ITU – World Telecommunication and Information Society Day to focus on inclusive standards

The following is an interview with Chaesub Lee, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau.

Q1: On May 17 of each year, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) celebrates World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. The theme for this day, for 2019, is “Bridging the Standardization Gap”. Why the choice of this theme this year?

With international standards, we share innovation worldwide. This year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) will highlight the importance of international standards to economic development and celebrate the benefits of inclusive standardization processes.

Advances in fields such as 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) have the potential to deliver considerable social and economic benefits and accelerate progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

ITU aims to ensure that all regions of the world are able to share in these benefits. The importance of inclusive standardization  processes is more evident than ever. This year’s WTISD will refresh advocacy efforts to ensure that all of us have equal opportunity to benefit from the ICT advances changing our world.

Q2: How can we precisely reduce this fracture especially on the side of developing countries?

The inclusivity of the ITU standardization platform is supported by ITU’s Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG)programme, a programme that assists developing countries in improving their capacity to participate in the development and implementation of international ICT standards.

Under the BSG programme, we offer financial assistance to delegates from certain eligible developing countries to support their participation in ITU standardization. Companies in certain developing countries are able to join ITU for a greatly reduced membership fee. We continue to increase the number of ITU meetings held in developing countries, and we offer online ‘remote participation’ for the majority of our meetings. We have developed guidelines on the establishment of ‘national standardization secretariats’, and regional groups within our standardization expert groups have proven very effective in ensuring that ITU standardization work addresses the needs of all the world’s regions.

We have also seen encouraging results emerging from a new training programme that assists ITU delegates in developing the practical skills necessary to maximize the effectiveness their participation in the ITU standardization process. Since the introduction of these training sessions in 2016, they have been attended by some 500 delegates representing 82 countries.

Q3: What role for standardization with technological advances that evolve at high speed?

The ICT standardization ecosystem has evolved considerably, in tune with the increasing speed of technological advance. This ecosystem has grown to include numerous standards-setting entities, some very focused and others very broad in scope.

Small industry forums might be capable of setting standards faster, but the drawback of that approach is that the standards agreed often speak to the priorities of only a small set of companies and might not be sufficient to ensure interoperability, compatibility and safety when part of a larger system.

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day:

A formal standards-developing organization (SDO) such as ITU operates using principles that ensure that all voices are heard, that standards efforts do not favour particular commercial interests, and that resulting standards have the consensus-derived support of the diverse set of stakeholders that comprise the globally representative ITU membership.

Standards developed by single companies or small groups of companies may however achieve great success, adopted by a broad range of industry players. In such cases, it is not uncommon for an SDO to remodel such standards as international standards to ensure that they are globally applicable.

Q4: Is ITU also working on norm-setting in areas such as autonomous cars or AI?

ITU addresses intelligent transport systems in our standardization work for radiocommunications, security, multimedia, and performance and quality of service. Road safety and automotive cybersecurity are our top priorities, and we build on strong history of ITU work to limit technology-related driver distraction. We have also built valuable collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the body responsible for global vehicle regulation. Working in partnership for more than ten years, ITU and UNECE have built productive dialogue between our respective communities. This dialogue is producing encouraging results, with UNECE now looking to ITU for technical standards in support of vehicle regulations.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is impacting ITU’s technical work in fields such as security, coding algorithms, data processing and management, and network management and orchestration. We expect that this trend will continue. New ITU standards address machine learning’s contribution to the increasing automation of network management and orchestration, and this concept of network ‘self-optimization’ is very much part of the discussion when it comes to emerging 5G and IoT networks. ITU is also working in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) to support AI’s contribution to health, in particular by developing evaluation methods to assess the degree to which ‘AI for Health’ use cases have achieved Proof of Concept.

Q5: In a digital world, is cybersecurity not one of the biggest challenges facing standardization organizations like ITU?

Security is the greatest challenge facing the ICT ecosystem at large.

“Security will be a key determinant of the reliability and safety of new technologies and their success in gaining users’ trust.” — Chaesub Lee

This is well recognized by ITU members. We see evidence of this recognition in the growing number of ITU standards under development in the field of security. Security aspects of quantum technologies, blockchain and intelligent transport systems are among the range of new subjects entering ITU’s standardization work plan. ITU standardization work is contribution-driven. It has been encouraging to see ITU’s security studies welcoming new subjects and new communities to propel our standardization work on these subjects.

Read the entire article here