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ITU-TSB Director Chaesub Lee Addresses ANSI Executive Committee


Dr. Chaesub Lee, director of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), addressed the Executive Committee of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on November 12, 2015.

ITU is the specialized agency of the United Nations for telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT). Founded 150 years ago, ITU is today made up of three different sectors: ITU-R, ITU-D, and ITU-T, which focuses on establishing international standards for telecommunications.

Dr. Lee described the organization as a public-private partnership, with 193 member states including government and regulatory bodies, nearly 800 private-sector bodies, and over 100 universities and other representatives from academia.

Dr. Lee’s presentation focused upon the ITU-T Standards Strategy for 2020. One goal is to develop “interoperable, non-discriminatory international standards,” and Dr. Lee described the importance of avoiding duplication of effort wherever possible, noting that hundreds of standards developing organizations (SDOs) and consortia are active in the ICT industry. He noted the WTO TBT agreement principles as the measure of an international standard, but described this as a particular challenge for ITU-T, where many of the member states simply don’t have the infrastructure or capability to participate actively in standards development work. He expressed a personal drive to develop ITU-T standards that are as broadly inclusive as possible.

Another goal is to facilitate cooperation among international and regional standards bodies. Dr. Lee stressed that there needs to be a balance between cooperation and competition among SDOs and consortia, as well as recognition of the open source community. He described one “easy” way that SDOs often pledge to collaborate, which results in standards that reference standards developed by other SDOs. But when a standard references another document, it can be a challenge for those from developing countries who are already struggling to keep up. In his view, cooperation needs to go beyond just agreeing to include references in each other’s standards.

Another goal is to bridge the standardization gap between developed and developing countries. Dr. Lee shared his own anecdote of first getting involved in 1987, when Korea did not have a strong industry or standardization presence. He faced huge gaps in his technical knowledge and was mandated by his agency just to show up to the meeting, listen, and bring home documentation. But he did more than that, and made an effort to get to know representatives from more developed nations, who in turn taught him the ropes. So he returned to Korea having exceeded his mandate, and then was supported even more by his agency to attend additional standards meetings. Today, Korea is a world leader in industry and standardization, and of course Dr. Lee himself has ascended to this key leadership position within ITU-T. “I am an evidence,” he said, of the importance of getting developing countries involved.

Given the opportunity, Dr. Lee believes that the standardization community will see more and more experts from the developing regions – the enthusiasm is there. And getting them involved will help ITU-T and the broader community to meet its goal of interoperability. While many developing countries may lack a strong industry presence, they often have an active academic community. For that reason, ITU-T has been focused on building its academia membership as a way to bridge the gap and get them involved as standardization stakeholders.

The final goals for ITU-T address bringing value to the ICT sector and enhancing the efficiency of TSB processes. Time to market is a critical aspect of standards development, and that’s why it can be important to move work along quickly. But sometimes groundbreaking subjects are not yet on everyone’s radar, and so it can be difficult to build support for standards work. Dr. Lee expressed his desire to simplify ITU-T structure overall, and to find a way to flexibly create and close study groups as needed. He also said that more effective tools for remote participation are needed. On the surface, remote participation seems like it would be especially good for developing countries, since they may not have large travel budgets, but sometimes their infrastructure is not good enough to support remote participation. So it is often the developed country members who benefit more from such tools.

Above all, Dr. Lee is concerned with getting stakeholders to the table, and finding new ways to collaborate. “Through collaboration, we produce more practical standards that give more value to end users,” he said.

“I speak for everyone at ANSI in saying that we’ve truly enjoyed hosting Dr. Lee and furthering the dialogue between the U.S. standardization community and the ITU,” concluded S. Joe Bhatia, ANSI president and CEO. “Our discussions were highly productive and informative, and we look forward to future opportunities to work closely with Dr. Lee and the ITU.”

In addition to the November 12 Executive Committee meeting, Dr. Lee addressed an ANSI roundtable of ICT stakeholders on November 13.

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