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South African minister slams software patents

The South African minister of public service and administration addressed the opening of the Idlelo 3 free software conference in Dakar Senegal, saying software patents posed a considerable threat to the growth of the African software sector. Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, also alluded to Microsoft saying it was “unfortunate” that the dominant office software provider chose not to incorporate the the Open Document Format but rather to pursue an attempt to have its own document format ratified by the ISO.

In a taped address for the Idlelo 3 conference, Fraser-Moleketi said that “open standards are a critical factor in building interoperable systems that are important to governments … In South African we have a document - the minimum interoperability standards - which includes the use of open document format or ODF.”

Fraser-Moleketi pointed out that ODF was adopted as an ISO standard in 2006. She said that it was “unfortunate that the leading vendor of proprietary office software, which enjoys considerable dominance in the market, chose not to participate and support ODF in its products but rather to develop its own competing document standard, which is now also awaiting judgement in the ISO process.

“If it is successful it is difficult to see how consumers will benefit from these two overlapping ISO standards. I would, however, like to appeal to vendors to listen to the demands of consumers as well as the free software movement. Please work together to produce interoperable document standards. The proliferation of multiple standards in this space is confusing and costly,” she said.

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