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Critical Technology Standards

Australia will: shape international critical technology standards that foster interoperability, innovation, transparency, diverse markets and security-by-design

Australia will do this by:

Action 32. Increasing efforts to shape global standards on the development, use and uptake of critical technology to promote interoperability, competition, innovation and diversity of suppliers
Action 33. Engaging with international partners and recognised standards development organisations to shape critical technology standards to promote security-by-design

The development of international standards on current and emerging critical technologies is increasingly important to economic competition and geopolitical security. This is due to their ability to shape technological trajectories, providing significant economic and strategic advantages to those who influence the development of technology standards.

Standards are the specifications, procedures and technical guidelines that ensure products, services and systems are safe, consistent, reliable, and interoperable. They ensure consistency for consumers, provide confidence in the safety and reliability of products, and when internationally harmonised, assist in reducing barriers to international trade.

Standard setting in emerging technologies has become increasingly strategic and important to the economic security of nations, and a crucial component of global technology competition. They can shape technological trajectories and advance the values and interests of those who set them. Despite the fact that many are developed and adopted voluntarily, standards can become mandatory through national legislation, associated regulations, and commercial contracts, enabling greater control over the intellectual property and value centres of global supply chains.

Why standards matter

The development and international harmonisation of critical technology standards play a vital role in Australia and the world's economic development. As the connective tissue between technology and the market, standards create trust and consistency, foster innovation and drive economic growth. Australia, along with many other countries, has maintained an industry-led, consensus-driven standards development process.

Some countries have notably increased the level of government involvement in support of standards development. National delegations to international standards bodies have grown in size and sophistication, and companies have, with the support of their governments, submitted an increasing number of domestic standards for consideration in international standards development organisations (SDOs) including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This approach provides strategic and industrial advantages to states that drive the development of standards, particularly where companies are state-owned.

The increasing influence of critical technologies across society has also magnified the importance of the values underpinning their design, development and use. Through standards, values can be embedded to set a lasting trajectory for technological innovation and shape the way our society functions. Authoritarian regimes may seek to embed values in standards development that are contrary to Australia's liberal democratic values and national interests. Cognisant of this risk, we will work to shape the development and implementation of standards that promote technology consistent with human rights and our national interests.

STANDARDS AUSTRALIA

Standards Australia is Australia's National Standards Body and a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It facilitates leadership and participation by Australian experts in ISO and IEC committees, with support and funding provided by the Australian Government for this purpose.

Increasing Australia's international standards engagement

Australia will work with international partners to ensure the integrity of standards development systems and processes. We will seek to ensure that they remain open, commercially driven, and technology-neutral. Promoting security-by-design will be a key priority of this engagement.

Australia is committed to international standards development through existing multilateral and multi-stakeholder SDOs where appropriate. We will focus our engagement on strengthening international cooperation to ensure that SDOs are fit for purpose to address current challenges, accountable to member states, free from undue influence, and appropriately focused. Australia advocates for a transparent approach to rule setting in the development of standards, and stronger coordination between SDOs to reduce the duplication and overlap. These efforts assist in preventing divergent standards that splinter markets and reduce the benefits of harmonisation and innovation, or introduce vulnerabilities inimical to our national interests.

The Australian Government will continue to engage with the Australian standards community and business representatives to share information on the role of standards in critical technologies and developments impacting Australian business. Australia will also expand engagement with regional standards organisations across the Indo-Pacific.

Standards support diverse and competitive critical technology markets

Technical innovation is driven by trusted standards that encourage competition and diversity in critical technology markets. Australia will promote standards that are consistent with international trade and investment obligations, enable fair competition, encourage innovation and create economic opportunity.

Australia will work with our international partners to prevent standards that create barriers to trade and prevent interoperability of products and services globally. We will work to advance data standardisation and promote common frameworks for interoperability, privacy and security in critical technologies.

By embedding security-by-design as a core principle in critical technology standards, Australia will encourage greater competition based on security, incentivising suppliers to lift the overall security of critical technologies.

ASEAN-AUSTRALIA DIGITAL TRADE STANDARDS INITIATIVE

At the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney in March 2018, the Prime Minister announced the ASEAN-Australia Digital Trade Standards Initiative to help ASEAN improve access to digital trade in the region. Following positive feedback from ASEAN, the Foreign Minister announced an extension to the project to 2022 to raise awareness about the role of international standards and address the key factors, which enable and inhibit digital trade across ASEAN and Australia.

THE CODE OF PRACTICE – SECURING THE INTERNET OF THINGS FOR CONSUMERS

It is essential that internet-connected devices are secure-by-design and have sufficient security standards to defend against potential threats and malicious cyber activity. The Code of Practice: Securing the Internet of Things for Consumers represents a first step in the Australian Government's approach to improve the security of IoT devices in Australia.

As a key deliverable of Australia's Cyber Security Strategy 2020, the Code of Practice is a voluntary suite of measures the Government recommends industry adopt as the minimum standard for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Comprised of 13 principles, the Code of Practice encourages security-by-design throughout the lifecycle of IoT devices.

The principles signal to domestic and international manufacturers the importance of protecting consumers and the security features expected of IoT devices available in Australia.

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