July 2009


This summer’s most popular web site at our place is yr.no with the weather forecast.  Yr just hit a billion weather forecasts since the start in 2007 (given that the site is in mainly in Norwegian, and there are only 4.8 million Norwegians, this is amazing).

One of the main factors in the success of yr.no is their open access to data sources.  yr.no hands out XML streams (and GRIB for the oceanic) for 7 million sites world wide, and they provide access to all data from all Norwegian weather stations.  Scripts for including yr.no as a gadget on your own web site are available, with good user instructions. In addition to a good end user interface this helps build a reliable site for weather information.

My advice to other public agencies: provide data that may be presented, reused and reconstructed – and build a simple interface to your own information.

Equal access to information and open standards are important to ensure free communication.  The Norwegian government has mandated standards for use in public sector, some highlights are

  • ISO10646 character set, as represented by UTF8.  Mandatory for all new ICT projects effective immediately, unless there are really special needs.  From 1.1.2012 to be used for all information exchange.
  • Email attachments containing documents should use PDF or ODF as of 1.1.2011
  • Upgrading ODF version to 1.1 from 1.1.2010 for documents
  • All central web pages are mandated to use open formats for multimedia content
    • Video: Theora/Vorbis/Ogg or H.264/AAC/MP4
    • Sound: Vorbis/Ogg, MP3 or FLAC/Ogg
    • Pictures: JPEG or PNG

The character set and representation has been debated, but something was needed in order to include support for all the Sami languages and their character sets, as well as support for foreign character sets.  Internationalization of society leads to a greater need for representing names and other information in the correct way.  UTF8 is one representation, and it is not the worst.

Dare one hope for SAML2.0, preferrably with a eGOV profile, for inclusion in the next update of the standards catalogue in a couple of years?  We should prepare for that situation!