Politics in IT

A lot of people think that information technology is purely technical. That there is no room, need or space for politics. They think that technical decisions
are made with technical arguments in mind.

But this is not always true. There are a lot of fields in IT which are affected by political decisions. Take a look at the patent system, the discussion about copy right
and digital rights management. Observe the struggle of Free Software against the proprietary ones.


There is another field which is interesting. This is the field of Standardization. Standardization is strongly influenced by politics because of the great amount of
conflicting parties involved with it. Having a system or product standardized has a lot of advantages. Governments and companies are more likely to use (and pay) for
standardized products or systems. And when money is involved there are lobbyists to represent various groups.

But why should anyone care about standardization? Standardization plays a big role in our daily lifes. Imagine a world with not only \textit{one} kind of power socket. But
two, three or more variants. This would bring a lot of problems and would reduce the ease of use.

But there are some decisions which are even more important. We are all living in a society where information is getting more and more important. But information is not floating
around in the ether. It is represented in a file on a harddisk.
Imagine how inconvinient and even dangerous for us it would be to be dependent only one company to provide the possibility to read and write to this files.
A company which has no interest in sharing the way it does the information saving. Which even changes the way it does it
from time to time to make it harder to access this data and information with programs not provided by it.

Sadly this is not a thing which has to be imagined. This is real life and has been since the domination of Microsoft Office. Years after years data and information is saved in files
which can’t be used by people which don’t use the Microsoft products. But why is this a problem? Why should there be people without this MS products. First at all this products
don’t come for free. So being short on money means an exclusion of this data. Another reason is that people on other platform than Microsoft Windows are not able to install Office.
And there is also a group of people not trusting proprietary software after seeing the abuse of software monopoly.

So for years informations were not freely exchanged. Information were jailed in a file format which was not accesible for everyone. In the year 2006 the \textit{International Standard Organization}
approved an open standard document format called ODF (OpenDocumentFormat). This format is open and accesible for everybody. There is no single company which has control over the
management of information.

One year later Microsoft tried to standardize their document format OOXML (OpenOfficeXML) at the ISO too. Despite a lot criticism (technical shortcomings, patent problems, …) there were a lot
of countries which supported the standard. At the end it was rejected for the time. After this a lot of irregularities were discovered in countries supporting the standard. From rumorus about buying
votes in sweden over Microsoft pressuring people in Denmark.

Austria was one of the countries voting yes for the Microsoft Standard. This voting was done by the ON (Oesterreichisches Normungsinsitut) which is partly financed by the austrian state. I tried to get
information about which representatives where in the OOXML commitee of the ON. But I had to learn that there is no right for an austrian citizen to get information about standardization matters.
There is no transparency and citizens are not able to inform themselfes. So there is no way to critice the ON for their decision because of the lack of information.

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