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IP/09/1085

Brussels, 3 rd July 2009

Adjusting EU ICT standardisation policy to the realities of 21 century

The landscape for ICT (Information and Communication Technology) standardisation has dramatically changed over the last decade. Alongside the traditional standard stetting organisations, specialised and mostly global fora and consortia have become more active and several have emerged as world-leading ICT standards development bodies, such as those responsible for the standards covering the internet and the World Wide Web. This development is not reflected in the EU standardisation policy. Fora and consortia standards cannot currently be referenced, even if they could be of benefit in helping to achieve public policy goals. Without decisive action the EU will fail to master the information society, will not realise a number of important European policy goals which require interoperability such as e-health, accessibility, security, e-business, e-government, transport, etc, and will face obstacles to being a driving force in the development and promotion of international standards for personal data protection as set out in the Communication on the Stockholm programme. The reforms proposed in the White Paper should improve the possibilities to use and reference EU recognised standards in legislation and public procurement. The proposed reforms will also give the EU a bigger influence on international standard setting in the field of ICT.

Vice President Günter Verheugen responsible for Enterprise and Industry, said: “We want ICT products and services to continue to be the drivers of the enormous growth of innovation we have seen during the past 15 years. We want to set the right conditions to boost the competitiveness of the European ICT industry and give fresh impetus to get out of the current economic crisis. A new modern ICT standardisation policy will also allow us to successfully respond to changing societal, market and policy needs.”

The following policy options are suggested in the White Paper:

  • Defining the attributes which make ICT standards eligible for association with EU legislation and policies. Ten such attributes are proposed based on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) criteria for international standardisation organisations (such as openness, treatment of intellectual property rights, consensus etc.)

  • Creating a permanent stakeholders’ platform to advise the Commission on the objectives and priorities of ICT standardisation policy and its implementation.

  • Allowing the Commission, after consulting the stakeholders’ platform, to reference in policies and legislation, specific ICT fora and consortia standards meeting the attributes, in areas where there are no European Standardisation Organisation standards.

  • Updating public procurement rules for ICT systems by enabling referencing not only products, but also services and applications. The suggested reforms will provide a better level of interoperability of publically procured ICT services and applications..

Such a new standardisation policy should allow the use and reference to ICT standards irrespective of their origin, if the necessary conditions are met.

The White paper starts a broad consultation of stakeholders such as public authorities, consumers, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), industry and standards developing organisations. It invites comments from all interested parties up to 15 September 2009 at the latest. Drawing on the comments, appropriate follow-up measures will be proposed soon afterwards.

Background

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a major driver of competitiveness and represents one of the key industrial sectors of the 21 st century. In 2007 the European ICT industry had a turnover of €670bn and accounted for over 5% of total employment in the EU.

Standardisation is a voluntary cooperation among industry, consumers, public authorities and other interested parties for the development of technical specifications. Industry uses standards to meet market needs – to support its competitiveness, to ensure acceptance of innovative solutions or to increase interoperability. Public authorities refer to standards in legislation, policies and procurement to achieve societal aims for safety, interoperability, accessibility, environmental performance, etc. While industry can use any standards, public authorities have a strong preference for, or even an obligation to use standards resulting from open, transparent and inclusive processes.

The current EU standardisation policy is based on the work of the European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs) and their cooperation with the international standardisation organisations. It allows the Commission to invite the ESOs to undertake specific standardisation initiatives and enables the EU and the Member States to refer to European standards established by those organisations in legislation and policies.

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