New standardisation promotes ICT trade and competition

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The recently agreed new Regulation on EU Standardisation – and a new multistakeholder platform – represent a milestone for the ICT sector and a good result for the Danish presidency, say Jean Laurens and Rebekka Porath.

Jean Laurens and Rebekka Porath chair the regulatory policy and standardisation working groups, respectively, at Digitaleurope, a trade group representing the information and communications technology and consumer electronics sectors.

"Standardisation is vital for the future of EU industry and, according to figures presented by the European Commission in the impact assessment accompanying the regulation proposal, the impact of standards on annual GDP growth could range from 0.3% to 1%. This, in terms of EU GPD value, would give a figure between €35 billion and €120 billion in 2009.

Promoting the competitiveness of EU enterprises and fostering innovation, standardisation allows the accomplishment of policy goals in crucial areas such as e-government, e-health or e-accessibility.

The regulation proposal was the result of several years of work of the European Commission together with all relevant stakeholders, among which European industry associations which had a proactive role in consolidating all relevant elements to include in the proposal.

For the ICT domain, the most important element of the new Regulation is that it will enable the direct referencing of ICT technical specifications (standards) developed by industry fora and consortia, not only in European policies but also in public procurement tenders.

This was not possible within the existing standardisation framework and public entities were allowed to make explicit reference exclusively to standards agreed by formal standardisation bodies.

The achievements of the new regulation in terms of direct referencing is extremely important, because ICT technologies are based to a large extent on specifications developed by fora and consortia, which are globally available (such as internet and Wi Fi). Direct referencing of those specifications will further promote interoperability between ICT products, thereby increasing competition, innovation and freedom of choice for customers.

In this context, the newly created multistakeholder platform for ICT standardisation, which involves the most knowledgeable actors and all major stakeholders in the domain – including representatives from member states, industry and civil society – will have a central role in the implementation of the regulation.

The members of the platform will advise the European Commission on ICT standardisation policies, including assessment and recognition of technical specifications developed by fora and consortia and the review of the ICT standardisation work programme elaborated by the European Commission. The platform will make the process broadly inclusive, transparent and, at the same time, technically sound.

The revised version of the regulation is the result of intense discussions amongst the official representatives of the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council. The Danish presidency showed a very constructive approach.

Digitaleurope is firmly convinced that, from January 2013 onwards, a better system for ICT standardisation will be in place, more flexible and well adapted to the global economy."

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