have been more cooperative, especially with this dramatic and far-reaching impact. Let's move to the authority issue. You identify your authority on your website as a board that creates standards. Why did you leave rest of section off the webpage?

Linda Hamel: You're referring to the FAQ. ITD has authority under 7(4a)d, to create standards. The format is a standard. Both the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the ITD have the powers that you cite. Both the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the ITD have the right to set rules about about standards people can create, maintain. There are about 1750 technologies in the department. There is no current long-term archive plan for the electronic storage of documents. As an example: we have two legacy systems for payroll data. PIMS and CAPS systems. One of the technologists pulled out 188 million personnel records stretching back decades in the systems. They were created in formats no longer in use. We look forward to working with Secretary to create an electronic archive.

Senator Pacheco: clarification for everyone listening to the hearing. The full legislature refers to supervisor of records, ITD and records board(?). This is not a regulation, it's a standard?

Linda Hamel: Yes, it's a standard, not a regulation.

Senator Pacheco: So a standard does not need the approval of the supervisor of public records for Commonwealth?

Linda Hamel: There's a legal structure put in place long before electronic records long before anyone thought about it. The laws were all created in a paper world. When Office of Management Information System (OMIS - office that came before ITD). There is a tension between old and new language. Have not previously gone to the Secretary of Commonwealth because we don't need to; like in the case of using security devices for some offices.

Senator Pacheco: Does it bother you that the Boston Globe has reported that they are concerned on your handling of this?

Linda Hamel: I am concerned that the supervisor of public records is telling people something different than what's in the legislature. Concerned that the Secretary is taking a different path than the Library of Congress.

Senator Pacheco: Does the Library of Congress take a position on this?

Linda Hamel: Referring to document format, not just a particular program.

Senator Pacheco: Yes or no answer on whether they came out in favor of OpenOffice.

Linda Hamel: They never specified that you have to use OpenOffice. They recommend a document format, not a program.

Senator Pacheco: Isn't it a practical reality that we would use OpenOffice? OpenOffice is the product.

Linda Hamel: ITD understands that there are many programs that can support OpenDocument.

Senator Pacheco: You're talking about Jan. 2007. Let's go back to Secretary of State issue of formats.

Linda Hamel: ITD looks at constitution first, then enabling legislation - that they share the obligation with Secretary of Commonwealth to give recommendations.

Senator Pacheco: Let's move to policies you're looking at. You see this is a standard. You're establishing a standard.

Linda Hamel: Correct.

Senator Pacheco: under the standard, which products specifically can the implementation of this strategy support the OpenDocument format? Peter Quinn: There are a number of programs: KOffice, OpenOffice., yesterday Google came out in support of OpenOffice. Standards have always been good for industry. We are not telling people what to buy. This is a standard. Vendors have stepped up to the standard. Backed away from giving open source and open standards equal footing. The standard here today is created by a standards body (OASIS). The standard is being moved up to be ratified by the International Standard committee. Folks do not feel that Microsoft's format is open enough. They wanted guidance to make sure they can preserve documents. Everyone thought that XML should be an open format, except one company. Put it up for public comment. Have preferential treatment to vendors. very reminiscent of what happened in the 90s with Internet protocols.

Senator Pacheco: Question about the reference to the other company. They have business with the Commonwealth. Negotiations with ITD, my understanding in Jan of 2005 that Secretary had announced that there was a licensing agreement which included Office in the new reference.

Peter Quinn: They put up for public comment the policies. There was a firestorm.

Linda Hamel: I will call a spade a spade. It is true that we had negotiations with Microsoft about their XML schema and what their format meant. People in the open standards committee differed about what that term "open" means to them. We expressed at the time that we didn't get everything we sought in the negotiations with Microsoft. At the time, they put it up for comment. It was based on what we knew about "open" at the time. The public said that this wasn't their version of open. There's a spectrum of openness. Microsoft's license is not as open as some licenses. That was not good enough that for the open standards community. I am not in any position to state what Secretary Chris said.

Peter Quinn: We did not have the final Microsoft document. He said that he thought that if these things came forward it would be an acceptable format.

Senator Pacheco: Why are you concerned about the difference in $-1òüopen sourceòý and òüopen standardòý as terms?

