Let us leverage standards for robust and adaptable policies


Delegates follow proceedings during the Kenya Bureau of Standards and African Organisation for Standardisation official opening of the 25th ARSO General Assembly and the Africa Day of Standardisation forum at the Panari Hotel in Nairobi on June 19, 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Standards are often developed by technical experts in a specific field or industry.
  • Standards often enjoy public trust due to their consultative and inclusive development processes.

Standards serve as the building blocks of any product, policies and legislation. They play a crucial role in ensuring that policies are well-informed, grounded in facts, practical and proficient to achieve their goals.

That policies are robust, adaptable and meet the threshold of the dynamic ecosystem we live in, and international standards in terms of requirements, specifications and guidelines about products, services, designs, among many others, should be at the core.

Standards are often developed by technical experts in a specific field or industry. The process involves contributions from a wide range of stakeholders and is driven by multiple perspectives to ensure a balanced outcome and effective regulations or policy.

The policy or legislation sets overarching goals and principles, with the details left to standards. That allows for a high degree of adaptability while the core objectives of the policy are met.

Adaptable solutions

Standards often enjoy public trust due to their consultative and inclusive development processes. When incorporated into legislation, they enhance public confidence in the regulatory framework.

The collaborative approach and effort between the public and private sectors in developing standards brings synergy that can lead to more practical and adaptable solutions. The consensus-based approach ensures they reflect a variety of perspectives, making them more adaptable to changing needs. 

Standards development is costly and time-consuming with extensive hours spent in research and consultations. Policymakers should reference existing standards instead of creating new ones.

Of course, this comes with the understanding of the different standards available in the national body, in this regard Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs). Aligning policies with international standards not only promotes global compatibility but also leverages the expertise and experiences of other countries.

Standards provide a consistent and uniform basis for regulations. Referencing established standards, policymakers can avoid inconsistencies and contradictions in their policies and laws. This will promote fairness, predictability and transparency in the legal framework of organisations and the nation.

Improve public safety

Standards often put into content and context quality requirements and criteria that ensure that the outcome of their application is adequate. Therefore, when integrated into legislation, they can ensure the products, services or processes they are associated with meet certain quality and safety standards.

Incorporating standards into legislation provides a clear framework for enforcement. Regulators can reference specific standards to assess compliance with their provisions as implemented in various products, services or processes.

In the enforcement, policymakers can identify, characterise and sustainably address risks by demanding and instituting controls as per the applicable standards, thus mitigate potential harm and improve public safety.

By leveraging standards in these ways, policymakers can create a regulatory environment that is not only robust and effective but also capable of adapting to changing circumstances, technological advancements, and emerging challenges. This adaptability is essential for ensuring that policies remain relevant and continue to achieve their objectives.

Mr Munyiri, an economist, is the chairman of the National Standards Council (NSC) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs). [email protected]. @Peter_Munyiri