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Background Information

Sean Kearney

Strategies to deliver success

Since the Marrakesh Plenipotentiary Conference in 2002, many developments have occurred in telecommunications and the broader environment for information and communication technologies (ICT) that have significant implications for ITU. How should it respond? This question is addressed in the draft Strategic Plan.

As reform efforts continue in ITU with respect to achieving results-based budgeting, the Strategic Plan has become an important tool in guiding the Union’s activities. It is an essential element in a linked planning process that includes ITU’s Financial Plan and Operational Plans. So it is critical that the Strategic Plan be developed with these linkages in mind — especially the requirement for a balanced budget. In Antalya, the Plenipotentiary Conference is expected to consider and approve the draft Strategic Plan for the period 2008–2011, developed by the ITU Council.

Miguel Ugalde

Rising to the challenge

The draft plan highlights the continuing challenge that faces ITU: how to remain a pre-eminent intergovernmental organization where Member States, Sector Members and Associates can work together to enable the growth and sustained development of telecommunications and information networks, and to facilitate universal access so that people everywhere can participate in, and benefit from, the emerging information society.

According to the draft plan, there are three factors which ITU must consider in order to rise to this challenge. One is the need to engage representatives of new actors in its work (this relates to the potential inclusion of civil society organizations in ITU activities — a matter to be discussed at Antalya). Another is the need to raise public awareness of ITU’s mandate, role and activities as well as achieve “broader access to its resources for the general public and other actors involved in the emerging information society”. The third factor is “the need to make optimal use of the scarce financial and human resources available for the Union’s activities.”

One of ITU’s more important activities in the coming years is its role, as part of a multi-stakeholder process, in the follow-up and implementation of the relevant outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). At the summit’s first phase in Geneva in 2003, world leaders issued a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action. The second phase saw them adopt the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society. The 11 “action lines” in the Geneva Plan of Action set forth key elements for building the information society. And an annex to the Tunis Agenda provides an indicative list of possible moderators/facilitators for each action line.

ITU is named as sole moderator/facilitator for two of the action lines (ICT infrastructure and cybersecurity). In addition, ITU, alongside the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has been tasked to play a leading facilitating role in implementing the Plan of Action. The draft Strategic Plan underlines that special attention should be given to the two WSIS action lines for which ITU has been named sole moderator and facilitator, in addition to those in which it has been named as partner.

The draft plan lays out seven strategic goals that should allow ITU to achieve its main mission of enabling and fostering growth and sustained development of telecommunications and information networks, and facilitating universal access to them.

Srategic goals

Goal 1 Maintaining and extending cooperation among all Member States, and with relevant regional organizations, for the improvement and rational use of information and communication infrastructure of all kinds, taking the appropriate leading role in United Nations system initiatives on ICT, as called for by the relevant outcomes of WSIS
Goal 2 Assisting in bridging the digital divides in ICT, by facilitating interoperability, interconnection and global connectivity of networks and services, and by playing a leading role in the follow-up and implementation of the goals of WSIS.
Goal 3 Widening the Union’s membership, facilitating participation of an increasing number of administrations and organizations, as well as new actors.
Goal 4 Developing tools to promote confidence among users of ICT and safeguard the efficiency, security, integrity, and interoperability of networks.
Goal 5 Continuing to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ITU’s structures and services and their relevance to the requirements of the membership and the wider global community.
Goal 6 Disseminating information and expertise to assist the membership (particularly developing countries) and the wider community to use the opportunities provided by private-sector participation, competition, network security, and technological innovation in ICT.
Goal 7 Promoting an enabling environment that assists governments in fostering supportive, transparent, pro-competitive and predictable policies, as well as legal and regulatory frameworks that provide appropriate incentives for investment in, and development of, the information society.

Responding to the changing environment


The background to the strategic goals set in the draft plan is the constantly changing environment. Central to these changes is the convergence of technological platforms for telecommunications, information delivery, broadcasting and computing, as well as the deployment of common network infrastructure for multiple communication services and applications. The internet and internet protocol (IP)-based platforms and related services also continue to grow, albeit unevenly across countries. And national and regional IP-based backbone networks are increasingly being deployed.

Wireless and mobile radiocommunications too are developing rapidly and converging with both fixed lines and broadcasting services. And in the future, the digital revolution could enter an entirely new dimension, with the development of ubiquitous networks and pervasive computing, based on technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and sensor networks. These technologies are emerging as vehicles for creating new services and applications and are expected to dramatically enhance efficiency. For example, mundane tasks will become increasingly automated. Not only will this have important implications for society and individual lifestyles, but also for business strategy and policy priorities.

Meanwhile, service providers and equipment manufacturers are making huge investments in developing standards for next-generation networks (NGN).

All of these changes underline the need for rapid development of market-driven, high-quality, international standards in line with the principles of global connectivity, openness, affordability, reliability, interoperability and security.

Infrastructure gaps and the digital divide

The growing awareness of the role of ICT as a tool for the overall development of society and the recognition that robust telecommunication infrastructure is fundamental to building the information society are noted in the draft plan, which adds that “the private sector should be encouraged to uphold its corporate social responsibility.”

There are still significant differences and shortages, within and among countries, in the deployment of ICT infrastructure and in people’s capacity to access it (the digital divide). Cost is cited in the draft plan as one of the causes of this problem.