Linda Hamel: Because both proprietary and open source communities can support an open standard.

Senator Pacheco: That's interesting. Let me try to follow this. You referenced that OpenOffice can be used because it's one of the platforms that can work because it supports ODF. Under OpenOffice, there is what is called the GPL. Linda Hamel: Not necessarily. Some vendors distribute it under the GPL, some under dual licensing with the GPL as one license. Even under the open source community, there is a question on the dual licensing.

Senator Pacheco: Hoping that when sent early letter, said that wanted to have objective third party to go over the cost issues and other issues. We were hoping that they would be able to wait a little to see if some of the assumptions that were made are correct. I am concerned that proprietary software companies bidding on work under the OpenDocument standard. If you do have OpenOffice product which has GPL as one of the elements, obviously in order to meet the standard, then, that would mean that proprietary company would have to release its code.

Linda Hamel: It is not be necessary for a company to release its code for their product if they choose the OpenDocument format to support. Just as Microsoft does not have to release its code to support the PDF standard.

Peter Quinn: Again, we're not saying anything about procurement, just a standard.

Senator Pacheco: Think you're going to find that everyone is able to participate, there's a large section of the existing IT community that is being excluded from participation as a consequence of at least the way that the policy is written right now. More important than technology piece is that when you are looking at procurement, cost, associated with all of this for the savings associated with this and the statutory that it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone gets a say. You think will stimulate more competition.

Linda Hamel: Today, such a high percentage of our office programs are sold by one vendor. OpenDocument format will fling open door to competition.

Senator Pacheco: Numerous meetings with industry leaders, asked what prevents them from bidding. Said that they can, and they do run bids and that they are able to participate in existing ways today. Seems like there's one entity that under the latest structure. We don't tell folks what business model to use. If this stimulates competition, why is it that groups like Citizens Against Government waste, for example, claim that it limits competition? Have you consulted these groups at all that have expressed these concerns, or explained to them what to do?

Linda Hamel: Entities like those, in most cases, you will find Microsoft funding those groups. It's important to think about that when asking these questions. Are there any citizens that came forward and said that their due process was violated? Microsoft laid down process questions. When accepting comments, we looked at these grassroots entities and looked at the sponsors, and they were funded by corporations.

Senator Pacheco: Are they wholly owned subsidiaries of Microsoft?

Linda Hamel: Your words, not mine.

Peter Quinn: You are referencing the industries in Massachusetts. Everyone from the business community organization they consulted was on the side of open standards.

Senator Pacheco: There's an analogy I've used here. I don't care what kind of car you drive, just as long as you can reach the same parking space. That's why I asked in letter during comment period that we at least postpone this proposal only until auditors office has taken a chance to look and review and comment before there was an implementation of policy. Why couldn't you wait until those two offices had an opportunity to review? There were concerns from the disability community. There are concerns out there, why couldn't you wait? People in high ranking spots across government with very strong concerns about the way this policy was handled. By the way, they are supportive of open standards. Why are there all these concerns? They are still there. They talked about these in Dec. of 2003.

You referenced other products that can work, that the GPL piece is not accurate according to my understanding of it. That's not what this is about. But that's what those offices, those check and balance offices, is what it's all about. Six of the last meetings weren't even held, they were canceled. Why isn't that resolved?

Peter Quinn: Start with accessibility piece. The accessibility community has been denied to get the tools they need for years. We're committed to changing that paradigm. They want to make sure they have a consideration in choice of software. Sun, IBM, Adobe are working to create international accessibility standards. The architecture is already built into StarOffice, OpenOffice, and Mozilla to name a few.

Linda Hamel: We're not saying that Microsoft hasn't been a great business partner for many years. One example - when agencies dealing with low accessibility to Microsoft products, they worked to change that.

Senator Pacheco: Blaming the process has been my concern. We had a process here that came out, a memo from Sept 26, 2003. A policy that was put in place for a green light in November, a post audit committee in December. The advisory committee had actually recommended MOUs to try to address these types of things. We don't see the collaboration. You are only now addressing the concerns of the disability community. It doesn't appear that there was a cost analysis done before the release. The open source movement started with a group of engineers to develop an alternative operating system, that thrives on collaboration. This is perhaps the most democratic and transparent things in the business world. The process behind ETRM at least appears to subvert the whole open source movement. That's what I am concerned about the most. It gets me to the last piece, relative to cost of the system. Let me bring you back to Nov 2003. Was there a cost analysis done?

