In 1951, ITU joined the United Nations Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance to contribute its expertise in the telecommunications area.
In 1960, a Technical Cooperation Department was created within the General Secretariat to foster the establishment and improvement of telecommunication networks in the developing countries. The Department administered programmes which sent telecommunications experts to various countries throughout the world to advise on the operation of telegraph, telephone and radio systems or to help train the technicians of the future.
The 1984 report of the ITU Independent Commission for World Wide Telecommunication Development, popularly known at the Maitland Commission after its chairman, highlighted the “missing link” in developing countries and internationally between the development of telecommunications and overall economic and social development. As a result of this report and as part of a comprehensive reform effort that began in the late 1980s in response to changes that were taking place in the telecommunications environment, ITU upgraded its commitment to development in 1989/1992.
In 1989, the Plenipotentiary Conference in Nice converted the Technical Cooperation Department into a permanent organ of ITU called the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) in order to strengthen technical assistance to developing countries. In 1992, the Additional Plenipotentiary Conference (APP) in Geneva, dramatically remodeled ITU, with the aim of giving it greater flexibility to adapt to an increasingly complex, interactive and competitive environment. As a result of the organization, the Union was streamlined into three Sectors, corresponding to the three main areas of activity: Telecommunication Standardization (ITU-T) – formerly CCITT; Radiocommunication (ITU-R) – formerly CCIR; Telecommunication Development (ITU-D).