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Emerging markets back SA

Emerging markets are again flexing their muscles regarding the contentious decision by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to ratify Microsoft's open document standard.

Last month, SA became the first country to challenge the validity of the process used to fast-track the ratification of Microsoft's Open XML (OOXML).

In its appeal document, the SA Bureau of Standards questioned the integrity of its international counterpart: “SA wishes to register its deep concern over the increasing tendency of international organisations to use the JTC 1 processes to circumvent the consensus-building process that is the cornerstone to the success and international acceptance of ISO and IEC standards.”

Venezuela, India and Brazil have since joined SA in appealing the ratification of OOXML.

“Emerging markets are showing strength, and we are proud that SA was the leader in the appeal initiative. The emerging markets represent the majority of the world's population, and the ISO is now at a crossroads,” says Shuttleworth Foundation fellow Andrew Rens.

He says the ISO will have to make a decision to either stand firm, or support the appeals of the emerging markets. “If they decide to be objective and independent, they will have the backing of all those who are following the appeal process, and several others over and above that.”

The ISO received a 75% majority required to have OOXML standardised in April; however, it has since been dogged by controversy. According to a document circulated to standards bodies involved in the voting process, the majority of votes opposing the ratification of the standard were emerging market participants.

The ISO will hold a meeting to discuss the appeals tomorrow and industry is hoping the rest of the issue will follow due process. Each of the appeals will face the ISO secretary-general, who will decide whether the technical committee should follow up on the appeals process.

“It will be extraordinary if the secretary-general does not allow the appeals to go through. It would put the ISO in disrepute,” says Rens.

He says the backing of Venezuela, India and Brazil are critical for SA. “The number of countries appealing makes our concerns valid. It shows that we were right to appeal.”

Because the appeals are not simply a request to adjust the standard, but an opposition to the standard itself, the more countries involved, the more likely the secretary general will pass the appeals to the committee, he adds.

“These economies are becoming more important to the global economy; it is heartening to see that they are taking the lead.”


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