Inside AI Policy

July 22, 2024

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ANSI says partnership model is essential to emerging tech standards development

By Charlie Mitchell / March 21, 2024

The American National Standards Institute is urging flexibility and reliance on a private-sector-led approach as the Biden administration implements a national standards strategy with implications for development of artificial intelligence and emerging technologies.

“We recommend as an overarching approach that any policies which may be considered in response to the [National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology] should be principles-based and not prescriptive in nature – informing industry-led standardization efforts that are fit for purpose and able to adapt quickly as market needs evolve,” ANSI says in comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The filing emphasizes, “It is extremely important to take a consistent approach to the treatment of standards in government-to-government dialogues -- both bilateral and multilateral -- and coordinate with the private sector on related objectives, engagement strategies, and messaging.”

ANSI says, “The artificial intelligence space provides a clear example of the need for close public-private sector cooperation and coordination.”

NIST last September issued a request for information on bolstering participation in international standards development for AI and other emerging technologies under the national standards strategy launched in May 2023 by the Biden administration.

NIST, the lead agency on the NSSCET, closed an extended comment period in December and the comments were recently posted on regulations.gov. Over a hundred comment submissions are included on the page from a wide range of groups.

USTelecom urged increased federal funding to develop standards and emphasized continued U.S. leadership despite challenges from China.

ANSI says in its filing, “We note that the NSSCET looks at the standards system largely through a national security lens and focuses on standards for critical and emerging technology (CET), emphasizing the importance of prioritizing efforts for standards development for a subset of CET that are essential for U.S. competitiveness and national security.”

“With this focus in mind,” ANSI says, “the NSSCET has brought renewed attention to the importance of public-private collaboration in standards and innovation.”

The prominent standards body says, “In pursuing the objectives of the NSSCET, it is important for the U.S. government to keep in mind that CET areas are diverse; each has its own characteristics, with different technology maturity profiles and different roles for standards. In some technology areas, potential standards solutions are relatively easy to identify and there are only a few relevant standards development models to consider.”

“In other areas,” ANSI says, “issues are diverse and there are numerous, sometimes seemingly competing standards activities underway or planned. Implementing a one size fits all solution is not an effective approach, and could do more damage than good.”

It says, “As a stakeholder in the private sector-led system the U.S. government should be mindful of the need to work within that system to achieve its goals as outlined in the NSSCET. This means remaining laser focused on respecting the private sector’s leadership and contributions to maintaining the integrity of the system. Effective government-wide implementation of the strategy should focus on partnering with the private sector to enhance a sustained, long-term, proactive approach to standards development.”

Among its recommendations, ANSI says the U.S. government should:

  • Be an active stakeholder in relevant standards processes and effectively promote the interests of the U.S. government in those processes.
  • Support the integrity of the international standards system, promoting the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement principles of transparency, openness, consensus, impartiality, due process, effectiveness and relevance in bilateral, regional and multilateral engagements.
  • Seek to engage a wide range of market participants in standards efforts, recognizing that market forces continue to be the primary factor informing industry standardization efforts that are fit for purpose and able to flex quickly as market needs evolve.

The group also says the federal government “should partner with ANSI and standards organizations to encourage information exchange and coordination for priority CET-related standardization, leveraging existing public-private sector fora and communities of interest where they exist.”

Further, it says, “Government agencies should invest in CET-related research directly in their mission areas, as well as through cooperative agreements with universities and industry. Government agencies could require, as part of the agreement, that the researcher consider the implications of the research outcomes for standardization.”

The filing also notes that, “The lifecycle for standardization of CET, or specific applications of CET, often begins with a set of pre-standardization activities that occur before standardization starts. These include research and development (R&D) activities that can feed technical contributions to standards.”

It says, “Pre-standardization research is particularly relevant in foundational technology areas - those that can enable progress and applications in a variety of problem domains. Such areas include but are not limited to advanced communications, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. A pre-standardization focus on research can drive significant contributions and engagement in standards bodies in these areas.”

And, ANSI calls for “Facilitating and possibly funding data repositories that can support safe and trusted technology testing and deployment (in the AI space for example). There is a demonstrated need for tools and coordination to build and share data and information and break down barriers to information that may or may not be publicly available.”