As we get ready to celebrate World Standards Day on 14 October, here is some important information that you and your child should know about international standards.
By Ashwin Lobo
Every year, 14 October is celebrated as World Standards Day. This day is celebrated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Telecommunication Union and the International Electrotechnical Commission. This day commemorates the efforts of all the experts who work towards establishing and publishing International Standards.
But what exactly are International Standards? And, why are they so important that a day is dedicated to honouring those involved in establishing them? How can you explain these to your child in a way that he will understand?
Well, you can start off by telling him that every moment and activity of his life is affected by International Standards. For example, when he refers to time, he uses standards such as second, minute and hour. Or, when using a ruler in the geometry class, he uses standards of distance such as centimetre and millimetre.
International Standards are specifications and guidelines which ensure that products, processes and services are designed using a globally accepted approach. The ISO is the organisation responsible for bringing together experts to review, develop and establish International Standards. It is a non-governmental organisation that is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Today, it has members from 162 national standards bodies and 786 technical committees working together to decide upon, institute and enforce standards.
Before the world moved towards sandardisation, most countries had their own standards. These governed everything within a country, from dictating the size of paper to be used for printing newspapers to codes used in the IT industry to dosages of medicine. But, this also made it difficult for the countries to deal with each other. For example, in the United States, the officially used units of weight are ounce and pound, whereas in India, we use gram and kilogram. So, if the United States and India wanted to trade with each other, they needed to come to an agreement on which unit to use to measure commodities. Such problems would crop up in almost every area where countries seek to connect and cooperate with each other.
But, the world is changing and, with each passing day, countries are moving towards becoming more interconnected. In such a scenario, having common standards helps in several ways — for example, in trading or integrating technologies. However, even today, some countries persist with using different standards from the ones used globally or by a majority of countries.
As of now, the ISO has published 22,348 International Standards but this number is bound to increase as multiple new standards come into existence every year.
International Standards aren’t just used by big corporations or countries. They also have a bearing on you and your child.
There are International Standards on air, soil and water quality, and the effect of various products on the environment. All these standards are related to factors that affect the quality of our lives.
Similarly, the ISO has also come up with guidelines towards making the lives of children safer. For example, there are guidelines on how parts of toys should be designed to prevent children from choking on them. Such standards go a long way in making the world a better and safer place.
The theme for World Standards Day this year is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This refers to emerging technologies such as 3 D printing, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, which promise to change the landscape of the 21st century. These technologies will bring about changes in the way we trade, communicate and live.
With so much resting on these modern technologies, the ISO recognises the challenges that they will pose and the importance of developing new standards to regulate and monitor their use.
To promote a better understanding of these technologies, how they can be used to solve problems and the importance of International Standards, the ISO organised a contest named, "What’s your crazy idea?"
The participants were required to think of — a problem they could solve using these latest cutting-edge technologies, the issues they would face, and how International Standards could help solve these issues. The idea had to be submitted in the form of a drawing or an animation or a digital design. Unfortunately, the date for submissions for this year's contest has already passed. However, stay tuned for next year's contest and encourage your child to participate in it to improve her understanding of International Standards and how they influence the world.
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