Friday, February 08, 2008

Denmark's visionary free-busy sharing/calendar service

Infrastructure drives productivity. Railroads helped the North win the U.S. Civil War. The U.S. Interstate Highway System helped the U.S. become an industrial titan in the 20th century. The Internet, and email in particular, is making connected workforces more productive. But the point of Calendar Swamp all along has been to advocate for a new instructure, one of calendar sharing, that could make workers more productive by eliminating countless emails and phone calls currently required to determine when someone is free or busy, and arrange events that everyone involved can agree upon.

Enterprises have understood this for years, and typically lock themselves into Microsoft, Apple or IBM calendars exclusively in order to achieve a common calendar-sharing platform. But I knew it was only a matter of time before calendar-sharing rose to the level of national importance. Now, the Kingdom of Denmark has done just that.

For only $400,000, Denmark has built a Web site and connectors to popular online calendars that, conservatively, could save the country $10 million a year if the 816,000 public employees in Denmark used it to save one hour a year determining when others were free or busy for meetings. Needless to say, I think an hour a year savings is a conservative estimate. Some weeks, I feel like I could save an hour a week if calendar sharing or even just free/busy info sharing were ubiquitous.

This week, I was privileged to meet two Danish government officials -- Helle Birkedal Martinussen, Business Solution Architect with the Danish Ministry of the Environment, and Bitten Clausen, IT-Architect with the Ministry of Science's National IT and Telecom Agency. With them was Christian Orellana, CEO of Cabo Communications, the company that developed the Danes' new service,

We met at a meeting of CalConnect, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium, whose meetings are open to members-only but to which I and one other outsider were invited to attend this week with the understanding that we not disclose certain details of what we saw. I agreed to this and was honored to represent the worldwide Calendar Swamp community. I will have more to say about what I saw in a post next week. Longtime readers of Calendar Swamp will recognize CalConnect from the link to it provided from this blog, and from my 2006 IT Conversations podcast with Dave Thewlis.

For now, listen to my meeting with the previously-mentioned Danish visitors to CalConnect, Calendar Swamp Podcast #7, about 10 minutes in length, recorded on February 6, 2008. Something big is starting to happen, and those economies that jump on this bandwagon will be the winners. has limited services for English-language visitors, but check back there soon, Orellana told me. In the interest of providing more info to English speakers, particularly the more technical of you reading this, here are some excerpts from an informational flyer handed to me:

"Cooperation across organizations -- both within the public sector and between the public and private sectors involves, among other things, the task of setting up meetings. With participants from a variety of different organizations and calendaring platforms, the task of scheduling a meeting has proven very time consuming -- mainly due to the lack of free-busy information for the participants.

"To investigate the possibilities for better and more efficient ways of organizing meetings the project was fostered in 2002...

"For quick and easy adaptation the system was built on existing technologies where applicable.

"Free-busy information is published to a shared repository at using iCal/WebDAV and xCal/SOAP interfaces. (There is a strong use of XML for data exchange between public authorities in Denmark.)

"While Outlook natively supports free-busy lookup and publishing using iCal/WebDAV, server components for publishing free-busy information were developed for GroupWise, Lotus Domino, and Exchange (in the works).

"To assist users of server-based systems a rich web interface was developed allowing these users to schedule meetings using a web browser. (The web interface is widely used by Outlook users as well.)

"Besides calendaring services, provides directory services to find subscribed users. The directory can be accessed via LDAP or by using the web interface.

"Preliminary support for server-based free-busy lookup for Gmail and Zimbra users was recently added.

" is based on an Open Source platform [GPL] developed by Cabo Communications. The platform includes facilities for calendaring, address book, online documents, chat, etc.

"The source code is available at, as well as interfaces for Microsoft Outlook, IBM Lotus Notes and Novell Groupwise."

UPDATE: On this page, CalConnect has posted presentations from and from Cabo Communications.

1 comment:

Tilman Eberle said...

We found out that time needed for setting up and arranging meetings is amounting up to 5 h per week in certain professional groups (like managers)! The survey among 2500 professionals can be found here. In fact there exist already smart tools that close the gap between the individual calendar systems - and they do it for free, in a save way, and in 28 languages (including English and Danish...):