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Global forum addresses ICT standards gap

Importance of standards for developing world highlighted at Rwanda event

Geneva, 11 October 2007 — The government of Rwanda generously hosted ITU’s first ever global forum on Bridging the ICT standardization and development gap between developed and developing countries, in Kigali, Rwanda, 2−4 October. Participants welcomed the recent establishment of a special fund for voluntary contributions from world governments and industry to address the issue.

The ICT standardization gap refers to the shortage of human resources in developing countries, relative to developed ones, in terms of being able to participate effectively in the standards-making and implementation process. Standards are an essential tool in bridging the digital divide, in reducing costs, and bringing vital aid to developing countries to build their infrastructure and encourage economic development.

Over 160 participants from 38 countries took part in the meeting, with several countries being represented at government ministerial or company CEO level. The conclusions of the Forum, outlining the importance of addressing the standardization gap, will be provided as input to the upcoming Connect Africa summit to be held in Kigali, 29−30 October.

The Forum was formally opened by Mr Albert Butare, Minister of State in charge of Energy and Communications. He drew attention to the country’s National Information and Communications Infrastructure (NICI) Plan where the aim is to focus on the benefits of ICT for national development and prosperity so that by 2020 Rwanda will have achieved middle-income status as a knowledge-based economy. The Minister welcomed the support being given by ITU and the international community in helping Rwanda to achieve its goals.

Mr Malcolm Johnson, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, speaking in Kigali at the opening of the Forum, said, "The significance of the standardization gap is that it contributes to the persistence of the wider digital divide in ICT. That is because one of the underlying causes of the digital divide is unequal access to technology and the ability to implement and use that technology. The process of technology transfer and implementation will happen much faster when African engineers can participate in standards development, particularly at the requirements-gathering stage, and are familiar with the relevant standards."

Participants agreed that a sustained commitment to raising standards awareness and to capacity-building is of particular importance. The meeting called on ITU to step up its efforts, welcoming the organization of a Global Standardization Symposium to address the issue. This will be held on 20 October 2008, just ahead of the next World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-08), planned for South Africa.

The chairman’s report from the Forum is available online along with a full set of presentations.

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Updated : 2007-10-11