Peter Quinn: When we first announced it, there was not.

Senator Pacheco: There was an open standards/open source piece. We had it in a different direction. It had the potential of impacting some 50,000 desktops in a completely different direction, why wasn't there a cost analysis done?

Peter Quinn: It was an outgrowth of the commission to create standards in the Commonwealth. We said to people treat open source as the best value in business. When replacing, is there an appropriate technology and is it cost effective?

Senator Pacheco: When we met in 2003 for the post audit committee, I thought we had this discussion about cost and that we were going to get an analysis from ITD for what you thought the costs would be. Now we're here 2 years later and we just received one weeks ago. That cost analysis that you sent me (I have in turn sent it to the state auditors division) there were assumptions built into that that were based upon Microsoft 12, for example. Why was that built in?

Peter Quinn: We talked about a general topic. Talking about formats and what you asked, what would that look like for the entire desktop. Sometime over three to five years, the entire 50,000 system will be replaced. That's the natural cycle of hardware. Every office product requires more powerful machines.

Senator Pacheco: You referenced earlier that one of the things that the disabilities community had suggested was that Microsoft office still be included for a time. I'm assuming that there is still a fee there. For the most part, they buy it one time and they don't do a maintenance. Will there be some around? Two or three times a week, I get something across my desk I can't open. Because this doesn't apply to the general public, there will always be disparate systems to open things from the public. OpenOffice can open up all sorts of documents and can run on platforms that have been around for 6, 7, 8 years, which Microsoft's products can't do. We have to handle a variety of operating systems.

Senator Pacheco: Explain to me the components you are looking at as you go through this. You'd think that both in 2003, before an executive branch agency would announce they are moving in a particular situation. We asked for some information asking for analysis to be done. We finally received an analysis which was a 2-page analysis that was given to our office. That analysis was wanting in terms of looking at a detailed analysis. How did you go about measuring what these costs/benefits are?

Peter Quinn: The components - what is the cost to buy OpenOffice vs. Microsoft office. The pricing I use it what we pay today for Office 2000. If we assume for a minute that the training component is equal on both sides and intros to word processing and Excel spreadsheets. I also included that if you used the newer versions, you will probably have to exchange 20% of desktops that cannot operate Word. If you replaced the desktop, the base price of $500/desktop. If you replaced 10,000 desktops, you will probably need a new operating system. All the costs, and added them up. 8 million for OpenOffice and 34 million for Microsoft 12 (2003). 1.5 hours to replace a desktop, 450-900,000 dollars to replace.

Senator Pacheco: How about maintenance. We treat it the same. We generally do not buy maintenance on an office product. You raise cost on both sides, or you don't have cost on both sides.

Senator Pacheco: Looking ahead at the estimated maintenance cost in supporting different alternatives. In the cost analysis, you have no numbers on estimated productivity. Typically, we don't put in something that we don't necessarily have to do. It's my understanding that we don't have to go to Office 12 at all. All of the systems can be updated under our existing agreements without any additional costs in terms of assumptions made they we have to replace all the hardware. We'll leave that to the hardware experts in the auditors office. Would you look at the alternative choices and where the background on all of it is?

Peter Quinn: One, is the assumption that you don't have to do anything. But the reality is that you always have to do something as support runs out. We took a look at how people use their desktops. The majority of people open up word documents and open up spreadsheets. They don't write them anymore, they just view them. They use email and they use the Internet. We spend a lot of money and people use it almost the same way they use a TV clicker. They only use a small fraction of what the remote can do. That's what we're seeing here. The question of productivity - should the Commonwealth even be investing in suites, and if we should, should we be paying that much money? People can only get longterm upgrades if they've paid for that. For the most part, people didn't renew contracts to get free upgrades. We're paying for all these upgrades, but us, the consumers, the return on investment is pretty dismal.

