A group of 30 companies, in the interest of promoting open technology and ultimately open standards into governments, have begun looking for ways to incorporate millions of governments records into a public standard that anyone could use. Based on the ideal that if an open standard is being used everyone will be able to search and find information they need, they face considerable challenges, such as the fact that the majority of digital documents are made in proprietary formats, which dissapear or become obsolete over time.
The alliance supports a particular solution, called the OpenDocument Format, for standard office word processing, presentation and spreadsheet documents. Today, the formats used by most people for creating documents are those in Microsoft Office--more than 90 percent of the market.
ODF is useable by anyone - just downloading the OpenOffice suite gives you the ability to read and create ODF, and other software suites include this functionality as well. It's even possible to include ODF in proprietary software. Some members of the alliance include IBM and Sun, who obviously have no love for the current industry standard, Microsoft's varied document formats. There are other alternatives, and the article makes note of this. Ultimately, so long as an open standard is employed, progress is being made.