PDF/A in public administration

PDF/A in a Nutshell 2.0 – PDF for long-term archiving

Many government authorities and public institutions worldwide now specify formats to use for digital data. Government offices often recommend that working documents use open file formats. More and more often, PDF/A is the only format accepted for final-version files.

  • EU Publications Office:The EU Publications Office is tasked with providing access to all laws, declarations and publications. Since 2007, the EU Digital Library has been tasked with storing printed texts – some of which date back to 1957 – in digital form as well. In a pilot project, an external digitisation team took two years to turn 130,000 paper documents in eleven languages into PDF/A-1b files with searchable text. An important factor in choosing PDF/A was that XMP metadata can be used for keywords and other bibliographic information. To simplify print-on-demand book orders, the archive files are now also available in the ISO standard format for digital print data, PDF/X-3.

    Das EU Publications Office in Luxemburg.

    The EU Publications Office in Luxembourg.

  • The European Patent Office: Since April 2010, the European Patent Office has published patent documents not just in PDF format, but also in PDF/A. For the Patent Office, an important feature of the PDF/A format is found in the way it uses metadata: the XMP metadata fields can include the publication number, the patentee and the international patent classification.

Libraries and archives are taking a leading role in implementing and developing PDF/A. In the USA and Europe in particular, these institutions are choosing the ISO standard for long-term archiving.

  • “Comply or Explain” in the Netherlands: The government of the Netherlands has a “Comply or Explain” policy regarding open standard software. The national action plan “Nederland Open in Verbinding” enforces the use of open standards and requests the use of standard file formats, namely ODF, PDF and PDF/A. All public institutions in the country must use open standard software, as must all companies which take on public contracts. Any entity which cannot meet these requirements must fully justify this decision. In many cases, it is generally easier and ultimately more cost-effective to switch over to a standardised process.
  • Brazil: In 2007, the Brazilian government introduced the e-PING architecture which regulates the provision of digital services. For final versions of a document to be transmitted or archived, Brazil prefers PDF/A.
  • Denmark: Since April 2011, all Danish government bodies are required to save non-editable documents in PDF/A format.
  • France: Since early 2009, the French authorities have recommended the ISO’s PDF/A standard for archiving administrative documents with static, unchanging content.
  • Switzerland: Due to archiving requirements, all electronic communication between citizens and administrative authorities is required to use the PDF/A file format. This regulation has been in force since 2008.
  • Germany: German registry offices have run an electronic register of births, marriages and deaths since 2009; for registered data, they use PDF/A and XML. By 2014, these offices are expected to have switched over to an all-digital system.

For further user reports and the latest PDF/A recommendations, visit the website of PDF Association: www.pdfa.org.

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About Alexandra Oettler

Alexandra Oettler ist (Co-) Autorin der Bücher PDF/A kompakt und PDF/A kompakt 2.0.

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