ICT Standard setting today: A system under stress

Andrew Updegrove


The modern standards development infrastructure is largely the product of the industrial age, and evolved to address the needs of such an economy. The requirements of a world that is increasingly based upon information and communications technology, however, are far different, and include demands for faster standards development, more vulnerability to uncooperative owners of necessary patent claims, and a greater need for universal, global adoption of core–enabling standards. These needs have been partially addressed through several organic developments, such as the proliferation of consortia, the evolution of more detailed intellectual property rights policies, and the passage of the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade Act. But the advent of the Internet and the Web, and the continuing introduction of new ICT–based products and services in ever shorter and more frequent product cycles, are exposing the fact that a system that retains strong roots in the nineteenth century is ill–suited to meet the demands of the twenty–first. In this article, I survey some of the areas of inadequacy inherent in the current system, the ways in which society is being impacted by new standards–dependent technologies, and the situations in which governments may feel called upon to intervene.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v12i6.1911

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