Senator Pacheco: So, just want to conclude on this. You're telling me that when the auditor's office gets through with this, that you're estimating a savings of 26 million dollars, even though in the memo that you received in 2003 from then Secretary Chris, he acknowledged that the policy will take time, energy and money. Is this a reference to the 8 million in training, or was he referring to other costs not included in analysis?

Peter Quinn: That memo was referring to all technology in the Commonwealth. Not specifically referencing desktops at all. We have previously avoided talking about desktops till now because it's the most personal and challenging to talk about.

Senator Pacheco: Just a couple of requests: Wants general council to send your analysis of how you can move forward statutorily so that we can analyze and study from a legal perspective. Also, with the advisory board piece, I heard, although it wasn't said directly, I heard reference to constitutionality - refer you to Dow vs. Commonwealth. Basically it sets forth some things you might want to take a look at that was not the job. Especially reference MBTA vs. State Audit 430MA783-792-793 (2000). Constitutionality issue is brought up. ITD is a creation of the legislature and is barred from questioning constitutionality under that case. That law on the advisory committee was est. did not set forth the dictatorial tone at all, but rather a collaborative one. Ask that we also get opinion back from your office in relationship with this advisory board and what is taking place now. We would like to have further discussions on costs.

Linda Hamel: Do you want us to do an additional cost assessment?

Senator Pacheco: Just want to make sure that what you gave me is what you want to be on the final public record. I would think that you want to take a second look at what you gave me. I would like to know when it was done, not when I received it, but when it was done, what meetings were held, the various IT folks in the divisions you talked with. Who you talked with when, and what they had to say. Trying to get a handle on total costs.

Senator Moore: Some concern over who's minding the store, seeing as how this committee has sat on this for two years. Wants to get questions and issues resolved and that there is access to all citizens. I would hope that your office would resolve that.

Senator Pacheco: Excuse the witnesses.

Senator Pacheco: Attorney Cody, Office of Public Records. Supervisor of records for commonwealth.

Attorney Cody: Mass General Law 66m mandated to take all necessary measures to secure preservation. Est. records management policy for commonwealth. Electronic records have been primary focus of his office. Assures committee that Mass. is not experiencing a crisis. Mass. is in a state of transition. But this does not alter the basic fundamentals of records management. The overwhelming majority of documents have life of 7 years or less. A well designed and efficient program is vital to the success of any records management. This office adheres to a rigorous policy: every record forwarded is looked at for archiving at Columbia Point. They convert all electronic records to multiple forms and formats. The hardware and software used in the process is selected by him, the head archivist, etc. We use many different vendors and processes. The introduction of meta data. This process works very well. It provides them with flexible. A rigid policy, like the one before you, that excludes vendors, does not serve the Commonwealth well. Will result in many records being lost or destroyed. Recommends that they reject the proposal in favor of more review.

Supervisor of records of Commonwealth has all the control over records management. From time to time, they will contact various agencies and principalities and ask them for their input and we oversee that process. Asking ITD to help him oversee any new regulation with regard to allowing electronic transactions. Not in their authority to approve any recommendations for electronic records.

Senator Pacheco: If your office has an objection to moving forward and they move forward anyway (ITD), that they would be in violation of statute?

Attorney Cody: Absolutely. They are more of an advisory role to us. I expressed on several occasions that he's not in favor of the policy.

Senator Pacheco: SO Mr. Quinn were aware of your position on this? Despite them being aware of it, that they moved forward anyway.

Attorney Cody: Correct. respecting to the attorney/client relationship. Not in favor of this.

Senator Pacheco: So, this ETRM was not developed jointly. Did you have any recommendations for this?

Attorney Cody: It was changed before my eyes, it didn't seem like there was any direction for us to give input. I was allowed to give input, but wasn't sure when they wanted it or what they wanted a comment on.

Senator Pacheco: So, you were told that it was a decision that was made and you were told that it would happen that way?

Attorney Cody: They join in authority, not sole. They do not have the ability to move forward.

Senator Pacheco: The office of the secretary of the commonwealth. In terms of the advisory committee has put worth developing a process for moving forward. There was recommendation to put in place a process. To what extent did you have any conversations with the advisory committee, or did anyone attend those meetings?

