ITU in perspective
The goals and achievements
The past eight years, 1998–2006, have been a seminal period in the
history of ITU. This period has been marked by some major achievements, notably
in the successful organization of the World Summit on the Information Society
(WSIS), but also by some challenges. This article reviews what has been achieved
At the time of the elections for the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference, five
pledges were made concerning the ITU’s future:
- Creating a global information
society for all humanity.
- Making ITU more efficient and effective.
- Coordinating policy issues on new services.
- Encouraging participation by the
- Strengthening ITU’s public presence.
These goals remain relevant today and significant progress has been made over
the last eight years in achieving them.
Creating a global information society for all humanity
Through the successful planning, preparation and implementation of WSIS, we
have together established a sound basis for building an inclusive,
people-centred and development-oriented information society. The summit
recognized the fundamental role of ICT in shaping our common future and we have
successfully positioned ITU as the leader in this new world, especially in its
role as one of the lead facilitating agencies in WSIS implementation.
Making ITU more efficient and effective
During the past eight years, ITU has successfully implemented operational
planning, results-based budgeting and time-tracking. We have improved the
efficiency of our work, for instance by eliminating the backlogs in the
processing of satellite notifications, and in reforming the business model of
TELECOM. We have also succeeded in absorbing additional requirements from the
membership, for instance in the fields of language support and enhanced
security, without any significant increase in the size of the contributory unit.
In total, efficiency measures of more than CHF 70 million have been implemented
since 1998, making it possible to undertake more work with fewer resources.
Coordinating policy issues on new services
If ITU is to succeed in the new market environment, it must demonstrate its
effectiveness as a place to do business. ITU has reasserted its relevance in a
number of significant areas. For instance:
- ITU’s support for the content team
at WSIS enabled stakeholders to reach a historic agreement in a number of areas,
including Internet Governance. ITU’s role was recognized in its selection as one
of the three lead agencies, along with the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), for the multi-stakeholder implementation of the WSIS outcomes. ITU also has specific responsibilities for action lines C2 and C5
on infrastructure and security (including countering spam) respectively.
played a key role in the adoption of the IMT-2000 family of standards for 3G
mobile as well as in the development and spread of IP Telephony.
- ITU has also
been developing standards that traverse the full range of consumer and business
applications: from next-generation broadband and web services, to encoding
standards for video and music compression, from digital television to
next-generation net-work (NGN) management. Work has also been initiated in new
areas such as networked radio-frequency identification (RFID) and internet
protocol television (IPTV), which shows that ITU continues to be at the cutting
edge of technological change.
- The 2006 Regional Radiocommunication Conference
brokered a treaty-level agreement that will see the transition to digital
terrestrial broadcasting (radio and television) by 2015 throughout Europe,
Africa, the Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Encouraging participation by the private sector
One mark of this success is the fact that ITU’s membership is growing, with
some 150 or so new Sector Members and more than 60 Associates added to the Union
since the start of 2004. Since the time of the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference,
Sector membership has increased by around 20 per cent.
Strengthening ITU’s public presence
ITU has demonstrated that it can organize a successful World Summit. During
November 2005, traffic to ITU’s website was around 15 million page views per day,
and this has brought the Union to a much wider audience. Thanks to the WSIS
process, many Heads of State and Government have become aware of the importance
of ITU. There has been an increase in the number of VIPs visiting ITU, including
Heads of State, as well as many more stories in the media.
Looking to the future
In December 2004, Booz Allen Hamilton nominated ITU among the world’s ten
most enduring institutions that “have reinvented themselves time and again — and
remained market leaders — as the unique circumstances of their founding have
given way to changing conditions.” ITU is proud to have been honoured in this
Now it is the Union’s job to carry forward and strengthen its role in
creating a future in which we can all share information and knowledge, and in
which everyone has a voice. It will be a challenging task, but one that is