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April 17, 2014

Helping Developing Countries to Establish a National Standardization Secretariat

By Gary Fishman

When one goes to meetings of ITU-T Study Groups, the expert groups of ITU’s standardization arm (ITU-T), it is quite normal to see more attendees from developing countries than in the past. Establishing a national standardization secretariat process at home can turn these attendees into more effective participants in ITU-T standardization work.

Although some developing countries have been long-time participants in ITU-T, participation in the study groups has by-and-large included only limited developing-country representation, with active participation and contribution to the work coming mostly from developed countries.

Comparing today’s situation with participation in the past, there has been a clear change, with a growing level of attendance from more regions of the world and from more developing countries. In fact, in the past 5 years or so, attendees of ITU-T Study Group meetings have included representatives from more than 40 countries that had not previously participated in ITU-T work at the study group level.

There is, however, a major difference between attendance and participation. Attendance by more representatives of developing countries is a significant step forward, but there is still a big difference between simply attending a meeting and participation by a well-prepared, well-managed, active delegation such as those seen from other countries more experienced in international standardization work.

How does this difference come about? It can be attributed to one main factor – the existence of a ‘national standardization secretariat’ (NSS) to manage a national preparatory process.

This difference is not just one of numbers, but of the national process a country uses before, during and after an international standardization meeting. An effective NSS can provide a route for a developing country to participate more actively in ITU-T standardization work, contributing to and influencing the ITU-T work programme and resulting standards.

One of ITU-T’s three core strategic objectives, as stated in Plenipot-10 Resolution 71 (Strategic Plan for the Union 2013-2016), is “to assist in bridging the standardization gap between developed and developing countries”.

ITU-T’s assistance to developing countries is further supported by PP-10 Resolution 123 and WTSA-12 Resolution 44, both titled “Bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries”.

Programmes 1 and 2 of the Action Plan to implement WTSA-12 Resolution 44 specify that ITU developguidelines to assist developing countries in their involvement in ITU‑T activities; conduct consultancy projects designed to support developing countries in the development of standardization plans, strategies and policies; and assist developing countries in establishing a standardization secretariat to coordinate standardization activities and participation in ITU-T Study Groups.

ITU-T actions in response to these Resolutions have included the granting of fellowships to aid the participation of representatives from some developing countries, offering online ‘remote participation’ tools, and developing support programmes within study groups such as the appointment of mentors and the holding of ‘newcomer sessions’ at each meeting.

A recent deliverable, coming in direct response to the Resolution 44 Action Plan, has been the publication of “Guidelines on the Establishment of a National Standardization Secretariat for ITU-T”. The Guidelines describe the benefits, establishment and operation of such a national body and, accounting for differences in standardization priorities and resources among developing countries, offer several options to increase the efficiency of a country’s participation at various ‘levels’ of engagement with ITU-T.

The Guidelines recognize that many developing countries have limited resources to draw on for ICT standardization and that their public and private sectors’ engagement with ITU-T Study Groups will develop over time. For countries with the greatest resource limitations, the Guidelines detail how to establish a NSS with very little new resources.

The three options for a national process put forward by the Guidelines provide a structure through which developing countries can scale-up their participation in ITU-T incrementally. The Guidelines refer to these options as the “NSS-General Level”, for the most basic degree of involvement with ITU-T; the “NSS-Study Group Level”, where a country participates in a number of ITU-T Study Groups; and the “NSS-Full Sector Level”, at which a country will have become involved in close to all ITU-T Study Groups.

The Guidelines provide a roadmap to establish a NSS, and advice on the formation of a NSS structure overseen by a designated responsible agency of the government as well as the appropriate hierarchy of national advisory committees for individual study groups and ITU-T as a whole.

The Guidelines, in addition, cover the appointment of committee leaders and the scope of their responsibility and authority; public- and private-sector involvement in national advisory committees; the appointment of national contact points with ITU-T; the provision of national secretariat functions; and estimates of human and financial resource requirements, from the basic ‘NSS-General Level’ through to the ‘NSS-Full Sector Level’. Appeals procedures are also described, accounting for cases in which parties believe that the procedures have not been followed appropriately.

An accompanying Annex offers further guidance on the implementation of the Guidelines, providing step-by-step procedures to be followed in the operation of a NSS. Topics covered in the Annex include the development and approval of contributions to study group meetings; the establishment and preparation of national delegations to ITU-T meetings; responding to consultations on the approval or deletion of ITU-T Recommendations and Questions; and workload estimates for monitoring and responding to communications from the secretariat of ITU-T, the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB).

For more information on ITU-T’s Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG) programme and NSS guidelines, please visit ITU-T’s BSG website or contact Mr. Venkatesen Mauree, BSG Programme Coordinator, at bsg@itu.int

Gary Fishman served as Chairman of the ITU-T Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) from 1996 to 2008 and has 30 years experience in international standardization. Mr. Fishman has held leadership positions in standards bodies including the Chair of the TSAG, Vice Chair of the ITU Council’s ITU-2000 Working Group on Reform, and a member of World Standards Cooperation comprising the top management of ISO, IEC and ITU. He has served on policy bodies of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and he is a founding member and currently Vice Chairman of the Board of the US ITU Association (USITUA). Mr. Fishman is currently President of Pearlfisher International, a telecommunication standardization consulting company. His degrees in Electrical Engineering are from the City College of NY, Columbia University and New York University.

Photo by Bui Hoang Lien

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Helping Developing Countries to Establish a National Standardization Secretariat

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