Imperatives of Self-regulation

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Osita Aboloma

Jonathan Eze writes on the significance of the World Standards Day that was celebrated recently and a need to entrench personal consciousness, quality products and services

As countries worldwide celebrated this year’s World Standards Day, (WSD)Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) October 14, has renewed its call on all stakeholders and indeed all consumers to subscribe to self- regulation-which describes personal consciousness and desire for quality products and services.
The theme of the 2018 edition of the global event was “International Standards and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

In Nigeria, the WSD, is indeed a major event where representatives of government in relevant ministries and agencies and operators in different sectors of the economy participate. Besides speeches on the theme of the event, and other speeches and symposia, the event is also used to recognise stakeholders who are playing significant roles at boosting standardisation in Nigeria, even as the occasion is also used to present certificates to some companies who have completed one certification programme or the other. Last year for instance, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajia Aisha Abubakar-who represented the Minister of the Ministry Okechukwu Enelamah, moderated a technical session where private sector operators like the Nigerian Society of Engineers and others were involved. Some industrial firms were also presented with SON’s Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) certificate at the event-where SON also announced its collaboration with ISO on ISO 700-meant to help Nigeria’s quest to be a smart city.

To the Director General of SON, Osita Aboloma, however, beyond the yearly celebration of WSD, it is very important that the world appreciates the essence of the global event by subscribing to self-regulation thereby making the job of regulatory agencies less challenging.

Speaking specifically on standardisation in Nigeria, the DG said embracing self- regulation is part of the fight against substandard products across the countries.
According to him, if the traders are determined to stock and sell only quality products, importers of substandard products would have no market for their nefarious activities. In the same manner, if consumers are bent on buying top quality products rather than buying cheap, poor products, the preponderance of substandard products in the country would be reduced, he stressed.

The SON boss urged Nigerians to be more patriotic by patronising certified made in Nigeria products, citing Nigerian cables as an example of products that have been attested among the best in the world. The DG surely has a lot more to tell Nigerians as the nation looks forward to this year’s edition.
With this year’s focus of WSD on the fourth industrial revolution and local industries barely managing to survive and very far from industrial revolution, one can only hope that they would still benefit as much as possible from this year’s forum.

History of World Standards Day
The WSD holds on October 14 each year to commemorate the day when in 1946, official representatives of 25 countries met in London and decided to form an international organisation which would focus on facilitating standardization. However, this agreement was not formalised until WSD when formally launched in1970 by Mr. Faruk Sünter, the then President of International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

Specifically, WSD was formed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) to raise an awareness of the significance of standardisation to the global economy- among the industrial sectors, consumers and the regulators. It was formed through the joint efforts of experts across the world that voluntarily developed the technical agreements which are issued as International Standards.

The celebrations of WSD are synchronised by different international standards organisations, including the ISO, International Electro-technical Commission (IEC), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Employees (IEEE), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Standards basically help to confirm that all goods and services possess the same quality and standards irrespective of the place of manufacture.

The benefits of World Standards Day
International Standards assist the expansion of tailor-made resolutions which can be adapted to the particular situations of different countries. They provide global best practices and expert knowledge; even as they are vital enablers and guarantors of quality and performance of goods and services. International standards facilitate the safe and smooth functioning of things at every level in the smart cities. They also provide the base for electricity access and support the information and communication technologies (ICT). International standards provide essential guidance for all characteristics of city life such as the construction of sustainable communities, improvement of waste management, intelligent transportation, and energy-efficient buildings.

The benefits of celebrating WSD are numerous. It is a forum for networking-including socialisation, and experience sharing. It provides business opportunities, opportunities for partnerships-including public-private- learning experiences and access to a wide range of information-including updates in various fields. The day is used to promote the role of international standardization and to meet the needs of consumers, government, industry and business worldwide. By celebrating the World Standards Day, member countries confirm that they are in the race of making the world a better place to live in.

According to ISO, the IEC and ITU, by assisting to make at least one part of the international trading system more resourceful and effective, the entire market can be more efficient. Eventually, a proficient and resourceful market benefits everyone including the consumers, testing laboratories, governments, manufacturers, and all other members of the market.

Justification for this year’s theme
Experts have justified the choice of “International Standards and the Fourth Industrial Revolution” as the theme for this year’s WSD. According to them, “Just as standards were crucial during the first industrial revolution, over 250 years ago, they will also play a critical role in the fourth. The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to the emerging technologies, which are erasing the traditional boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds. This increased connectivity of people and things will impact the way we produce, trade and communicate, much like steam power transformed production methods and the way of life of many societies during the first Industrial Revolution. In the 18th century, the transition from manual work to machinery and factory work raised the need for standards. For example, to replace machine parts and enable specialised mass production of components”

“Today, standards will once more play a key role in the transition to a new era. The speed of change we are witnessing would not be possible without them. Innovators rely on International Standards, like those produced by IEC, ISO and ITU, to ensure compatibility and interoperability, so that new technologies can be seamlessly adopted. They are also a vehicle to spread knowledge and innovation globally.”

“The rapid pace of change brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution has its challenges. Robots and artificial intelligence will take over more and more tasks previously done by humans, additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) will change the way we make goods, and give us the ability to “print things” at home, and as everything from planes to baby monitors are connected digitally, the vulnerability of data and the consequences of a breach are growing exponentially. These are only some examples of the issues presented by a new generation of smart technologies characterised by big data, increased integration, cloud storage and open communication of devices to name a few. International Standards are a powerful way to ensure safety and minimize risk. For example, security standards can keep our data safe and deter hackers. And safety standards for robots, will make it easier to interact with humans. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has begun, but in order to seize its full potential for the betterment of society, standards are needed”.

How countries celebrate the day
Across the globe, different activities are undertaken by standards regulatory authorities to celebrate WSD. In Canada for instance, the Standards Council of Canada- which is the national accreditation body of Canada- celebrates WSD along with the international society. It observes the day close to the international observance dates. In the year 2012, SCC celebrated World Standards Day on October 12, Friday.

In the United States, the celebration of the WSD commenced in 1990 by the Standards Engineering Society. Every year, the activities of the U.S. are planned and managed by a planning committee. The committee consists of representatives and officials from the community of standards and conformity assessment. The yearly event has now become a joint endeavor between the public and the private sector- specifically between the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Over 50 government agencies, corporations, standards development organisations, professional societies and trade associations usually participate in the event-which involves dinner, reception, essay competitions, exhibitions and presentation of awards for distinguished efforts in promoting the significant role of standardisation in boosting trade or eradicating the global barriers to trade.