The International Telecommunication Union’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) remains at the forefront of efforts to improve the capacity of developing countries to fully participate in the development and implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) standards. Inequality in national standards capability continues to be a contributive factor to the persistence of the digital divide between the developed and developing worlds and to diminished opportunities for economic development and technological innovation. ITU’s Constitution provides that ITU-T’s work should always take into account the concerns of developing countries.
Reflecting this concern, the 2002 Marrakesh Plenipotentiary Conference adopted Resolution 123 calling for the pursuit of initiatives that assist in bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries. The 18th Plenipotentiary Conference in Guadalajara in 2010 adopted a revised Resolution 123 “Bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries.” ITU’s concern about standardization and the developing world was consistent with issues elaborated in the first and second phases of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), organized by the Union and held in Geneva, Switzerland in December 2003 and in Tunis, Tunisia in November 2005.
The WSIS Geneva Declaration of Principles identified standardization as not only a fundamental architectural component of the global information society but as a precursor to the diffusion of affordable and accessible information and communication technologies in the developing world: Standardization is one of the essential building blocks of the Information Society. There should be particular emphasis on the development and adoption of international standards. The development and use of open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and demand-driven standards that take into account needs of users and consumers is a basic element for the development and greater diffusion of ICTs and more affordable access to them, particularly in developing countries. International standards aim to create an environment where consumers can access services worldwide regardless of underlying technology
The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly held in Florianópolis, Brazil, in 2004 and in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2008 adopted Resolution 44, "Bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries". The Action Plan in Resolution 44 of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA 2008, Johannesburg) outlines four major programmes for developing countries:
- Strengthening standard-making capabilities
- Assisting developing countries in enhancing efforts in respect of standards application
- Human resource building
- Flagship groups for bridging the standardization gap
Resolution 56 of WTSA-08 furthermore called for the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) Vice-chairmen, appointed on a regional basis, as well as study group Vice-chairmen from developing countries, to be tasked with specific responsibilities designed to promote greater participation of developing countries in ITU-T’s standardization work. These efforts include the mobilization of regional ITU members to actively participate in ITU standards activities, the development of participation reports to ITU about the region, and the development of a formal mobilization program for the respective region.