Opening Remarks: ITU/CITEL-PCC.I Seminar on “Bridging the Standardization Divide”
24 September 2007
Buenos días damas y caballeros. Es un gran honor y un gran placer para mí
unirme a Ustedes en la hermosa provincia de Mendoza durante este seminario
sobre Reducción de la disparidad en materia de normalización. Agradezco
profundamente a las personas de CITEL y de Secretaria de Comunicaciones y
Comisión Nacional de Comunicaciones que han trabajado arduamente para que
este evento tuviera lugar. Es una buena oportunidad para que practique mi
español, pero lamentablemente no lo he usado en mucho tiempo así que será
mejor que continúe en Ingles!
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour and pleasure for me
to join you in beautiful Mendoza for this seminar on bridging the
standardization gap. My sincere thanks must go to the people at CITEL and
Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Comisión Nacional de Comunicaciones who have
worked very hard to make this event happen. It is a good opportunity for me
to practice my Spanish but unfortunately has not been used for a while, so I
had better continue in English!
I am proud of the links that have already been established between ITU and
CITEL, thanks to our regional offices in Brasil and Chile, and the efforts
of our staff, and the staff of CITEL here. I know that CITEL has taken a
leading role as the regional platform for harmonizing telecommunication
standardization in the region. So please accept my congratulations for this.
Harmonization in the increasingly complicated world of information and
communication technologies (ICTs) is no simple matter.
I very much hope that this event will serve to forge even stronger links
between CITEL and ITU.
One of the major objectives of ITU-T is extending the benefits of our work
and the opportunities for participation to a wider audience. This is part of
bridging the so-called standardization gap. I can assure you that it is
something that I take very seriously. Indeed, I am mandated to do so by our
members, as outlined in Resolution 123 from the 2006 Plenipotentiary
conference. Over the next few months, we will be putting a great deal of
effort into researching new tools which will allow remote participation. We
will also be holding more regional seminars – like this one – in developing
countries to push the message that the standardization process is open to
all and it is important for developing countries to take part.
Much has already been done to facilitate easier access to ITU-T’s work.
In the past, I have put a lot of effort into encouraging regional
preparations for ITU conferences and this has become very successful.
Countries can now participate in the development of regional proposals even
if they do not have the resources to attend the meeting themselves. Focus
groups provide another way for both members and non-members to participate;
currently we have a number of active Focus Groups on hot topics including
IPTV and identity management (IdM). Events, especially workshops, are
increasingly webcast live and something that is not so commonly known is
that chairmen of any ITU-T meeting can invite a non-member to attend as an
individual expert. (Ref: Resolution 1, 2.3.1).
However, we acknowledge that more can and must be done.
The standardization gap might be defined as the disparity in the ability of
representatives of developing countries, relative to developing ones, to
access, implement, contribute to and influence international ICT standards,
specifically ITU Recommendations.
The significance of the standardization gap is that it contributes to the
persistence of the wider digital divide in ICTs. That is because one of the
underlying causes of the digital divide is unequal access to technology and
the ability to use that technology. If we take broadband as an example… the
dominant form of broadband available worldwide is based on the digital
subscriber line (DSL) standards published by ITU (e.g., ITU-T
Recommendations G.991, 992, 993). Thus, for broadband to be implemented in
developing countries there needs to be a process of technology transfer and
adoption. That can happen much faster where engineers have access to the
relevant standards and can implement them, and perhaps more importantly when
they can participate in standards development, particularly at the
requirements gathering stage.
The number of Study Group chairs and vice-chairs from developing countries
has increased from just 10 in 1996 to 26 in 2000 and 36 in 2004. The best
represented developing economy from this region is Brazil, but we also have
Study Group officials from Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago.
It may be possible to increase the percentage of chairs and vice-chairs at
the next World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) which is
the regular event that defines the next period of study for ITU-T.
The last ITU council saw one of the most significant changes in recent years
to assist participation from developing countries in the standardization
process. This is the freeing up of ITU-T’s biggest resource – its vast
library of standards – ITU-T Recommendations. In the first eight months of
2007 some 16.1 per cent of downloads from the ITU-T website were from
organizations or individuals located in developing countries This
corresponds to almost 300’000 downloads by developing countries, compared
with just 500 ITU-T Recommendations that were sold during the whole of 2006
when they were priced. The historic decision taken by the 2007 Council to
make permanent the free access to Recommendations will be a major step
forward in bridging the standardization gap.
The new management team is keenly focused on addressing the digital divide
and the corresponding standardization gap. In ITU-T’s secretariat – the
Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) - a Task Force has been
established to oversee implementation of all PP-06 and WTSA Resolutions, and
assistance is offered in establishing regional groups. ITU-D and ITU-T will
also work more closely together in organizing future regional events, in
collaboration with the regional offices. It is our intention to hold more
ITU-T meetings in developing countries and to seek sponsorship so that
fellowships can be made available. Work on bridging the standardization gap
will also continue, both through a Correspondence Group and through a series
of regional workshops including this one in Mendoza, followed by Kigali,
Rwanda (2-4 October, 2007) and Minsk, Belarus (4-6 December 2007).
The topic will be further discussed at WTSA-08, notably in the Global
Standardization Symposium planned for 20 October 2008. A morning session
will deal mainly with bridging the standardization gap while the afternoon
session will be devoted to global standards collaboration to meet this
objective and future challenges. The day will end with a roundtable
involving standards development organizations and regional/national
ITU has a noble ambition: to Connect the World, and the WSIS recognized
ITU’s catalytic role in building infrastructure.
The modern world is undergoing a fundamental transformation, as the 20th
century’s industrial society becomes the information society of the 21st
century. Politics, democracy, health, education, entertainment, literacy,
financial markets and poverty are all being changed irrevocably by the ICT
revolution. ICTs have become vital to the world’s future development.
Standards, competition and innovation need nurturing and fostering. The work
of the ITU-T should go a long way to helping the smoother, more economical
introduction of new standards, topologies, protocols and interfaces. And,
Latin America has an important role to play. Through your participation in
the work of ITU-T you can influence the future direction of standardization,
ensuring that the standards meet the specific requirements of developing
countries. The recent agreement between 3GPP and ITU-T which allows
developing countries to input their requirements through ITU into 3GPP is a
particularly important development.
I cannot conclude my remarks without a brief reference to the International
Telecommunication Regulations, a treaty maintained by the ITU whose purpose
is to promote the development of telecommunication services and their most
efficient operation while harmonizing the development of facilities for
world-wide telecommunications. Some countries have called for a revision of
the ITRs, which were adopted in 1998, other countries believe that no
revisions are required, while still others believe that the ITRs should be
abrogated. Debates have taken place for the past eight years and have been
delicate and difficult. At the Plenipotentiary conference last year,
unanimous agreement was reached for ITU-T to lead a review of the current
ITRs, and I have created an expert group to conduct that review. It has been
agreed that Cleveland Thomas of Trinidad and Tobago should chair that group,
and that each region should name a vice-Chairman. We have not yet received
the nomination of the vice-Chairman from the Americas and
I understand that a coordination meeting will take place this week in order
to agree a nomination.
I wish you all a productive and informative meeting.