Irish approval of XML standard held up by ‘technical comments’

4 Sep 2007

A major online business software standard developed largely by Microsoft and seeking International Standards Organisation (ISO) approval has been disproved pending ‘technical comments’ by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) via a new fast-track ballot process.

The Office Open XML (OOXML) standard is an extension of the Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) that allows users to define their own tags to facilitate the sharing of data across different information systems.

Although the standard was submitted to the NSAI for approval late last year, a fast track ballot approval process was initiated following lobbying by a consortium of ICT industry interests called ECMA International.

Maurice Buckley, chief executive of the NSAI, said that a key characteristic of international standardisation is that each national standards body has one vote in the approval process, regardless of that country’s size.

He said that when important new developments arise, such as the current OOXML proposal, where large corporations and groups have competitive interests at stake, Ireland’s vote as a small but highly respected member of the international standards community becomes very important.

The process adopted by NSAI, was the appointment of a specialist group of industry experts who conduct a technical review and report to the NSAI ICT Standards Consultative Committee charged by NSAI to provide a final recommendation.

Ireland voted ‘disapproval’ for the standard pointing out some technical issues with the submission. The NSAI says that this “effectively is a qualified yes” if the technical comments are resolved and incorporated into a new draft. The vote will then be amended to ‘approval’ status.

The NSAI would not reveal the technical issues for reasons of the integrity of the process.

“Although Ireland is a small country, with a population of 4 million, we exercise considerable influence in the international formulation of standards,” Buckley explained.

“As a member of ISO, the NSAI has one vote, the same as, for example, our US, Chinese or German counterparts,” he said. “Representatives from Irish companies frequently sit on international standards committees and make tremendous contributions which benefit international trade and simultaneously further the interests of business in Ireland.

“Similarly the authority plays a pivotal role in Ireland’s transition towards an open knowledge economy, by ensuring that commerce and industry adopt the highest standards. We also actively encourage as many businesses as possible to apply for and achieve formal certification to relevant standards,” Buckley said.

By John Kennedy