Attorney Cody: I have not had any meetings with them. Did not attend some meetings.

Senator Pacheco: There were infrequent meetings and 6 of the last several meetings had been canceled. They were all around the time when we were moving forward with this announcement.

Attorney Cody: I had the IT person going.

Senator Pacheco: Any questions? I didn't think you'd be as direct as you were or as certain. After you've said that, I don't have a lot of questions for you. What I'm hearing you say is that the ITD agency has moved forward unilaterally and you do not believe they have the authority under Mass. General Laws.

Senator Moore: A little unrelated, but the issues of public records in the event of natural tragedy. The solution involved and the digitization. So this is something we want to talk to you in the future about.

Senator Pacheco: One final question. It's very important to make sure that everyone abodes by laws of public records. Where do we go if there's a stalemate here between you and the ITD? Can we file something? What happens when there's that type of disagreement?

Attorney Cody: There is vague language in the statute that may be available to the supervisor.

Senator Pacheco: If you could get back to us on this. You heard my concerns earlier. Thank you for your testimony.

[Five minute meeting break]

Senator Pacheco: Mass. Office of Disabilities, Barbara Lybarger (General Counsel)

Barbara Lybarger: My testimony will be going directly to a number of issues. I am the Directory. The state agency of the coordinator for the executive branch. Goal: a resource to the community of people with disabilities. Enables them to bring these issues to the table. MOD became aware of this at the same time as the general public. Reviewed the draft and submitted comments. Expressed concerns that there are limited products that support the OpenDocument. That same day, they were commented by ITD to identify specific needs for people with disabilities. Strictly executive branch technology. AS I sate in my comments in Sept. to ITD, Mass. is always referenced as a leader. ITD in partnership with other places convinced Microsoft to bring their product up to standard. We are concerned that we not take an unintended step backward to people with disabilities. WE are obligated to ensure that we can effectively communicate with them. It must afford the same accessibility to people with dis. as it does the general public. Although the implication is currently being tested in courts in other states, certainly in public opinion it would be fundamentally wrong to move to a system with less options for people with disabilities. We are now working with ITD to correct this.

Senator Pacheco: A few questions. In your testimony, you state that MOD became aware at the same time as the general public. There was no consultation ahead of time>? Even after the disability community in general had raised early concerns?

Barbara Lybarger: The actual implementation, yes.

Senator Pacheco: Right now, the workers now. We have a Windows-based technology. What have you been told will take place with the now-collaborative meetings?

Barbara Lybarger: We've been working with ITD and several groups, that they will not implement technology in the government that isn't at least as good as what we have now.

Senator Pacheco: You say that your experiences lead you to the apprehensive state between now and 15 months from now that there isn't enough time to correct these concerns.

Barbara Lybarger: I'm lucky I can turn my computer on. I've spent time talking to people who do. I've been told that this is a very opportunistic timeline. The community of people I represent actually support the opportunity to support various kinds of software. Our concern is that timeline be realistic so that the programs are developed and they are tested and that there is proper support in place.

Senator Pacheco: There were no conversations that I'm assuming were made in terms of cost, training, equipment, etc?

Barbara Lybarger: Correct.

Senator Pacheco: So if those conversations were not help with the office of disabilities, then if those weren't held. It would be very difficult to say that those were part of the cost analysis.

Barbara Lybarger: I can't speak to that.

Senator Pacheco: How many people throughout the commonwealth in the executive branch would be impacted by this issue?

Barbara Lybarger: There's really not a good answer to that question. We don't keep track of people with disabilities. This would impact people who use assistive technologies and they wouldn't classify as people with disabilities. I would venture to say that more than 19% of people would be using assistive technologies.

Senator Pacheco: So you're using a national number in terms of self-reporting general public nationally.

Barbara Lybarger: Unfortunately, we know that the employment rate with people with disabilities is lower than the general public.

Senator Pacheco: If you'd like to supplement your testimony in the future, or your own budget and costs (in terms of training, those types of things), we'd certainly be better informed.

Barbara Lybarger: Thank you.

Senator Pacheco: We'll contact you with updates. Committee to call Disability Policy Consortium. Thank you for being here.

