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Why Developing Countries Can Gain from Standards. Dr. Laura DeNardis, Yale Law School. Nadi, Fiji, 17 September 2009. Some Questions. What are the direct public policy implications of ICT standards? What are the consequences of lack of standards participation to developing countries?

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why developing countries can gain from standards

Why Developing Countries Can Gain from Standards

Dr. Laura DeNardis,

Yale Law School

Nadi, Fiji, 17 September 2009

some questions
Some Questions
  • What are the direct public policy implications of ICT standards?
  • What are the consequences of lack of standards participation to developing countries?
  • How is the ITU's Bridging the Standardization Gap project examining these issues?
standards have public policy and economic implications
Standards Have Public Policy and Economic Implications

ICT standards are the technical blueprints necessary for interoperability and connectivity within global information infrastructures but have many economic and policy implications.

  • Technical Interoperability
  • Effective Government Services
  • Public Interest Effects
  • Innovation Policy and National Competitiveness
  • Global Access to Knowledge
public interest effects
Public Interest Effects

Standards design decisions sometimes have effects on substantive public interest issues.









and Processes





innovation policy and national competitiveness
Innovation Policy and National Competitiveness

From an economic standpoint, ITU standards capability is a critical factor in a country’s innovation and competition policy.

Innovation Policy.  ICT standards provide a common platform from which innovation can proceed.

Entrepreneurial Opportunity. Standards can determine the competitive openness of national ICT markets.

Global Competitiveness.  ICT standards can provide the opportunity for nations to become more competitive with other nations in technology product markets.

Global Trade. ICT standards facilitate infrastructures for global trade or, if proprietary, can be used to create technical barriers to trade

global access to knowledge
Global Access to Knowledge

Interoperability, achieved through agreed upon ICT standards, enables information sharing within governments, between governments and citizens, and more ubiquitously, in the overall information society.

  • Emerging forms of digital education
  • Medical and health diagnostic information
  • Participation in digital cultural life
  • Participation in global political sphere
pronounced effects of standards on developing countries
Pronounced Effects of Standards on Developing Countries

World Summit on the Information Society

Declaration of Principles, Paragraph 44

"The development and use of open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and demand-driven standards that take into account needs of users and consumers is a basic element for the development and greater diffusion of ICTs and more affordable access to them, particularly in developing countries."

national involvement in standards
National Involvement in Standards

Participation in ICT standards can take a number of forms:

consequences of lack of participation in standards
Consequences of Lack of Participation in Standards

Lack of participation in any aspect of standardization carries consequences to developing countries:

impeding public services
Impeding Public Services

Lack of access to or adoption of effective ICT standards can create problems such as inhibiting public services or compromising critical infrastructures.

Public Safety Problems. Lack of interoperability between first responder technical infrastructures can impede services during a natural disaster. 

Public Accountability Concerns. Digital government archives can be problematic if the formats and network protocols necessary to access these documents are incompatible with technologies used by the public or if they rely on proprietary standards that may become inaccessible or incompatible in the future.

Network Outages. Use of products with technical standards vulnerable to network security attacks can disrupt the functioning of public services, disrupt public utilities or financial networks, or compromise individual or national security. 

exclusion from policy making
Exclusion from Policy Making

If developing countries are not involved in standards-setting, their interests are not reflected in design of standards that establish policy.

  • Possible reasons for exclusion:
    • Late entry into standards-setting processes
    • Institutional barriers to participation
    • Technical barriers to participation
    • Financial barriers to participation
    • Knowledge barriers to participation
innovation barriers
Innovation Barriers

In the developing world, the production of innovative products based on ICT standards holds the potential to create new economic opportunities.

  • Standards barriers to innovation can include:
    • Lack of access to ICT standards
    • Research and development capacity
    • Standards education capacity
    • Lack of human resources
    • Insufficient private industry capacity for standards adoption
    • Lack of a national standards policy for standards adoption or procurement
economic inefficiency
Economic Inefficiency

Furthermore, inefficiencies and lack of interoperability resulting from the lack of adoption of universal standards or the use of incompatible standards can drive up the cost of the following:

global trade barriers
Global Trade Barriers

In the context of ICT globalization, technical interoperability is the precursor to economic interoperability. 

The WTO’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) asserts that standards should not create unnecessary obstacles to trade.

Relatively closed standards can serve as alternative trade barriers in contrast to open standards which have tended to promote competition and free trade.

In the global knowledge economy, countries failing to use universal ICT standards can be impeded from tapping into global exchange markets with trading partners.

global knowledge barriers
Global Knowledge Barriers
  • Lack of technical interoperability or information access in the developing world can also cut off citizens from:
    • Emerging forms of digital education
    • Medical and health diagnostic information
    • Participation in digital cultural life
    • Participation in global political sphere
itu s bridging the standardization gap bsg project
ITU's Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG) Project

ITU is committed to improving opportunities for developing countries in standardization and is seeking to identify remaining standardization disparities and recommend actionable measures that can help improve national standards capacity.

ITU has embarked upon an ambitious project entitled “Bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries.”

bridging the standardization gap project objectives
Bridging the Standardization Gap Project Objectives

To facilitate increased participation of developing countries in standardization

To ensure that developing countries experience the economic benefits of associated technological development

To better reflect the requirements and interests of developing countries in the standards-development process

current bsg standards capacity assessment project
Current BSG Standards Capacity Assessment Project


  • Understand the primary gaps that must be bridged to improve the standards development, implementation, and usage capacities of developing countries.
  • Identify variables necessary for developing countries to effectively develop, access, and deploy standards.
  • Develop a national profile of standards readiness and recommend best practices for national standards participation
current bsg project activities
Current BSG Project Activities

Preliminary Project Results will be Discussed in Next Session

Distribution of the Tool for Assessing Standards Capability (TASC), a questionnaire designed to elicit a self-assessment of standards capacity for effectively developing, accessing, and deploying ICT standards.

Development of a set of case studies of standards capability.

A quantitative evaluation of national standards capaility

Present actionable recommendations and best practices for the resources, knowledge, policies, institutional activities that can bridge the standardization gap between developed and developing countries.