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ITU Regional Seminar for the Africa Region on Conformance and Interoperability Testing Centre(s)
Accra, Ghana 4 July 2011
The Guest of Honour, Hon Minister or Mr.
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here to open this ITU Regional Seminar for the Africa Region on Conformance and Interoperability Testing Centre(s).

I wish to express my deep gratitude to the Ministry of Communications (MOC) of Ghana for hosting this event and in particular my good friend the Honourable Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communications.

As you know, ITU is in the business of producing international standards, not national or regional standards but standards that can be implemented on a world-wide basis. This means they have to have been accepted by the world community and to do this it means we must satisfy the requirements of the full ITU membership: 192 governments and over 700 private sector entities.

Our standards should provide interoperability so that users of products developed according to these standards can make use of them anywhere in the world regardless of who has manufactured them and who is offering the service.

Interoperability is an extremely 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.

There are four key elements: (1conformance testing to determine compliant products (2) interoperability testing events amongst various manufacturers’ products implementing the standard(s); (3) capacity building; and (4) assisting in the establishment of regional or sub-regional test centres in developing countries. I am please to say that UNIDO has offered us its support in the latter objective, and I am please that it is represented here at this seminar.

In future we need to ensure the development of testing specifications associated with all new standards, and we need to define more interfaces where interoperability can be tested. This will increase competition, decrease costs and reduce the chances of being locked into a single vender’s product.

We are also putting in place a conformity database which will record information on what products have been tested to ITU-T Recommendations. The demand for a conformity database was simple: people want a database on the ITU website where they can see what products have been successfully tested to ITU-T Recommendations.

To ensure the credibility of the database, tests must be carried out in an accredited laboratory: first, second or third party; or be accepted by an accredited certification body;or in laboratories agreed by those standard bodies recognized by the ITU according to our Recommendation ITU-T A.5. Companies will voluntarily input the data directly into the database which will be verified by submitting a Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity issued according to ISO standards.

We have started a programme of interoperability events. In 2010 we had Interop events in Geneva, Singapore and India. Several IPTV manufacturers participated to prove conformity to our IPTV standards and to prove their equipment would interoperate with the equipment of the other manufacturers. This year saw the first event to test for interoperability for the ITU-T – home networking standard. We will, hopefully, have another event on this in August and more events for IPTV in Dubai and Geneva.

These Interop events not only showcased interoperable products but proved that ITU global standards in this important field are ready to go, and in fact are already being implemented. Proprietary solutions may offer faster deployment in the short term - but in the medium and longer term, buyers will be subject to vendor lock-in with costly upgrades and reduced content and hardware choice.

The third element of the programme is human capacity building. We have held events in Nairobi, Quito, Ecuador and Singapore and look forward to more workshops and tutorials on the subject this year. Training and consultation events on Conformance and interoperability issues including Guidelines for building Test Labs will be conducted on a regional basis; in Africa and the CIS countries during 2011 and in Asia Pacific, the Americas and the Arab States during 2012.

The fourth element of the programme – and the subject of this event - is to help establish regional or sub-regional test centres. We are currently working with a number of countries that are interested in establishing these, and we have a pilot project in Tanzania. We rely very much on the countries in the region or sub-region agreeing amongst themselves on the location of the test centre.

Conformance testing measures how accurately a product implements a technical specification. The degree of compliance helps vendors and users of the equipment to evaluate how the equipment will perform in a network, where it will have to integrate with other devices from a variety of venders.

Conformance and interoperability testing is important to identify non-compliant and poor quality equipment, that maybe harmful to the network or even users.

For service providers, conformance and interoperability testing is also necessary to reduce the probability of errors being introduced during the network integration period, which would have a negative impact on deployment schedules.

Besides the financial costs associated with the resources required to support an extended deployment schedule, other costs penalties could occur due to lost market share and customers experiencing the impact of poorly tested services.

A set of Guidelines on building Testing labs for Conformance and Interoperability of equipment and systems in developing countries is under development in ITU.

We have begun work on the framework of a business plan for the long term implementation of the programme which will provide environmental background; pros and cons; a road map for the implementation of the actions; a budget; legal aspects; study group actions; and partnerships for taking the work forward.

ITU is committed to working in consultation with all its membership and in collaboration with other SDOs, forums and consortia on this important topic.

Conformity does not imply interoperability, but the chances of interoperability are definitely higher if equipment has been shown to conform to a standard. Pursuing activities that create better conformance and interoperability will ensure more effective use of resources offered by modern ICTs and help towards ITU’s mission to Connect the World.

I would like to thank you all for your participation. I am sure the dialogue over the next three days will help considerably with the implementation of WTSA-10 Resolution 76, WTDC Resolution 47, and the PP-10 Resolution 177

I wish you a successful and enjoyable seminar, and thank once again our very kind hosts for their excellent hospitality and friendship, which you can always be sure of in Ghana.

Thank you for your attention.


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