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World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, 17 May 2019, will focus on “Bridging the Standardization Gap”








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ITU international standards enable digital transformation on a global scale


Societies are entering an era of massive digital transformation. ITU international standards aim to ensure that the benefits of this digital transformation are realized on a global scale. To celebrate the inclusive development and implementation of standards, this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) will focus onBridging the standardization gap.”



“As industries and technologies converge and new technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and 5G emerge, we see increasing need for common technical standards,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General. “I applaud the many thousands of experts who contribute to ITU standards work, day in, day out. These men and women are at the heart of today’s digital transformation.”



International standards provide the technical foundations of global markets. They create efficiencies enjoyed by all market players, efficiencies and economies of scale that ultimately result in lower costs to producers and lower prices to consumers.​​



ITU standards are rarely perceived by users but vital in enabling the interconnection and interoperability of the digital solutions delivered by hundreds of thousands of companies around the world. The development and approval of ITU standards by consensus among private and public entities helps to ensure the buy-in of all stakeholders, increasing the likelihood that these standards will be implemented worldwide.



ITU offers all stakeholders equal opportunity to access, shape, implement and benefit ​from ITU international standards. The inclusivity of the ITU standardization platform is supported by ITU’s Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG) programme. This programme assists developing countries in increasing their capacity to participate in the development and implementation of international standards. Advising on national and regional standardization structures, and empowering experts to improve their expertise in standards development, the BSG programme plays a key role in ensuring that ITU standards meet the needs of all of the world’s regions.


International standards are making an important contribution to the pursuit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from smart energy, intelligent transport, smart agriculture, e-health, digital financial inclusion to smart cities.



A few examples of ITU standards in action:​​​

Digital health​: ITU and WHO have launched an international standard and associated toolkit to prevent music players from causing ‘sound-induced hearing loss’, the world’s leading cause of preventable hearing loss. ITU and WHO are also working in collaboration to ensure that artificial intelligence fulfils its potential to strengthen health services and systems for universal health coverage.



​Digital financi​al inclusion: financial services via mobile phones and other technologies show great potential to give people with no traditional bank account the ability to save, make payments and access credit and insurance. Governments can ensure that social security payments reach their intended recipients, and help merchants accepting digital payments to gain access to lines of credit. ITU mobile communication and next-generation authentication standards enable trusted digital financial services.



Smart cities and communities: more than 50 cities worldwide are using ‘key performance indicators for smart sustainable cities’ based on ITU standards. Smart cities rely on technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things to enhance energy efficiency and waste management, improve housing and health care, optimize traffic flow and safety, detect air quality, alert police of crimes occurring on the streets and improve water and sanitation systems.​


WHAT: This year, ITU celebrates the 50th anniversary of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, at ITU headquarters and via live​ webcast. ​​WTISD marks the anniversary of the founding of ITU on 17 May 1865, when the first International Telegraph Convention was signed in Paris.



ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao will honour award winners in the following categories of bridging the standardization gap:​

Awareness: Recognizing outstanding efforts to raise awareness of the importance of international standardization​​​​​​​.

Know-how: Celebrating the accomplishments of ITU delegates in increasing their expertise in international standards development.


Community: Highlighting countries hosting considerable numbers of the ITU meetings that bring together the international standardization community.


Engagement: Recognizing countries increasing their participation in ITU standardization work.


Partnering: Highlighting outstanding financial and in-kind support for ITU’s Bridiging the Standardization Gap programme.


​​​​​​WHEN: Friday, 17 May 2019, 10:15am to 12:15pm CEST ​


​​​Digital health:

– Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization
– Mr Bernardo Mariano, Chief Information Officer, World Health Organization

Digital financial inclusion:

– Mr Pascal Clivaz, Deputy Director-General, Universal Postal Union

​Smart cities and communities:

– Ms Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
​- Mr Sergio Mujica, Secretary-General, International Organization for Standardization


​WHERE: Popov Room, ITU Tower Building (Floor -2), Geneva, Switzerland


MEDIA REGISTRATION: ​​​Media wishing to attend in person must register by writing to


UN Press accreditation and badges remain valid at the Montbrillant entrance of ITU. Note that due to new security measures, an ITU security chip will be fixed to your UN badge, so please plan accordingly and take this time into account.



World Telecommunication and Information Society Day website:
Bridging the Standardization Gap programme:

ITU and digital health:​ Digital health and standards:​
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