ICTs, Efficiency and ITU  

Efficiency means the good use of time and energy in a way that does not waste any. [1] In this subsection, we will examine how ICTs impact ITU-T efficiency by first examining two approval processes and then ITU-T’s main document production.

This post will analyze the impact of ICTs on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to its members, and more precisely on efficiency elements.

All new or revised Recommendations – incorporating their annexes, amendments and corrigenda – are “normative texts” that define international standards, and as such must be formally approved by the membership.[2] ITU offers two approval routes, depending on the nature of the content: the traditional approval process (TAP) that applies mainly for Recommendations that may have policy or regulatory implications, and the alternative approval processes (AAP) that applies for Recommendations that do not have policy or regulatory implications. “Non-normative texts” that do not define international standards, such as appendices, handbooks, implementer’s guides, supplements, are formally agreed by the study group, and therefore do not need to follow TAP or AAP.[3]

The “Alternative Approval Process” (AAP) is the fast-track approval procedure implemented in 2001 in order to allow standards to be brought to market in a short timeframe. It is estimated to have cut the time involved in this critical aspect of the standardization process by up to 90 per cent. A standard can now be approved in an average of two months. ICTs play a major role in the efficiency of this process: “Besides streamlining the underlying procedures involved in the approval process, an important contributory factor to the use of AAP is Electronic Document Handling (EDH).” [4] Further to the approval stage, all the process can be completed electronically, and in general with no further physical meetings.

Furthermore, the introduction of provides equal opportunities for both Sector Members and State Members in the approval process. Indeed, the draft text is posted on the ITU-T web site for comments.

During this phase four-week phase, all members can then review the text and comment. If no comments other than editorial corrections are received, the Recommendation is considered approved. On the contrary, if there are substantial comments, a comment resolution process is set up by the concerned experts. The revised text is then posted on the web for an Additional Review period of three weeks. Similarly, the Recommendation is then considered approved if no comments (or only editorial corrections) are received. If comments are received, it is apparent that there are some issues that still need more work, and the draft text and all comments are sent to the next Study Group meeting for further discussion.[5]

Each SG meeting is announced in a Collective letter that can be downloaded online via the Study Group webpage. It provides contribution deadlines, registration information, a draft agenda, and additional practical information.[6] Similarly, Circulars inform membership about a wide range of important events, such as ITU-T workshop and meeting schedules, the intention to approve TAP Recommendations, the approval of AAP Recommendations, the approval of new or revised Questions, the deletion of Recommendations among other matters.  All circulars can also be downloaded online from the relevant study group home page. [7]

Contributions to a meeting are proposals from members to state their position on specific topics. Contributions normally include a brief abstract; a rationale discussing and justifying the conclusions; and a proposal for action.[8] Concerning all SG of ITU-T, a simple calculation to add all contributions from various members shows a clear increase in the number of contributions since 2001. 2000 is considered a milestone in ICT development. It corresponds to the beginning of web 2.0 with the rise of social media and a generalization of internet at work and at home in many countries. Furthermore, it corresponds to the first adoption of Resolution 32 entitled “Strengthening electronic working methods for the work of ITU-T” (Montreal, 2000; Florianópolis, 2004; Johannesburg, 2008; Dubai, 2012). In total, contributions from Study Groups SG2, SG3, SG5, SG9, SG11, SG12, SG13, SG15, SG16 and SG17 increased from 501 (for the period 2001-2004) to 7753 (for the period 2013-2016). [9]

For SG5 only, Industry Members increased the number of their contributions from 36 (for the period 2005-2008) to 554 (for the period 2013-2016); Sector International and Regional Organization Members increased the number of their contributions from 11 (for the period 2005-2008) to 45 (for the period 2013-2016); Academia Members increased the number of their contributions from 2 (for the period 2005-2008) to 72 (for the period 2013-2016); and Member States increased the number of their contributions from 18 (for the period 2005-2008) to 144 (for the period 2013-2016). [10]

In terms of Recommendations, the series K (Protection against interference) and L (Environment and ICTs, climate change, e-waste, energy efficiency; construction, installation and protection of cables and other elements of outside plant) both under the responsibility of SG5, there is also a clear increase. For series K, members adopted 93 Recommendations and Supplement (for the period 1977-1997) and 196 Recommendations and Supplement (for the period 1997-2017). For series L, members adopted 47 Recommendations and Supplement (for the period 1977-1997) and 172 Recommendations and Supplement (for the period 1997-2017). [11]

As discussed in this post ICTs increases the efficiency of ITU-T throughput governance. Thanks to ICTs, members can participate more efficiently in numerous processes with less resources and less time, which was described in the introduction as low-cost participation.

[1] Cambridge Online Dictionary: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/Efficiency

[2] ITU-T Delegate Guide: https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-t/oth/0A/0F/T0A0F0000020004PDFE.pdf

[3] ITU-T Delegate Guide: https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-t/oth/0A/0F/T0A0F0000020004PDFE.pdf

[4] ITU-T Delegate Guide: https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-t/oth/0A/0F/T0A0F0000020004PDFE.pdf

[5] ITU website: https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/about/Pages/approval.aspx

[6] ITU-T Delegate Guide: https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-t/oth/0A/0F/T0A0F0000020004PDFE.pdf

[7] ITU website: http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/go/circulars

[8] ITU-T Delegate Guide: https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-t/oth/0A/0F/T0A0F0000020004PDFE.pdf

[9] Each SG webpage offers access to past periods (Study Period 2013-2016, Study Period 2009-2012, Study Period 2005-2008, Study Period 2001-2004, Study Period 1997-2000 in the case of SG5 for instance). On the webpage of each past Study Period, it is possible to access “all contributions” database where information can be found on who submitted a contribution, on what topic, and when. The calculation provided here is based on the information provided on ITU-T’s website. Consulted on 1 April 2017.

[10] Each SG webpage offers access to “all contributions” database where information can be found on who submitted a contribution, on what topic, and when. The calculation provided here is based on the information provided on ITU-T’s website. Consulted on 1 April 2017.

[11] Each SG webpage offers access to past periods (Study Period 2013-2016, Study Period 2009-2012, Study Period 2005-2008, Study Period 2001-2004, Study Period 1997-2000 in the case of SG5 for instance). On the webpage of each past Study Period, it is possible to access “recommendation” database where information can be found on who submitted a recommendation, on what topic, and when. The calculation provided here is based on the information provided on ITU-T’s website. Consulted on 1 April 2017.