Standard-setting guides tech for sustainable development

Industry and governments aim to help shape global digital transformation agenda ahead of ITU standardization assembly


Industry leaders and policy makers will gather at the end of the month to share ambitions for technical standards to drive sustainable development worldwide.

The discussions on 28 February – hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva, Switzerland – offer a platform for companies, countries, regulators, and academia to align with United Nations development priorities for the decade.

The ITU Global Standards Symposium also highlights the rising share of ITU standardization work dedicated to environmental sustainability, healthcare, road safety, financial inclusion, and the creation of smart cities and communities.

Technical standards developed through international collaboration aim to harness the accelerating uptake of technologies in fields such as 5G, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence (AI) to help meet UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“The global ITU membership is uniquely positioned to drive digital infrastructure development, connect the unconnected, and build confidence and trust in digital technologies,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “International standards can bring the benefits of digital transformation to everyone, everywhere.”

Setting the standardization agenda

The symposium paves the way for the decisive ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) between 1 and 9 March.

WTSA-20 – delayed for two years by the COVID-19 pandemic – is poised to set the course for ITU’s standardization work to meet emerging industry and societal needs. It comes amid mounting climate fears, the ongoing health crisis, and rising demand for technical standards, as all sectors accelerate investment in digital technologies to improve efficiency and transform multiple businesses and services.

“All voices are heard in the inclusive ITU standardization process, where every step forward is determined by consensus decision,” said Chaesub Lee, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. “Working together on international standardization, we can build consensus on how new technologies should factor into our future.”

Convening stakeholders from around the globe

ITU – the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies – encompasses a unique global membership of 193 Member States and over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations.

The symposium’s steering committee will submit recommended actions for ITU’s membership at WTSA, which is the governing conference for ITU’s standardization arm, known as ITU-T. This global event, normally held every four years, also approves the mandates of standardization expert groups (ITU-T Study Groups) and appoints their leadership teams.

In parallel, an on-site exhibition will showcase innovations in fields like optical networks, datacentre liquid cooling, and blockchain, as well as demos of metaverse worlds created with no-code programming.

A side event marking International Women’s Day on 8 March is dedicated to promoting women’s leadership in standardization.

The symposium and the assembly are both to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, at the International Conference Centre Geneva (CICG) and ITU headquarters.

Online remote participation will be available for both events, although participation in WTSA decision-making will be limited to delegates attending in person.

Participation in the Global Standards Symposium is open to all.

Confirmed speakers at the symposium include:

 – H.E. Nele Leosk, Symposium Chair; Ambassador-at-Large for Digital Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Estonia

– H.E. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Ghana

– H.E. Khumbudzo Phophi Silence Ntshavheni, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, South Africa

– H.E. Teodoro Willink, Vice-Minister for Telecommunications, Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications, Costa Rica

– Olga Algayerová, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

– Hossam El-Gammal, Executive President, National Telecom Regulatory Authority, Egypt

– Javier Garcia Diaz, Director General, Spanish Association for Standardization, Spain

– Jung Hae-yong, Vice Mayor for Economic Affairs, Daegu, Korea

– Martín Olmos, Undersecretary of Information and Communications Technology, Argentina

– Gil Reichen, Mayor, Pully, Switzerland

– Joan Ribó, Mayor, Valencia, Spain

– Jean Todt, UN Special Envoy for Road Safety

About ITU
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. Established over 150 years ago, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. For more information, visit

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