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ITU Regional Forum 2012: “Bridging the standardization gap for RCC countries"

Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2 April 2012

Keynote Address

Mr Mirzakhidov, Director General, Uzbek Agency for Communications and Informatization
Mr Mukhitdinov, Director General of the RCC Executive Committee
Mr Grin, Deputy Director ITU BDT
Distinguished delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

Assalomu alaykum, dobroye utro, good morning
Xush kelibsiz, Dobro požalovat, welcome

Firstly I would like to thank the Telecommunications Administration of Uzbekistan for hosting these events this week in the beautiful city of Tashkent. I would especially like to thank Mr Khurshid Mirzakhidov, and all the staff of the Uzbek Agency for Communication and Informatization, and especially Ms Umida Musaeva for all the tremendous efforts she has made.

We had the pleasure of being here four years ago for the regional preparations for WTSA-08 and I am sure this week will be equally successful. It is amazing how quickly those four years have gone but looking back I believe we have achieved a lot, especially in our objective to bridge the standards gap, as we will discuss today.

Standards are one of the most important tools that we have to address the digital divide. Global standards avoid costly market battles over preferred technologies, and for companies from emerging markets, they create a level playing field which provides access to new markets.

They are an essential aid to developing countries in building their infrastructure and encouraging economic development. Through economies of scale, they can reduce costs for all: manufacturers, operators and consumers. This is why ITU continues to promote single global standards for any application, whether it be digital terrestrial broadcasting using DVB-T/2, or IPTV, or any of the other 200-odd standards we produce each year.

Increasing the participation of developing countries ensures that their requirements are taken into account in the development of these new standards.

While there are still inequalities in national standards capabilities, I believe we have seen great progress with the measures we have introduced over the last few years.

Making ITU-T Recommendations available for downloading free of charge helped a great deal. Previously it was not easy for developing countries to obtain them, not only due to the cost but a rather complicated method of buying them. ITU was selling around 5000 copies a year, now downloads are running at over 2.5 million copies a year.

We have facilitated participation in our meetings in a number of ways:

Previously, partial fellowships were only available for ITU-T Study Group 3, now either one full fellowship or two partial fellowships are available for meetings of all 10 of our study groups.

ITU fellowships are limited to countries with annual GDP per capita not exceeding $2000 according to the World Bank. Countries in this region eligible for fellowships are:

  • Tajikistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Kyrgyz Republic
  • Moldova
We have increased the number of meetings in the regions, we have created regional study groups, and we offer remote participation in all our study group meetings.

Consequently I am pleased to say that since 2007 we have seen over 40 countries participate in ITU-T meetings that had not previously participated in ITU-T. Last year alone we had 16 countries participating in ITU-T for the first time.

To help new delegates we have initiated a mentoring programme. Any new delegate to ITU is met at the registration desk on the first day and given a tour of the ITU buildings and facilities. During the first day, a briefing session is provided by TSB staff and the study group leadership on the work of the study group.

In collaboration with our colleagues in the BDT, we have substantially increased the number of workshops on the work of the Sector, as well as Forums such as this on bridging the standards gap. Last year we held over 30 workshops around the world, many associated with the related study group meetings.

We have also increased the number of handbooks available explaining our standards and how to implement them. These are produced by the experts that developed the standards and are the basis for our workshops and tutorials which are also given by the same experts.

We are also running tutorials for the editors of our standards (we have over 1000 editors) and also tutorials with role-playing on how to best achieve your objectives in a study group meeting.

We have recently launched an online Question & Answer forum where anyone can send their questions about ITU-T standardization activities directly to the Study Group experts.

Another significant step forward since 2008 is the Plenipotentiary Conference’s agreement to the requests that were initiated at WTSA-08 for a reduced membership fee for Sector Members from certain developing countries, and a new category of membership for research institutes and academia.

The reduced Sector Membership annual fee of CHF4000 is currently quite limited, however, as the criteria is annual GNI per capita not exceeding $2000 according to the UNDP. This means that in this region only Tajikistan qualifies.

For research institutes and universities the membership fee is just CHF4000 per year for those in developed countries and CHF2000 for those in developing countries. Currently 38 have joined ITU since the beginning of last year, and of those 28 are ITU-T members.

Our Bridging the Standards Gap Fund is a great help in off-setting the cost to developing countries of hosting our meetings, and for this I am very grateful to the four contributors: Nokia Siemens Networks, Microsoft, Cisco and the Korea Communications Commission.

Let me take this opportunity to mention one of our major initiatives in recent years and one I am sure will be the subject for discussion today and tomorrow in the preparations for WTSA-12: our conformity and interoperability programme.

As you know our main objective is to develop interoperable, non-discriminatory, international standards.

Proprietary solutions may offer fast deployment in the short term but in the medium and longer term, buyers will be locked-in to a single vendor which will mean costly upgrades, and reduced content and hardware choice.

Our standards should provide interoperability, so that users of products produced to these standards can make use of them anywhere in the world, and vendors and operators can enter a global market.

This is a difficult objective to achieve in the multistakeholder environment we are now in. To address it we are implementing what we call a conformity and interoperability programme.

Driven by the concerns of developing countries, ITU has been very active in developing this programme aimed at creating a more interoperable ICT environment and ease the transition towards new technologies.

As part of the programme, we have established a pilot conformity database that will enable companies to list and give visibility to their products that have been tested successfully to conform to ITU Recommendations. This will make decision making on crucial national infrastructure a lot easier – especially for developing countries.

Capacity building is also an important part of this programme and BDT and TSB have held many workshops in the regions focusing on conformity and interoperability. In addition we held our first interoperability test event in July 2010, focusing on our standards for IPTV. We have since held events in Geneva, Singapore, India, Brazil and Dubai, and more are planned.

We are also helping establish, together with UNIDO, regional test centres that can be linked together through mutual recognition arrangements.

A business plan on the long-term implementation of the programme has been prepared by KPMG and will be presented to the ITU Council in July this year.

Before I hand the floor to Yury Grin, let me say that CIS countries made a significant contribution to the success of WTSA-08, especially on the enhancement of activities to bridge the standardization gap, and on conformity and interoperability. I very much hope that the meetings this week will identify further steps we can take to achieve these objectives.

So let me wish you all a most productive and enjoyable meeting, and thanks again to our generous hosts.

Rahmat, spasiba, thank you!