Posted by Nasser Kettani Regional Standards Officer, Middle East and Africa
This year’s celebration of World Standards Day (October 14) helped draw attention to the role that standards play in creating economic value and advancing innovation, but it also is a moment to reflect on the importance of ensuring that international standards are truly global.
Developing countries have long contributed to standards in many fields, but just a few have been actively involved in standards development for Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) defines this as the “Standardization Gap,” or “disparities in the ability of developing countries, relative to developed ones, to access, implement, contribute to and influence international ICT standards.” I would call it the Standardization Divide – part of the digital divide between information haves and the have nots – which ultimately hinders innovation.
At Microsoft, we believe all communities affected by standards should have a voice in the direction of standards development, their design and deployment, which is why we’re excited to participate in two important initiatives to bridge the Standardization Divide.
We support the Internet Society’s (ISOC) efforts to increase participation in Internet standards development by our technical colleagues from developing communities. We’ve contributed to the ISOC Fellowship to the IETF, which enables talented individuals in developing nations to attend meetings of the Internet Engineering Task Force.
We were also one of three companies to help the ITU establish its Bridging the Standardization Gap Fund, and we’re pleased to support the fund again this year. The fund supports forums, tutorials and workshops; helps delegates from least developed countries attend meetings; hosts meetings in developing countries; and sponsors surveys and study programs. These efforts help reduce disparities and bring the potential of technology development to more communities.
We look forward to collaborating with our colleagues in developing nations and to removing the roadblocks to international standards participation.