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UNIDO: Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”. In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity, and planet.

Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centred and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

Image credit: UNIDO

Image credit: UNIDO

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

The world is in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) powered by digital technologies that are transforming society, economies and the environment. Increasingly connecting objects, machines, people and the environment, the disruptive nature of these technological innovations makes it difficult to plan for and anticipate the future.

What is clear is that the seismic shift that digital transformation brings has major implications for sustainable development. Timely and harmonised standards can play a pivotal role in shaping the digital transformation process, complementing regulations, and contributing to digital transformation governance. Standards can facilitate the ongoing digitalisation of industry by enhancing productivity and efficiency, promoting compatibility and interoperability between products and processes through common language, while guaranteeing minimum levels of quality and safety.

Furthermore, standards can serve as accelerators of change as they promote innovation and the uptake of new digital technologies and spread knowledge through codification. This brochure introduces a broader publication developed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), which describes digital transformation, its key drivers and the implications for three of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) pillars – people, prosperity, and planet. It also highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance.

A review of the international standards landscape was undertaken for seven of the most-trending digital technologies of the 4IR. While standardisation reflects the different features and scope of impacts of 4IR technologies, this publication identifies the essential criteria to understand how to develop appropriate and effective standards for digital transformation worldwide. Based on the review, further consideration is given to what good governance principles are necessary for guiding the development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centred and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021. Download it here.