A fundamental mission of ITU is to
help spread equitable, sustainable and
affordable access to telecommunications,
and to information and communication
technologies (ICT) as a means of stimulating
broader social and economic development.
How has your experience prepared you for this
mission in the years ahead, and what are your
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia: As the person responsible
for establishing telecommunication policy
in Mexico, one of my main concerns has been to
boost telecommunication service penetration and
facilitate the use of ICT among broader segments
of the population. I am convinced that this is a decisive
factor in the country’s economic and social
I have coordinated various projects aimed at
meeting these goals, such as: spectrum auctioning,
as a means of increasing competitiveness within the
sector and improving the quality and penetration of
fourth-generation services; use of available capacity
in the Mexican power grid for the transport of data
within the country; consolidation of local service areas
in the interest of eliminating long-distance charges
between some neighbouring cities; and setting up
the Social Coverage Trust Fund, which has enabled
the provision of services to over 8500 rural localities
under a public-private investment arrangement.
At the international level, I have pushed ahead
the Mesoamerica Project with the aim of harmonizing
regional regulation for the use of fibre optics in
Central America’s electricity system, ensuring the use
of part of that network’s capacity in the public interest, and reducing long-distance and roaming tariffs
in the region.
Through the Inter-American Telecommunication
Commission (CITEL), where I am currently Chairman
of the Permanent Executive Committee, I have moved
ahead on proposals for expanding the worldwide use
of ICT, especially among the underprivileged.
Mexico’s geographic, cultural and social diversity
(a characteristic of many developing countries), coupled
with my experience in international cooperation
in addressing shared problems, have provided
me with the necessary bases for contributing to the
noble work of BDT.
What do you see as the challenges
and opportunities in implementing the
Hyderabad Action Plan adopted by
the recent World Telecommunication
Development Conference (WTDC-10) in India?
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia: The Hyderabad Action
Plan reflects the needs and aspirations of
Member States and Sector Members in such areas
as information and communication infrastructure,
cybersecurity and associated applications, enabling
environment, capacity building, least developed
countries and emergency response. It also incorporates
the action lines entrusted to ITU in the Plan of
Action of the World Summit on the Information Society
(WSIS) and the Millennium Development Goals.
Economic and human resources which we must use creatively and efficiently because of their limited nature.
Where an ambitious action plan such as the one adopted in Hyderabad is concerned, our attention must remain focused on sector priorities, without straying from the functions of ITU.
Being capable of providing assistance in unforeseen emergency situations, without neglecting the actions agreed upon in Hyderabad.
On the basis of the consensus achieved, addressing those matters on which countries have differing points of view.
Notwithstanding the global economic crisis we are facing, fulfilling the tasks entrusted to ITU within the stipulated time-frames.
I would identify three crucial opportunities, namely
coordination, efficiency and networking. With this
in mind, ITU must continue to serve as:
the international body capable of ensuring coordination among the different international players in the interests of the development priorities laid down in the Action Plan;
a creator of mutual assistance networks;
a promoter of actions that have an enabling effect or that can be replicated;
the body providing excellence in the telecommunication and ICT sphere.
The ICT world is changing rapidly. To
increase ITU’s Sector membership will
be key in broadening and strengthening
the Union so that it continues to meet
the needs of a burgeoning ICT market. In what
ways can ITU’s membership system be enhanced
to attract and welcome new members from all
branches of ICT — from traditional players to
new market entrants — while retaining existing
members across its three Sectors?
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia: We need to foster a
higher level of participation by Sector Members
in the implementation of ITU programmes. This
will not only ensure a larger body of data on which
to assess the results achieved and their sustainability,
but will also create a more thorough awareness of
Sector Members’ needs.
By virtue of its studies, reports and publications,
ITU is a repository of up-to-date telecommunication
information. There is a need for strategic promotion
to make companies involved in the sector aware of
ITU’s work and get them interested in the elaboration
of studies and statistics and/or the resulting
Telecommunication is the means of communication
par excellence within our societies. However, it is
not solely a matter of infrastructure. Communication
content and applications involve different sectors,
which use this medium to disseminate their strategies
and policies. This being the case, we need to
foster the participation of new players capable of
bringing forth ideas and resources that can improve
the living conditions of our societies.
Telecommunication is one of the most important
activities in the economic life of countries, and we
need ITU’s work to be seen in the same light. If we
can achieve this, the players in the sector are bound
to come even closer.
In 2012, ITU will hold a World
(WRC-12), a World Telecommunication
Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12)
and a World Conference on International
Telecommunications (WCIT-12). What are
the key issues to be discussed in relation to
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia: If we review the Radiocommunication
Sector’s agenda and the topics
to be discussed during the world conference, we
cannot leave aside the work of Working Party 5D on
the guidelines for implementing IMT systems in developing
Resolution 9 adopted at Hyderabad deals with
developing-country participation in spectrum management
and the special needs of those countries.