DPC: Speaking for Baystate Council of the Blind. Grew up a lot with the evolution of the computer. Now working in the Windows department. The level of access today far exceeds anything available in the past. I can use Word, interface that with Excel, can use Internet and Email, in concert with each other. Have created and analyzed reports that go beyond the typical use of technology. Particularly people who are blind, it's the technology that represents the only means they have. We oppose this change and will continue to oppose until convinced that it will not have a negative impact on consumers or employees. We have faced in past where entity has said to us that they will make a new software change and then retrofitting it to make accessible. Accessibility sometimes cannot be added afterwards. In those cases where it can, it is always more expensive. We are very concerned that accessibility be considered from the start. Integral part of every part of process. One of the most problematic is the PDF format. In order for a PDF doc to be accessible with a screen reader, that document must have been created with the latest accessibility guidelines in mind. This is something that concerns us a lot. The Labor Dept. has moved away from ODF (www.disabilityinfo.gov) because of the lack of technical support for the open source document guideline. They believe that open source is still in its infancy and I believe that, too. It will require that the state est. whose full-time job to make sure that things remain accessible. We've struggled through numerous ups and down in technology and we want to do everything we can to ensure that this will not be another struggle for us. It's a matter of our civil rights.

Senator Pacheco: It would be helpful to get a copy of your written testimony.

DPC: Do you have a particular format in mind? [laughter]

John (from DPC): Alarmed by plan to move to ODF. Wide dismissal of any comments by his organization. Strong negative economic impact on people with dis. The process to move to ODF was made without consulting their community. I subscribe to IT mailing lists. Had executive director want to meet with PQ. Only after public comment period closed did PQ contact them. Still haven't heard from him. So many people rely on adaptive equipment which will not currently work with open source and open document platforms. There are many Windows implementations of these. Implementation of the format would mean that people with disabilities could not work for the state. Only 20% of people with disabilities are employed full-time and another 10% are part-time. The two agencies responsible for providing jobs to people with disabilities were not aware of this recommendation. Feels like people are only thinking about people with dis. only after the fact. Dissent in the Romney administration is not welcome under Romney. Will take much time to make drivers. No reason for private market to develop accessibility. The consumer will be left with limited choices. Few options for testing equipment. The state has a poor public record in reporting docs. for people with dis. I use Mozilla, other open source software when he can, because he doesn't like Monolithic company. This decision is being made without input from their community. Feels that they may need a court injunction to stop this if it proceeds.

Senator Pacheco: When did your organization reach out to contact ITD or Mr. Quinn?

DPC: A number of us called and emailed Mr. Quinn's office. He said he'd be in touch in a few days, and still haven't heard from him.

Senator Pacheco: Was impressed that they said that they didn't hear about it until we did. It's important for the general public for agencies to be able to come to a hearing like this and speak freely and stand up for the constituencies they represent.

John: A certain other office that represents has to have a member of the administration there when he speaks in public.

DPC: A very brief demonstration of the screen reading software on windows word. When I worked in a large corporation, I was able to make corrections to documents of others. It is very accessible, some training is required, only works on Windows, and opens up entire world that was otherwise unable to us. Can do things all in the Windows environment. Microsoft hasn't paid their organization any money, but I'm not a Microsoft basher, but this is the best for us, and I will continue to use it until something better comes along.

Senator Pacheco: Thank you for testimony. Please stay in touch. Next, will call John (?), deputy auditor, IT division.

John Buchanan(?): Our audit starts tomorrow afternoon, with Mr. Quinn and members of his team. What I want to comment on is my initial reaction to the cost analysis. I viewed it as high level starting document, not something as a functioning document,. I did want to comment on a couple of items. I, too, learned about this in the newspaper when I came back at the end of August. Not as a member of the advisory board. The state auditor's office is an invited guest at those meetings. There was a proposal and we submitted feedback on Sept. 9. What is the cost, what is the analysis behind the cost? We feel that having documents available in the future is a good goal. Without the analysis, it's hard to tell if those are reasonable and can be done. I think the concept is good. What I'd like to see is that the board sits and looks at the IT strategy. So that we can see how it impacts certain citizens of the Commonwealth. Our belief is that we have to develop appropriate rules, and have to take into account the costs.

