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ITU Information Session on Conformity and Interoperability

Geneva, Switzerland, 12 January 2012

Opening Speech

Ladies and Gentlemen

Colleagues and friends

Welcome to this Information Session on Conformity and Interoperability.

As you may know, ITU’s standardization sector (ITU-T) has three main objectives:

  • To develop interoperable, non-discriminatory, international standards
  • To assist in bridging the standardization gap between developed and developing countries
  • To extend and facilitate international cooperation among international and regional standardization bodies.
Enabling the interoperability of ICT products is one of standardization’s core principles. Products developed in accordance with ITU standards should provide the interoperability needed for users of these products to make use of them anywhere in the world, regardless of who has manufactured them and who is offering the service.

A lack of conformity and interoperability is a major problem – especially for developing countries. This concern led to WTSA Resolution 76 in 2008. Subsequently ITU’s Council in 2009 endorsed the implementation of a conformity and interoperability programme and a Resolution from the World Telecommunication Development Conference also focussed on the topic. Last year’s Plenipotentiary Resolution 177 called for implementation without delay and the development of a business plan for long term implementation.

In today’s multi-stakeholder environment, interoperability can sometimes be an extremely difficult objective to achieve. ITU’s Conformity and Interoperability Programme will ensure that ITU standards lead to the interoperability for which they were designed.

The business plan that will outline the impact on ITU resources is well advanced. It is built around the four key elements of the programme: (1) conformance 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.

Conformance testing measures how accurately a product implements a technical specification. In other words, a product’s level of compliance with a technical standard.

Though interoperability is not guaranteed, its likelihood is much greater if a product conforms to ITU standards. We have thus created a database of products successfully tested for conformance to ITU Recommendations that can be populated both by members and non-members of ITU.

In the future, testing specifications will be developed in association with all new ITU standards. It is important that we define more interfaces where interoperability can be tested. This will increase competition for vendors, decrease costs and reduce the chances of being locked into a single vendor’s product.

A successful and important element of our programme is the series of interoperability events that started in 2009. We’ve held events in Geneva, Singapore, India, Brazil and Dubai. More are planned.

It is essential that we understand the conformance and interoperability concerns of each region. In that way we can identify the tools to address their unique concerns. I look forward to hearing about how conformance and interoperability testing is being dealt with in different parts of the world.

Our capacity building events – so far in Kenya, Ghana, Ecuador, India and Russia – have been an excellent way to share this information with developing countries and learn from experiences of others. We are committed to an ongoing programme of training and consultation events.

In addition - the fourth element of the programme - 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.

Together, these steps will reaffirm the importance of conformance and interoperability, and alert vendors and users of the many benefits transferred by conformance to ITU Recommendations.

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

We are working on a C&I Portal intended to cover a wide range of issues including links to all those entities, laboratories, certification and accreditation bodies, SDOs and similar databases.

Pursuing this range of activities that create better conformance and interoperability is both in line with our core objective to develop interoperable, non-discriminatory, international standards and ensure a more effective use of the resources offered by modern ICTs and help towards ITU’s mission to Connect the World.