These needs relate, in particular, to analogue switch-off
and the question of spectrum management for
emergency and disaster situations, a recurring matter
of concern in the Development Sector. This makes
the WRC crucial with respect to any actions to be
taken in that regard.
Looking at the Telecommunication Standardization
Sector, a major issue is bridging the standardization
gap. I see this to be more a matter for ITU as a
whole than for a specific Sector. The question needs
to be addressed from different angles.
From the discussions sparked by the renewed interest
in the International Telecommunication Regulations
and the feasibility of holding a World Conference
on International Telecommunications, it is
clear that development is a matter of concern among
Member States. It is therefore essential for BDT to be
involved in the debate on these Regulations.
What will be your main priorities in the
next four years?
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia: Coordination:
Regional summits have served
to bring together various United Nations agencies,
international and regional development entities, and
government bodies, enabling them to give attention
to regional priorities in a planned fashion. We will
therefore continue to hold such gatherings, while at
the same time taking the opportunity to strengthen
the coordination and support capacities of ITU’s regional
Efficiency: The establishment of yardsticks for
measuring the impact of ITU activities covered by the
objectives of the action plan, as well as criteria for
prioritizing work under projects of an enabling and
Networking: Clear identification of the strengths
and abilities of the regions and Member States will
help define mechanisms for collaboration and communication.
This will lead to the establishment of
networks for mutual assistance designed to address
the stated objectives. At the same time, making access
to the results of the study groups easier will help
to match membership needs with existing solutions.
Once these areas have been strengthened, we will
be in a better position to give attention to the needs
expressed in the action plan. This will give us a clear
vision of the areas of opportunity at the regional level
and of the capacities for action in those areas. I propose
that we use existing collaborative networks and
mechanisms to generate regional capacities to meet
regional needs. There should be support for areas
that have enabling or catalytic effects. Ultimately, we
need to measure the impact, scope and sustainability
of progress in telecommunications in each region,
with special emphasis on least developed countries
and traditionally disadvantaged groups.
ITU’s “federal” structure — made
up of the General Secretariat, the
Radiocommunication Sector, the
Sector and the Telecommunication Development
Sector — requires collaboration and team
spirit. What do you view as the fundamental
components of successful teamwork?
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia: I see ITU as a whole,
with constituent parts that work together to
achieve a common objective: to make the right to
communicate a reality.
Although each of those parts performs specific
tasks in order to achieve that objective, the open
lines of communication between them make for
efficient use of time and resources in fulfilling the
By way of an example, this approach can be seen
in ITU’s response to disaster situations, where the different
parts of the Union work together in prevention,
emergency response and restoring services.
It is often said that good people are
the backbone of any high-performing
business activity or organization.
What is your message to staff, with
whom you will work to implement the strategic
plan and goals that will be approved by the
Plenipotentiary Conference for the period 2012–2015, within the budget that will also be decided
by this conference for the same years?
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia: Both the experience and
knowledge of the ITU staff are invaluable. Having
worked closely with many organizations, I can
say that the Union is one of the most highly qualified entities with which I have interacted, and one
whose commitment to the achievement of its goals
is beyond question.
In ITU we have the world’s most competent specialists,
who have spent years facing up to the problems
and producing the solutions.
I believe that ideas must flow and permeate from
within if all of this human capital is to be harnessed
to the full for the benefit of all.
Communication is ITU’s raison d’être. The deployment
of infrastructure is meaningful only if it serves
to bring people together to exchange ideas and
knowledge. Let us embody this example from within.
Each and every member of the ITU staff has experience
and skills that should be used to serve the best
interests of the population and society as a whole.
My message to everyone is that it would be an
honour and a privilege to be a part of this team, and
thereby contribute to the objective of honouring the
basic right to communicate.
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia (Mexico)
has a Bachelor’s Degree in
Law from Anáhuac University,
Mexico, and an LLM degree
in International Economic
Law from the University of
Warwick, United Kingdom.
He has worked for
13 years at management
level in the federal public
in telecommunications. From
1997 to 2003, working in the
Commission, he collaborated in
the design and implementation
of the first spectrum auctions.
He was involved in drawing
up the regulatory framework
necessary for the liberalization
process in Mexico.
In the National Human
Rights Commission, he
produced the first operational
system for diagnosing the
status of human rights at
national level, resulting in a
drop of over 50 per cent in
investigation times for the
main types of violation.
Mr Olavarría-Tapia currently
holds the post of Director-General for Telecommunication
and Broadcasting Policy in the
Ministry of Communications
and Transport, and has been
appointed to be in charge of
the Office of the Undersecretary
He has published articles in
various media, including:
¿Quién domina los nombres de dominio? (Who is in
charge of domain names?);
La civilización de la convergencia (The civilization
of convergence); El fallo de la OMC en telecomunicaciones
(The WTO panel report on
telecommunications); La globalización del espectro
(Globalization of the spectrum).