Senator Pacheco: Thank you. We know that this is awkward because you haven't done the audit yet! I'm curious - it looked like it was a good beginning of assumptions. Without having more information, it seemed like something that needed a lot more work.

John: My hope is that this serves as a foundation of where we go with policy.

Senator Pacheco: Would you think, for example - just take a look at one small office - the office of disabilities. If the office were not contacted and an analysis were not made, training, costs, equipment, could any cost benefit analysis that's done be accurate?

John: It would be inaccurate and incomplete. I learned a lot sitting here this afternoon. I think the item that we've learned is that technology should be something that helps and enables business functions of people. I think there's some merit to the statement that there are many people who don't use the bells and whistles of technologies and I'm not so sure there aren't other ways of doing it. I do think there are some strong benefits in terms of OpenDocument as a standard. But that's very different from a Jan 2007 deadline to implement this.

Senator Pacheco: One of things we hope you'd take the time to analyze once you're doing this audit - what the options of other technology actually do. I have met with several industry groups, you probably won't believe it, but I've had meetings where they support (3 out of 4) as to what the strategy actually would accomplish in terms of their own product. A group of people that were supporting the policy but were taking slightly opposite viewpoints in supporting it. You get put into a position where you don't know who to believe. That's why we do have an auditor's office that is independently voted into office by the citizens of the commonwealth. Some agency, within its own executive branch, are not aware of this before it hits the paper. It's stunning that would happen, that we're moving so fast. They should hold off a little bit, maybe a month or two, until people have a time to weigh in and your office can really take a look at this. And that our agency is the state auditor's office would be able to give us some independent direction. We've got all self-serving perspectives in terms of industry groups. Certainly no one needs to speak for Microsoft. I've met with them, with IBM, they're all great companies. Every group will give us their spin. We ask you to give us independent feedback. It would help us with the investigation. Sufficient information is not totally there at your first glance and you're going to try to have an in-depth analysis.

John: My hope is that will be forthcoming, starting tomorrow. Probably one month after implementing policy, February 2007! [laughter] I would say it would take a few weeks, need to look across landscape of Commonwealth, pretty good idea after a few weeks to know what the time frame will look like. If it will take a long time, then an interim report is good.

Senator Pacheco: An interim report would be good. We're just trying to know if we have any faith in the document we have now. What time frame they used, etc.

John: Sometimes, when digging into things, you get more expansive. I think the cost issue and the process part are the most important.

Senator Pacheco: Thank you. That's the conclusion of all the witnesses for today. I'll let Mr. Quinn add anything.

Peter Quinn: [nothing to say]

Senator Pacheco: Committee on Post Audit will be reaching out to some of the individuals who testified to follow up on the public testimony they gave. Further supplement any testimony. We may be in touch with various industry groups to follow up on what we find out in terms of what the auditor's office has to say. We'll be in touch with the IT folks as the audit goes on. An certainly we'll be in discussion with the disabilities people to let them know what's going on. One final editorial comment that I would like to make on the record: again, this committee has called this hearing not because of technology issues. While that is a concern, and we'll look more about them, we called this hearing for a number of reasons. 1) Wanted to get a clarification of the interpretation of the statutory authority of ITD. ITD thinks they can move forward unilaterally. And the secretary's office has said they cannot. We have a problem. 2) Process. Again, in keeping faith with what the open source community itself has put on the table about being open, having a democratic and see-through process. And from what I've heard today is that we've have far less than democracy. When a state agency doesn't find out about these until the day the announcement to the public is made, that's bad. 3) Potential cost. If we're moving forward with an initiative, we have to take into consideration the cost and the impact on the people in the commonwealth. Because those costs have an unintended influence on the committees. We found out that if you're not looking at all the cost centers that any analysis we have now is deficient. There is reason for concern. We would again ask Mr. Quinn on the public record to put a pause, a hold on moving forward until the respective offices here have an opportunity here to really sit down and collaborate (disabilities agencies).

Document Actions

The FSF is a charity with a worldwide mission to advance software freedom — learn about our history and work.

fsf.org is powered by:

 

Send your feedback on our translations and new translations of pages to campaigns@fsf.org.