Yoshio Utsumi was born in 1942 in Takamatsu, a city in Kagawa Prefecture on the Japanese island of Shikoku. He obtained a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Tokyo in 1965, followed by a Master of Arts in Political Science degree from the University of Chicago in 1972. He then joined the Japanese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and embarked on his lifetime of work in that field.
By 1988 Utsumi had risen to the post of Director of the General Affairs Division in the ministry’s Broadcasting Bureau. He undertook increasingly senior roles until, in 1997, he became Deputy Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. In this role he spearheaded the liberalization of Japanese telecommunications and the restructuring of postal services.
Before joining ITU, Utsumi had already contributed to its work. From 1978 he spent three years in Geneva as First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Japan in charge of ITU affairs. And, when the 1994 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference was held in Kyoto, he was elected as its Chairman. He witnessed approval of a Japanese proposal that he had long encouraged: the creation of ITU’s World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF).
In 1998, Utsumi was elected as ITU Secretary-General at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Minneapolis. He was elected for a second term at the conference in Marrakesh in 2002. Among many achievements during his tenure, including significant cost savings, the most far-reaching was organizing the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The first gathering of its kind, it took place in two phases, in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005, and involved more than 30,000 attendees, including around one hundred Heads of State and government. They committed to building a truly inclusive information society, based on agreed principles and a clear roadmap. Follow-up WSIS activities continue today.
Utsumi introduced measures that led to a nineteen-percent increase in private sector membership of ITU. And during his mandate, he successfully refocused ITU as a policy-oriented organization relevant to all stakeholders, and the world at large.