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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

ITU Workshop on Bridging the Standardization Gap

Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic, 30 July 2012

Opening Speech

Hon Thansamay Kommasith, Vice Minister of Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications,
Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Mr Byoung-Moon Chin, Vice President of TTA

Excellencies, distinguished delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

Sabai-dee, good morning and welcome to this ITU workshop on Bridging the Standardization Gap.

I would like to thank the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for hosting this event, in the beautiful capital city of Vientiane, and the Korean Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA) for helping organize this event. I would also like to thank the Korean Communications Commission for its generous support to our Bridging the Standards Gap fund which help us to carry out many of the activities such as this.

It is a great pleasure to be here especially since this year is “visit Laos year”. Laos is a rapidly growing tourist destination due to its friendly people, wonderful atmosphere, and beautiful countryside, with more than 75 per cent of its land area covered by steep hillsides and mountains. Despite being roughly the same size as the UK is has a population of only 6.5 million people, roughly one tenth of the population of the UK. In fact 2.8 million visitors are expected this year compared to just 14,400 in 1990.

Considering Laos size and terrain, the increasing tourism, and urbanization of the country’s population, and the importance of strong trade relationships with its neighboring countries – there can be no doubt that information and communication technologies (ICTs) will play a key role in Laos ‘economic development.

Evidence of this abounds: in 2011 alone, Laos number of mobile-cellular subscriptions increased by an astounding 37 per cent – putting the country in the world’s top-10 countries for increases in mobile penetration.

In 2004, less than 5 per cent of Laos people were using mobile phones, but by the end of 2011, this number had risen to 88 per cent of the population – quite an achievement.

Global standards are one of the most important tools to address the digital divide as they increase competition and so reduce costs, and enable companies in emerging markets to access a global market. They are an essential aid to developing countries in building their infrastructure and encouraging economic development.

Increasing the participation of developing countries in ITU’s standardization work ensures that ITU produces standards to meet their own particular requirements. Participation also enables a greater understanding of what can be very complicated standards, meaning a more informed choice of the standards to meet their own requirements, and knowledge of how to implement them.

ITU has introduced a number of initiatives to facilitate greater participation of developing countries in our standards work.

Making ITU-T Recommendations available for downloading free of charge from the ITU website was one of the first initiatives. ITU previously sold around 5000 copies a year, but now downloads are running at over 2.5 million copies a year.

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

Fellowships are limited to countries with annual GDP per capita not exceeding $2000 according to the World Bank. Lao PDR falls into this category, and I very much encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.

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. This allows delegates to avoid costly airfares and hotel expenses.

As a consequently I am pleased to say that since 2007 we have seen 40 countries participate in ITU-T meetings that were not participating in 2007. 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 ITU-T staff and the study group leadership on the work of the study group. Delegates without laptops are loaned a laptop for the duration of the meeting.

We have also increased the number and availability of handbooks 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 given by these 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, many run by Gary Fishman who will be running an interactive working session tomorrow which will address how developing countries can strengthen their standardization capability at national level through the establishment of a standardization secretariat to coordinate contributions to ITU.

The establishment of a standardization secretariat can help drive ICT standardization activities at national level. An ITU study to assess the standardization capability of developing countries identified the absence of a body at national level to coordinate standardization activities in the ICT sector a major shortcoming. This study was undertaken due to the generous contribution of the KCC. We are currently working on developing guidelines on the establishment of such a standardization secretariat and I am sure the inputs obtained during this workshop will be very useful to finalize these guidelines.

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

Another significant step forward has been the establishment of a reduced membership fee for Sector Members from certain developing countries, and a new category of membership for academia and their associated research institutes.

Being a developing country, Laos universities are able to join ITU at the reduced membership fee of CHF2000 per year.

Since introducing this new academic membership category at the beginning of last year, 47 institutions have joined ITU.

One of our major initiatives in recent years is our “conformity and interoperability programme”.

This programme is essential to our main objective of developing 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.

ITU’s purpose going back to its foundation in 1865 is to produce standards that 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.

As part of the programme, we have established a conformity database that will enable companies to list their products that have been shown to conform to ITU standards. Conformity does not guarantee interoperability but will greatly increase the probability of interoperability. This will help purchasers make informed decisions on the choice of product.

We are also helping establish, together with UNIDO, regional or sub-regional conformity and interoperability test centres that can be linked together through mutual recognition arrangements.

Capacity building is an important part of this programme and we have held many workshops and tutorials in the regions focusing on conformity and interoperability.

In addition we hold interoperability test events where different vendors come together and prove their products interoperate.

Finally, I wish to remind you of the some important events coming at the end of this year in Dubai.

The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (or WTSA-12) will be held from the 20th to the 29th of November 2012. WTSA is ITU-T’s main decision making body and it meets every four years to decide the structure and objectives of ITU’s standards sector for the next four year period and appoint the chairmen and vice-chairmen to the advisory group and the study groups. Fellowships are available for WTSA-12, and more information on these fellowships is available on ITU-T’s website.

WTSA-12 will be preceded, on the 19th of November, by a one-day Global Standards Symposium (GSS): a high-level event gathering governments, business and standards developers to discuss how we might improve collaboration to bridge the standardization gap.

Finally, from 3-14 December will be the first World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) which will for the first time in 24 years revise the only truly global treaty on international telecommunications.

I certainly hope to see many of you participating in these events and in ITU’s standardization work in the future.

I wish you all a most productive and enjoyable meeting.

Khawp jai, thank you.