An international conference on the key role of International Standards in enabling e-business was organized by ISO, IEC, ITU-T, OASIS, UN/ECE-UN/CEFACT and UPU* and supported by the e-business MoU Management Group** held on 18-19 September 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland.

In the context of e-business (i.e. the use of information technology to support business processes), standards are indispensable tools to capture, process and exchange data, ensure inter-operability, support security of data handling and financial transactions, promote good practices and facilitate customer-supplier relations. Considering the global reach of Internet, International Standards are particularly relevant. Their development and use involve both the public and private sectors.

The public-private partnerships that advance the standards, technical specifications and recommendations associated with e-business are motivated by many specific goals both within and across borders, such as:

  • national competitiveness,
  • effectiveness in regulatory controls,
  • reducing trade barriers,
  • fostering market entry by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and
  • facilitating growth in developing and transition economies.

In his opening address, Mr Howard Mason, Chair of the e-business Memorandum of Understanding Management Group, on behalf of Marek Belka, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), introduced the partner organizations and highlighted the objectives of the workshop.

The two-day conference fostered a better understanding of public-private partnerships through which stakeholders collaborate in relation to e-business standards, focusing attention on:

  • implementation of existing standards and related benefits,
  • priority issues to be addressed by different stakeholders and related needs for e-business standards,
  • further steps that might be taken to significantly enhance recent achievements and work in progress as well as to address emerging new requirements.
Some of the speakers ( from left to right and from top to bottom): Mr. Paul Donohoe, eBusiness Programme Manager; UPU, Richard Hill, Mr. Peter Potgieser, European eInvoicing expert group, ABN AMRO , Mr. Harry Strover, Director of Enterprise Architecture, DHL Logistics, Mr. Akhilesh Mathur, Programme Manager, Standards and Certification, Universal Postal Union, Mr Leo Focketyn, Supply chain project manager Swatch Group , Daniele Gerundino, Strategic Advisor to the Secretary-General, ISO, Mr Mark Palmer, NIST, UN/CEFACT Vice-chair , Dr Stuart Feder, Chairman UN/CEFACT.

During the conference, keynote presentations from Roland Berger, the Swatch group and DHL, provided insight on major e-business trends, with focus on supply chain integration and logistics. They underlined that private and public sector investment in these areas is substantial and will continue to increase in the coming years. They provided an overview of the major challenges (i.e. interoperability, rationalization of business processes, involvement of SMEs) and emphasized the essential role that standards have in addressing them.

Business cases from various sectors both in private and public areas such as e-trade, defence and the retail trade provided examples of the use of standards to support global supply chains. They demonstrated how the effective use of standards leads to changes in the way business is done, generating significant return on investment.

Public and private sector organizations which described their use of e-business standards included the following:, the Ministry of Communication and Technology of India, the Ministry of Finance of the Netherland, UPU, ABN AMRO, SITPRO, UNeDocs, and GS1.

Through the conference interactive sessions, participants underlined that an impressive set of standards is already available to support implementation of e-business solutions in a broad variety of fields. They noted, however, that more information on guidance to standards implementation is needed to help users.

They also advocated the importance of more coordinated efforts involving standards developing organizations and standards users to address priorities and to promote support of international standards by technology vendors.

Thanking all the participants of the conference, Alan Bryden, ISO Secretary-General concluded with three key actions to sum up the workshop recommendations for standardizers: “ensure interoperability, develop communication and promote implementation".

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*  ISO: International organization for standardization
IEC: International Electrotechnical Commission
ITU: International Telecommunication Union
UPU: Universal Postal Union
UN/ECE-UN/CEFACT: United Nations/Economic Commission for Europe -United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business
UneDocs: United Nations electronic Trade Documents
GS1: GS1 is a leading global organization dedicated to the design and implementation of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across sectors
SITPRO: the world's leading trade facilitation organization
OASIS: Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards

**  E-business MoU Management Group: Memorandum of Understanding Management Group on Electronic Business in standardization field