Let's build consensus on how new tech should factor into our future

International standards represent voluntary commitments to new ways of working together. Just as innovation can drive sustainable development, inclusive standardization processes can help to share the benefits of tech worldwide.

Each year on World Standards Day, we pay tribute to the many thousands of experts who work together year-round to develop international standards.

This year’s theme, “A shared vision for a better world”, marks the beginning of a multi-year awareness campaign on how standardization can help to realize the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On this occasion, the world’s three leading standards bodies – the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – welcome you to join us in ensuring that standards contribute to a better life for all.

Driving digital transformation together

Standards have always been vital to information and communication technologies (ICTs) – providing the technical foundations for connectivity and enabling global interoperability.

Over 95 per cent of international data traffic runs over fibre-optic networks built to ITU standards. Video now accounts for over 80 per cent of Internet traffic, enabled by Primetime Emmy-winning video-compression algorithms standardized jointly by IEC, ISO and ITU.

In the wider global ICT ecosystem, collaboration among competitors on standards development creates efficiencies enjoyed by all market players. The resulting economies of scale ultimately reduce production costs and, in turn, final prices for consumers.

As industries keep speeding up, ITU standardization work now addresses healthcare, financial services, transportation, energy, agriculture, and smart cities, as well as helping all those sectors and the ICT sector to capitalize on advances in artificial intelligence (AI).

 

New partnerships for a new era

 

Standardization processes must remain inclusive –with all voices being heard and every step forward determined by consensus – to give innovators worldwide the confidence to continue investing in our digital future. Building trust through standardization has been a key value proposition since ITU’s establishment in 1865.

 

But new times call for new approaches in the global standardization community. New technologies have given rise to unprecedented capabilities to innovate. Today, ITU strives to ensure that everyone has a voice in deciding how these new capabilities should factor into our future. And with ICTs forming a nexus among a growing range of businesses, the responsibilities of regulatory authorities also inevitably converge.

 

Inclusive dialogue helps new partners understand their roles. It helps to clarify the contributions expected of all stakeholders, including ITU itself. Open platforms, such as ITU Focus Groups, help determine the way forward, while membership-driven ITU Study Groups develop the international standards that give everyone opportunity to move forward together. Collaborative frameworks like AI for Good, United for Smart Sustainable Cities, the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative, the Digital Currency Global Initiative, and the new AI for Road Safety initiative bring multiple perspectives to timely global industry and policy challenges.

 

Expanding inclusivity

Our world is highly diverse – whether in terms of cultures, languages, or levels of economic development. We convene at ITU in the spirit of collaboration and mutual respect. We learn from one another to advance together.

This is exactly the spirit needed to ensure a sustainable future. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought digital connectivity to the fore – along with the need for trusted systems and networks. ICTs now form part of any discussion about our global future. ITU’s neutral platform can help to unify such discussions.

We also keep working to bridge the standardization gap – and ensure that all countries share in the benefits of interoperable technology solutions. We continue bringing decision-makers together from ICT and other sectors. And we continue to grow in inclusivity.

Last year, ITU introduced reduced membership fees for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Companies of all sizes in developing countries, as well as academia in all countries, also benefit from reduced fees.

Building back stronger from the pandemic, we will ensure that the ITU platform continues to grow in value to a growing number of stakeholders. ITU will continue setting the standard for international cooperation – at a time when this cooperation is more important than ever.

We welcome you to join us.