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Elections at PP-10: Meet the candidates
Interview with Héctor Olavarría-Tapia (Mexico)
Candidate for the post of Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau
 
Héctor Olavarría-Tapia
 

Question 1

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 expectations?

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 development.

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.


Question 2

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.

Practical challenges:

  • 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.

Opportunities:

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.


Question 3

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 conclusions.

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.


Question 4

In 2012, ITU will hold a World Radiocommunication Conference (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 telecommunication development?

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 countries.

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.


Question 5

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 offices.

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 catalytic nature.

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.


Question 6

ITU’s “federal” structure — made up of the General Secretariat, the Radiocommunication Sector, the Telecommunication Standardization 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 Union’s mission.

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.


Question 7

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.


Biography

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 administration, specializing in telecommunications. From 1997 to 2003, working in the Federal Telecommunications 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 of Communications.

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).

 

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