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Technology leaders call for clarity in standards landscape

Global Standards Symposium meets in Johannesburg

Geneva, 21 October 2008 — The first-ever Global Standards Symposium concluded yesterday in Johannesburg, South Africa with broad agreement on the need to take aggressive action to streamline standards work and end the duplication of efforts within the sector. The one-day symposium brought together government Ministers, diplomats, senior executives from the private sector and lead officials from other standards bodies.

Opening the Symposium, ITU standards chief Malcolm Johnson noted that without global standards the ICT world would be a very different place. "Imagine a world with no Internet or no telephone calling from one side of the world to the other. Literally thousands of standards pin together this framework of technologies that keeps the world’s businesses and consumers connected," Johnson said, adding that clarity and efficiency must be brought to bear as the standardization scenario gets more complex by the day. "We must ensure we all pull together and avoid duplication of effort and waste our increasingly limited resources. Even large organizations are having difficulty resourcing this effort, so how can small organizations, especially from developing countries, hope to play a role?"

Industry and standards leaders argued that the bewildering array of standards bodies is costly and inefficient. It is estimated that there are over 300 ICT standards bodies in existence today. GSS delegates agreed that keeping track of them was a difficult task. Better coordination at an international level is needed between industry and standards developing organizations (SDOs) to ensure that standardization needs are met quickly and efficiently. Steps are being planned to establish a direct line of communication between technology leaders and ITU’s standardization arm. This would ensure that emerging needs are addressed in the most efficient manner and at the most appropriate place. "ITU has long championed this cause, and is committed to providing high-quality, demand-driven international standards, which are developed rapidly, in line with the principles of global connectivity, openness, affordability, reliability, interoperability and security," Johnson said.

ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré underlined the importance of standards in times of financial crisis. "Standards are a proven tool in terms of economic development," he said. "The World Trade Organization (WTO) trade report of 2005 underlines the important benefits that standards can deliver." He added that "standards may have a significant effect on limiting the undesirable outcomes of market failure. And, the work of ITU and other bodies in the development of global standards for ICTs and telecoms has helped the smoother, more economical introduction of new technologies."

Addressing global challenges

Participants at the Global Standards Symposium also addressed ICTs and climate change, increasing developing country participation in the standardization process, and accessibility to ICTs for persons with disabilities.

Delegates were called on to set an example by committing to specific programmes to limit their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduce their carbon footprint and help ensure that the expansion of the global communications network is done in an environmentally friendly manner. The importance of the work of the ITU Focus Group on Climate Change was recognized; in particular the need for a standardized approach to measuring the impact of ICTs on the reduction of GHG emissions.

Malcolm Johnson noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had underlined ITU’s role in addressing climate change — the moral challenge of our times. "From a standardization perspective, ITU has already produced a checklist for standards authors to ensure climate change is taken into account in the development of our standards," Johnson said. "Industry is faced with probably its biggest ever challenge but also its biggest ever opportunity in terms of corporate social responsibility. There is the challenge for the ICT industry to limit its own emissions, but also the opportunity to maximize its potential to help other sectors reduce their emissions. This could make for a tremendously good news story for the ICT industry."

Bridging the standardization gap is the term ITU uses to describe its efforts to increase developing country participation in the standards making process. Recent efforts by ITU’s Standardization Sector (ITU-T) include holding five regional forums in 2008, establishing a voluntary fund to be used for workshops and meetings in developing countries, fellowships, remote participation, surveys and study programmes. It was recognized that the increased involvement of developing countries in standardization work provides an opportunity to better consider their needs in developing new standards and will help meet the traditional objective of ITU in continuing to ensure global interoperability of communications.

In the arena of accessibility to ICTs for persons with disabilities ITU was encouraged to continue its efforts in producing standards that support the ICT needs of persons with disabilities. Work to develop an on-line toolkit that will serve as a global electronic repository of policies and strategies and as a platform for sharing experiences on best practices on ICT accessibility was announced.

The GSS took place one day before the start of ITU’s World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-08) which is a quadrennial event where ITU members decide on the direction of ITU’s standardization work for the next four years. A report from the GSS will be submitted to WTSA-08 and high on its agenda there are likely to be topics such as those discussed at the GSS but also cybersecurity, IPTV, and some Internet related issues.

A communiqué will be issued at the conclusion of WTSA-08.

For further information, please contact:

Sanjay Acharya
Chief, Media Relations and Public Information

ITU
Tel: +41 22 730 5046
Mobile: +41 79 249 4861
E-mail:
pressinfo@itu.int
Toby Johnson
Communications Officer
ITU
Tel: +41 22 730 5877

Mobile: +41 79 249 4868

In Johannesburg :
Tel: +27 011 977 92 05
Mobile: +27 82 858 8508
E-mail: toby.johnson@itu.int 

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Updated : 2008-10-28