Readers with good memories may recall that back in 2012, I put in a Freedom of Information request to the Cabinet Office regarding an astonishing U-turn it had performed on the matter of open standards. To my surprise, I received back a treasure trove of emails documenting Microsoft’s intense – and evidently successful – lobbying against the move to openness.
Well, in the wake of the UK government’s latest attempt to move towards open standards, I thought I’d try to get ahead of the game by asking for similar documents now. Once more, I did this via the indispensable and easy-to-use WhatDoTheyKnow site (do give it a whirl if you’ve never tried.) Here’s what I sent:
I am writing in connection with Francis Maude’s speech on 29 January 2014 in which he announced that the UK government would be adopting ODF as one of its preferred formats.
I would be grateful if you could please supply me with the following information:
What meetings, telephone or email exchanges were held with representatives of Microsoft or the Business Software Alliance at any time during the last six months that discussed document formats and/or the UK government’s new policy on open document formats?
I would like to obtain copies of any documents arising out of these meetings or discussions – letters, emails, briefs, memoranda, background documents etc to or from either side etc.
I submitted my request on 24 March; on the next day, I received the following:
Thank you for your request for information. Your request was received on 25/3/2014 and is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
This email is just a short acknowledgement of your request.
Off to that good start, I naturally looked forward to receiving the requested materials by 24 April, which is when by law the Cabinet Office was obliged to reply fully. Since nothing had come through by that time, I sent off another quick email:
I was wondering what was happening with my FOI request that I made a month ago: will you be able to send me the information soon, please?
As you can see, that was nearly a month ago, and I have still not received the full reply, which means that the Cabinet Office is now really late. And that, in its turn, probably means that there is obviously something very interesting regarding open standards and Microsoft, which the Cabinet Office is reluctant to let me see. Time for another email reminding them of their legal obligations, I think....