Global information standards underway

Global information standards underway

GARY FISHMAN

Users, manufacturers, carriers and service providers around the world define a communications and information-transmission and -management infrastructure from different perspectives. These differences are recognized by national and international industry organizations in their attempts to characterize the details that support the proposed Global Information Infrastructure (GII).

Indeed, some standards agreements on basic objectives and principles are taking shape within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva. The main objective of the GII is for everyone to eventually gain access to the worldwide information society. The core principles of the GII supporting this objective are to promote fair competition, encourage private investment, define an adjustable regulatory framework and provide open access to networks.

Promoting interoperability

Worldwide standards will enable the continuing evolution of today`s information infrastructure, which consists of interconnected networks carrying voice, facsimile, data and video applications. Emerging global standards will encourage the growth of the GII by promoting interconnectivity and interoperability; developing global markets for networks, services and applications; ensuring privacy and data security; protecting intellectual property rights; cooperating in research and development; and developing new applications.

Such standards will provide open access to networks and applications and the interoperability of applications based on a seamless federation of interconnected, interoperable communications networks, information processing equipment, databases and terminals. Of course, a worldwide order is an overwhelming task for any one standards body to accomplish.

In the United States, the American National Standards Institute has assembled an Information Infrastructure Standards Panel, a group of more than 80 companies, organizations and government agencies whose objective is to identify the standards needed to facilitate the growth of the national information infrastructure. The panel`s focus has already moved beyond single-industry issues to concentrate on the interconnection and interoperability of the different industries represented. These industries include information technology, telecommunications, cable TV, banking, broadcast, intelligent transport, medical and wireless. Round-table discussions among these groups are developing views of the standards "gaps" that have to be filled.

Internationally, the ITU-T (Telecommunication Standardization Sector) has identified important roles for each of its 15 technical study groups. In addition, worldwide collaboration has begun among the ITU, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Consortium (IEC). The ITU-T has created a Joint Group for the GII, which began work last January, and has scheduled several meetings throughout 1996. A joint GII seminar, sponsored by ITU, ISO and IEC, also met last January. As a result of the seminar, the ITU-T Joint Group will invite members of other international organizations to future meetings.

Among the standards projects being considered are interoperation of telephony and cable networks, health-care industry information transfer, nomadicity (access to services, people and content while on the move), application-to-network issues, entertainment, and information security and encryption. Cooperation among national, regional and international standards bodies, accompanied by appropriate enabling governmental policies, is essential to realizing these global goals. q

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