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 Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Global Standards Symposium Meets in Johannesburg

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?"

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 programs 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 U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had underlined ITU's role in addressing climate change.

 "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 it's biggest ever challenge but also its biggest every 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."

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Find out more about ITU's actvities on climate change and the Global Standards Symposium