UN agency plans database of tech devices

The International Telecommunication Union is launching a programme to give consumers a clearer set of standards on which to judge IT devices

The International Telecommunication Union has announced it is launching a conformity and interoperability programme to give IT consumers a clearer set of standards on which to judge the devices they buy.

A key part of the programme will be the construction of a global database that will log IT products, along with their ability to network with other devices and their conformity to ITU standards. The standards-making body, which is a UN agency, hopes the programme will help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions, while increasing competition and decreasing prices.

Malcolm Johnson, the director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau at the ITU, said in a statement on Tuesday that the lack of conformity and interoperability was a major concern.

"Interoperability is at the heart of what ITU does, so we have put in place procedures that will greatly assist those faced with often complex buying decisions," Johnson said. "This new programme will significantly reduce the problems telcos, IT service providers, businesses and consumers face, including unwittingly being locked into proprietary solutions."

The ITU says it will not carry out testing itself: instead, conformity to ITU standards will be declared via accredited laboratories or certifiers. The ITU's telecoms standards group is developing standards for conformity and interoperability testing, which can be used by external certifiers.

The new programme will also focus on skills training and the development of regional testing centres for developing countries. In addition, the ITU will organise a series of interoperability events that will allow vendors to get together to verify that their equipment interoperates properly. An interoperability declaration can then be added to the database.

The ITU will also hold regional workshops and tutorials on conformity assessment and interoperability.