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ICT standardisation

Standards are a powerful tool to facilitate access to markets and open the doors to growth and jobs in the EU. This is especially true in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector where the continuous emergence of new services, applications and products fuels the need for more interoperability between systems. The EU promotes ICT standardisation to make sure ICT markets remain open and consumers have choice.

ICT standardisation is the voluntary cooperation for the development of technical specifications that outlines the agreed properties for a particular product, service, or procedure.

ICT specifications are primarily used to maximise the ability for systems to work together. This is essential to ensure that markets remain open, allowing consumers to have the widest choice of products possible and giving manufacturers the benefit of economies of scale. Standardisation is thus an important tool to promote European competitiveness.

Why is interoperability so important?

In modern ICT the value of a device relies on its ability to communicate with other devices. This is known as the ‘network effect’ and is important in almost all areas of ICT. Specifications ensure that products made by different manufacturers are interoperable, and that users have the chance to pick and mix between different suppliers, products or services.

What is the EU's role in ICT standardisation?

The EU supports an effective and coherent standardisation framework, which ensures that standards are developed in a way that supports EU policies and competitiveness in the global market.

Regulation 1025/2012 on European standardisation sets the legal framework in which the different actors in the standardisation system can operate. These actors are the European Commission, the European standardisation organisations, industry, small and medium-sized industries (SMEs) and societal stakeholders.

The Commission financially supports the work of the three European standardisation organisations:

EU-funded research and innovation projects also make their results available to the standardisation work of several standards-setting organisations.

The European Multi Stakeholder Platform on ICT Standardisation

A European Multi Stakeholder Platform on ICT Standardisation has been set up to advise the Commission on matters relating to the implementation of ICT standardisation policy, including priority-setting in support of legislation and policies, and the identification of specifications developed by global ICT standards development organisations.

The Platform also advises on the elaboration and implementation of the Rolling Plan on ICT standardisation

Members of the platform include representatives of EU and EFTA countries, European and international standard developing bodies, organisations active in Europe in the field of ICT standardisation development, and organisations representing industry, SMEs, consumers and societal stakeholders.

Members of the Multi Stakeholders Platform on ICT Standardisation

Standardisation and e-Invoicing

Currently, there is no globally-used standard for electronic invoicing (e-invoicing). CEN, amongst other European standardisation organisations, is working on initiatives on specific e-Invoicing implementation issues.

Standardisation and e-Invoicing

The Rolling Plan on ICT Standardisation

The 2016 Rolling Plan on ICT Standardisationpdf Choose translations of the previous link  (3 MB) is the result of collaboration with major standardisation stakeholders through the Multi-Stakeholder Platform on ICT Standardisation. It covers all activities that can support standardisation. Priority actions aim to ensure interoperability and facilitate ICT uptake in key areas.

The Plan offers details on the international contexts for each policy:

  • Societal Challenges: eHealth, accessibility of ICT products and services, web accessibility, e-Skills and e-Learning, emergency communications and eCall.
  • Innovation for the Digital Single Market: e-Procurement, e-Invoicing, card/internet and mobile payments, eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).
  • Sustainable growth: Smart grids and smart metering, smart cities, ICT environmental impact, European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) and Intelligent Transport System (ITS).
  • Key enablers and security: Cloud computing, (Open) Data, e-government, electronic identification and trust services including e-Signatures, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Internet of Things (IoT), network and information security (cyber-security) and ePrivacy.

By contrast with the previous work programmes, the new Rolling Plan describes all the standardisation activities undertaken by Standard Setting Organisations (SSOs). This ensures an improved coherence between standardisation activities in the EU.

Finally the Rolling Plan is the first prepared with the involvement of European Standardisation Organisations and other stakeholders. This improved process is a stronger guarantee that activities of standardisation supporting EU policies in the ICT domain will be aligned.

Previous Rolling Plans