STANDARDS:  Why do they matter?

By Matilda Kasanga

Standards fundamentally are documents that contain technical and quality requirements that products, services, processes and systems have to meet. Standards are therefore ‘yardsticks’ against which goods and services may be judged.

They are tools which help us to judge if products, services and processes are good or bad, right or wrong, safe or unsafe, acceptable or unacceptable, fit for use or unfit for use, satisfactory or not satisfactory.

Standards are developed by interested parties based on consensus. They make enormous contribution to most aspects of our lives, although very often that contribution is invisible. When standards meet our expectations, we tend to take standards for granted. It is when there is an absence of standards when their importance is brought home.  For instance, producers or users of products soon notice their importance when the products in question, turn out to be of poor quality, or not fit for consumption. 

Standards play critical roles in our daily and national lives by raising levels of quality, safety, reliability and efficiency. They provide economic benefits in various areas such as manufacturing or production, testing, environmental quality assessment, health and safety issues, assessments of quality goods and services, mining and agriculture.

Other areas include trade and commerce, engineering and architecture, export and import business, inspection and certification or accreditation.

Standards generally provide the necessary assurance that goods and services are of good quality, promote the growth of industry, facilitate trade, enhance   consumer’s   protection, and underpin sustainable development. They work for the safety and convenience for all, ensuring that processes, services and products are safe, ethical and easy to use, thereby making the world a safer place to live. Standards are useful to conformity assessment professionals, regulatory bodies, governments, consumers, business community and to the society at large.

Standards provide many benefits to all sectors of the economy among which are the following:

- TRADE:  They facilitate this activity by making products competitive on the local and international market and reduce or remove technical barriers.

- MANUFACTURING:  Standards provide information and guidelines for the manufacture of goods and the provision of services thereby ensuring efficiency and quality output. They are tools of market access and when applied effectively enhance products performance.

- BUSINESS:  Standards open doors to national and international businesses on a global scale. They ensure that businesses become sustainable as they are able to attract and retain markets for their products and services. This implies increased output, business expansion, generation of employment, large exports volumes and ultimately higher foreign exchange earnings.

- CONSUMER: Standards serve as protection for public health safety, guaranteeing good quality products and services, hence value for money. 

Matilda Kasanga is the Documentation and ICT Manager at TBS.