Collaboration for Innovation

An Interview with Dean Garfield, President and CEO, Information Technology Industry Council

Standards, cybersecurity, policymaking — these issues and more are on this IT leader’s mind.

Your organization represents some of the most innovative companies in the world. How do standards help drive innovation in your industry?

Standards help ensure that the latest innovations are delivered to as many people across the world as possible. They create a foundation for making sure that innovations are interoperable and work for as many people and as many places as possible. Whether that’s USB, WiFi, JPEG, MPEG, or any of the other standards that are in the marketplace, they make innovation real for millions of people around the world.

MP3 and MPEG, for example, have had a huge impact, enabling the transformation we’re seeing in entertainment today. When you think about Netflix or Amazon Prime or any of the other streaming services — those would not be feasible without the MPEG standard. It’s the same for any of your online music services. They wouldn’t be possible without MP3.

WiFi we all know and, in some respects, take for granted. Being able to work and enjoy our innovations anywhere, any place, at any time, is driven by the WiFi standard.

The good news about standards is that there’s a lot of work that goes into creating them, and good standards are so effective that consumers don’t have to think about them. A standard is a technical gold mine, if you will, that enables a lot, but because it works so well, most people don’t have to focus on it.

What is the role of ITI’s International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) in the world of information and communications technology standards?

INCITS plays a critical role because it is the U.S. forum that helps develop standards for the latest innovations. There are the examples mentioned, such as WiFi or MPEG. Recently, INCITS has been focused on an innovation that everyone is talking about, the Internet of Things (IoT); there’s an active working group looking at standards in that area, among others.

INCITS integrates with other global standards setting bodies because part of the impact of standards is that they are consensus driven and global. INCITS works closely with ISO [International Organization for Standardization] as well as IEC [International Electrotechnical Commission], for example.

The group is spending a fair amount of time on innovations that are moving into the marketplace today. IoT is one. They’re also doing a lot of work related to the role that technology can play in driving sustainability and looking at energy and energy efficiency-related standards. And INCITS is also looking at artificial intelligence.

What do you feel needs to be done in the areas of cybersecurity and privacy?

First is making sure that cybersecurity and privacy are a part of design thinking as we develop technologies and services so that they are thought of affirmatively rather than reactively. All of our companies are working to ensure that is the case.

Second is our work to make sure that we are sharing information — between governments and the private sector — on threats that exist so that we are identifying the threats early and are able to respond to them.
The third thing is making sure that we are as nimble and responsive as those who are trying to undermine security and privacy.

There is no silver bullet that means these issues are fully addressed and don’t have to be addressed anymore.
The situation becomes even more complicated and important as more of the world becomes instrumented and networked.

As we think about networking and instrumenting automobiles, as well as more of our medical technologies and our clothing, the issues of security and privacy become more core to doing what we do and continuing to innovate.

The good news is that companies fully recognize that and are devoting the energy and resources necessary to be ahead of things.

ITI actively promotes standards and trade policies to policymakers in major capitals in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. What is your vision for standards and trade policies that will enable continued growth and innovation for your members?

Two words capture what our vision is: One is collaboration and the other is agility.

On the first, increasingly, governments around the world are working to address the issues that are a part of society continuing to grow and evolve and be impacted by innovation. For us to drive solutions on challenges, as well as opportunities, there’s a great need for greater collaboration between the private sector and the public sector but also collaboration across geographic boundaries.

When you think about data flows, for example, and the movement of information around the world, the issues that emanate from that are not specific U.S. or Asian or African issues. They’re really global issues in the same way that you have pollution moving freely across borders, and countries have to work together to deal with the shifts that are happening in climate.

Agility also is a critical part of our vision because these issues are incredibly complicated and require continual learning and response based on that learning. The modes that we have traditionally used for developing legislation where a piece of legislation can percolate for 10 years before it becomes law, and then last for another 30 years, doesn’t accord with the world we live in today. Things move at the speed of light. We need a level of collaboration and agility that’s going to be new and different and absolutely necessary to have the impact that we want.

Standards are a big part of that because the way they are developed reflects the global nature of the world that we live in. Standards can be a big part of getting where we need to go.

Dean Garfield is president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, a position he has held since 2009. Before joining ITI, Garfield served as executive vice president and chief strategic officer for the Motion Picture Association of America. He has also been vice president of legal affairs at the Recording Industry Association of America. Garfield serves on the boards of College for Every Student, the SEED School of Washington, D.C., and the Aiden Montessori School, where he is board president.

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