ICT standardisation: modernisation and the way forward

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a key industrial sector subject to very rapid and complex change. In view of this situation, the European Commission deems it necessary to establish clearer standards for ICT and to adapt legislation to current circumstances.


Commission White Paper of 3 July 2009 - Modernising ICT Standardisation in the EU: the Way Forward [COM(2009) 324 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


This White Paper presents various proposals aimed at modernising European Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standardisation policy. This modernisation should allow the needs of industry and society to be met more appropriately.

Why modernise ICT standardisation policy?

In order to ensure that quality ICT standards are developed, it is important that these standards and standardisation procedures meet certain requirements. The European Commission proposes to use the criteria established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in order to define a list of attributes that ICT standards should fulfil. In particular this list should include openness and transparency, as well as standards covering neutrality, maintenance and intellectual property rights.

The use of ICT standards in public procurement

Public procurement is regulated by Directive 2004/18/EC which allows technical standards to be used in public procurement. Decision 87/95, which lays down EU standardisation policy in the field of ICT, provides guidance for public procurement of ICT systems. This Decision is now considered to be outdated insofar as it only takes into consideration products and not the services and ICT applications that are used today.

The Commission therefore proposes to amend Decision 87/95 and adapt it, as regards public procurement in the field of ICT, to the current needs of the ICT sector.

Fostering synergy between research, innovation and standardisation

Establishing standards in the field of ICT should facilitate the translation of research results into practical applications. In order to do this, the issue of standardisation should be taken into account at an early stage in the research cycle.

The Commission would like to see closer collaboration between European Technology Platforms and standard setting organisations.

Intellectual property rights

ICT interoperability is one of the features of the current technological environment. In this context, taking into account the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) when establishing ICT standards is essential. Establishing standards should not however hinder free competition.

The Commission proposes that standard setting organisations in the field of ICT should implement clear and non-discriminatory policies with respect to IPR which guarantee competition. The Commission also suggests that standard setting organisations consider a declaration of the most restrictive licensing terms, in particular stating maximum royalty rates prior to a standard being adopted.

Integration of fora and consortia

Current European standardisation policy only takes into account standards established by European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs). Increasingly however, ICT standards are established by fora and consortia (e.g. standards relating to Internet protocols established by IETF or web accessibility guidelines produced by W3C). The Commission now wishes to see better cooperation between these ICT fora and consortia and the ESOs.

The Commission also considers it necessary to authorise the use of standards established by fora and consortia in order to fill specific standardisation gaps.

Enhancing dialogue and partnership with stakeholders

Decision 87/95 establishes a Committee: the Senior Officials group on standardisation in the field of Information Technology (SOGITS). This group is responsible for assisting the Commission in implementing the Decision and may extend invitations to experts. However, until now its success has been relatively limited.

The Commission wishes to replace the SOGITS Group by a platform bringing together all stakeholders concerned by ICT standardisation policy. This organisation would be based on the model of the ICT Standard Board (ICTSB) whose function and current composition the Commission wishes to review.


ICT represents a key industrial sector in the 21st century. In 2007, the European ICT industry had a turnover of EUR 670 billion and accounted for over 5 % of employment. European ICT nevertheless requires a clear standardisation framework which will foster competitiveness and innovation.

See also

Last updated: 26.01.2010