Thursday, 19 November 2009

EU Commission conference on Standards Education - my personal take-aways

Yesterday the European Commission held a conference on standards education titled “Educating a New Generation of ICT Standards Professionals”. There was a focus on information and communication technologies (ICT) in relation to standards education. Part of the objective was to get an overview on the initiatives for standards education that are already available; to identify whether there are specifics for ICT that need to be considered and if so, which; and finally to come to some thinking towards recommendations and concrete actions.

To begin with, the workshop was of highest quality. Congratulations to the Commission for making such an interesting and inspiring event possible. The workshop brought together high capacity experts in the subject matter and policy makers as well as people from all stakeholders in ICT standardisation.

Not being an expert on standards education myself, my major take-aways from the conference are:

  1. Standards education is an important topic that needs to be considered more in the discussions around EU standards policy reform.

  2. Standards education is in itself a diverse field targetting very different audiences. Be it the standards development organisations that are interested in providing courses relative to the work in their institutions; be it academia looking at how to integrate the topic of standardisation into education curricula; be it small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are looking for focussed information and for channels and multipliers to reach out to the many SMEs locally; be it consumer representatives that are in need of training and support for being properly equipped to represent consumer interests in standards matters.

  3. To achieve a better level of knowledge about standardisation is important given the relevance of standardisation for innovation and competitiveness. This aims at the technical aspects as well as at business and legal aspects.

  4. Very many things are already available, projects going on in standards education. What seems to be required is to gather and consolidate what is around and strive for a next level of cooperation between the actors in standards education. The ISO representative made a passionate plea into this direction.

  5. The real specifics of the ICT sector are not yet covered, though. It became clear in the discussions of the last panel and in the presentations from W3C and IETF that there is some common ground equal for all standardisation, but that ICT standardisation has different ways for doing its work, yet with high effectiveness and efficiency.

There were also some side-remarks that were very interesting. These included above all the various statements stressing the need for openness and open standards in the ICT sector. I should like to add: for promoting the implementation of software interoperability and thus for facilitating innovation.

Finally, I think supporting activities in standards education can be a task for all of us who are active as “professionals” in the standardisation. All large companies have programmes for supporting academia in knowledge transfer or for working with networks and clusters. This could be a way of offering support and bridging the gap between practical knowledge and the need for education.

I left the conference with the impression that much can be done on the short range without too many efforts. There needs to be some funding, e.g. from the European Commission as well as from national and even regional governments, which, in my view, would be justified given that education is a societal task. Such funding would help to get started fast in some way, e.g. creating pilot projects with some universities for including standardisation into their curricula etc. These initial activities would, for sure, not solve all the issues. But I am a strong believer in piecemeal process and incremental enhancement and expansion.

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