Universal access

The draft plan underscores the need to recognize the principles of universal and non-discriminatory access to ICT for all nations, while taking into account the level of social and economic development of each country. It stresses that the development-oriented aspects of the information society must be respected. Furthermore, ICT must be seen as an effective tool for promoting peace, security and stability, as well as for enhancing democracy, social cohesion, good governance and the rule of law at national, regional and international levels. ICT can also be used to promote economic growth and enterprise development. To achieve these objectives, infrastructure development, human capacity building, information security and network security are critical.

Getty Images

Security issues

The draft plan recognizes the need to effectively confront challenges resulting from the use of ICT for purposes that threaten international stability and security, or which could adversely affect the integrity of a country’s infrastructure to the detriment of its security. It highlights the importance of preventing the abuse of information resources and technologies for criminal and terrorist purposes, while at the same time respecting human rights.


The plan notes that there is a trend towards separating operational and regulatory functions and the creation of independent telecommunication regulatory bodies (especially in developing countries), as well as a growing role for regional organizations. This, it says, will help ensure the consistency and predictability of regulatory frameworks and encourage capital investment. But at the same time, the trend in a number of Member States to regulate telecommunications with less reliance on sectoral regulation in competitive markets is generating different challenges for policy-makers and regulators.

Liberalization and competition


Télécoms Sans Frontières

Also noted in the draft plan is the continuing liberalization of telecommunication markets. Increased competition arises, too, from the delivery of audio-visual services and applications over a wide variety of new platforms, including both fixed and mobile networks.

Emergency communications

With particular regard to the WSIS action lines, the plan says that the effective use of modern telecommunications and ICT should be encouraged during emergencies as a crucial part of disaster early warning, mitigation, management and relief strategies.

Carrying out ITU’s overall mission

The general goals of ITU are achieved through the activities of the Plenipotentiary Conference, the Council, conferences, assemblies, and the three ITU Sectors, all supported by the General Secretariat. In the pursuit of its overall mission of connecting the world, the Union’s three Sectors are tasked with ensuring the efficient use of the radio spectrum, developing open and non-discriminatory standards, and promoting equitable and sustainable access to ICT. They are supported in their mission by the work of their respective Bureaux and the General Secretariat. The various mission statements and objectives are detailed in the draft Strategic Plan for 2008–2011. Here is a summary of the main points:

Tibor Fazakas

Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R)

This Sector’s main mission is to ensure “the rational, equitable, efficient and economical use of the radiofrequency spectrum by all radiocommunication services, including those using satellite orbits, and to carry out studies and approve Recommendations on radiocommunication matters.” ITU–R has five objectives listed in the draft plan:

  • Promote, foster, and ensure cooperation and coordination among all Member States in decision-making on radiocommunication issues, with participation of Sector Members and Associates, as appropriate.

  • Meet the requirements of the membership for spectrum, orbit access and operations in the light of the growing convergence of radiocommunication services.

  • Produce recommendations on radiocommunication services to achieve connectivity and interoperability in the application of modern ICT.

  • Respond to needs of the membership by disseminating information and know-how on radiocommunication issues by publishing and distributing relevant materials.

  • Provide support and assistance to the membership (mainly to developing countries) on radiocommunication matters and ICT network infrastructure and applications, in particular with respect to bridging the digital divide; gaining equitable access to the radio-frequency spectrum and to satellite orbits, and providing training and training materials for capacity building.



Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T)

The mission of ITU–T is to provide “a unique worldwide venue for industry and government to work together to foster the development and use of open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and demand-driven international standards that take into account the needs of users, in order to create an environment where users can access affordable services worldwide regardless of underlying technology, particularly in developing countries.” The Sector has seven main objectives:

  • Develop and publish the required global standards in a timely fashion.

  • Identify relevant areas for future standardization projects to be initiated within ITU–T, while remaining aware of the ongoing work in other standards bodies and cooperating with them as appropriate in order to reduce duplication and avoid inconsistencies and ensure that the work of ITU–T creates added value.

  • Provide the most efficient, attractive and effective forum for the development of international standards consistent with the needs and interests of the membership.


    World Bank

  • Promote awareness of the value of ITU–T so as to attract increased membership.

  • Respond to the needs of the membership and others by disseminating information and know-how through the publication and distribution of relevant materials.

  • Cooperate and collaborate with other ITU Sectors, standardization bodies and relevant entities.

  • Provide support and assistance to the membership (mainly to developing countries) on standardization matters and ICT network infrastructure and applications, in particular with respect to bridging the digital divide, and provide training and training materials for capacity building.

World Bank

Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D)

ITU–D’s mission is to be “the pre-eminent” promoter and catalyst for telecommunication/ICT development, acting as the bridge between relevant partners involved in ICT. The aim is to foster equitable and sustainable access to innovative and affordable services, especially in developing and least developed countries. The Sector has seven main objectives in the draft plan:

  • Organize and strengthen cooperation among ITU–D Members and between ITU–D and other stakeholders, reflecting the relevant outcomes of WSIS.

  • Foster an environment that promotes the development of telecommunication and ICT networks and services (in particular in the policy, legal and regulatory domains), taking into account a rapidly developing ICT environment and technology.

  • Support the identification of relevant projects and promote investment in them from telecommunications or ICT ventures, and nurture public-private partnerships, where appropriate.

  • Respond to the needs of the ITU–D membership by disseminating relevant information and know-how, including information relating to the implementation of WSIS outcomes.

  • Support the implementation of global, regional and other relevant initiatives and projects (including those relating to rural and remote areas, indigenous communities and small island developing States) that will facilitate the deployment and operation of telecommunication and ICT networks and services and foster secure, sustainable and affordable access to them.




  • Assist developing countries (particularly least developed countries, countries with economies in transition and small island developing States), in building human, institutional and organizational capacity through human resource development and dissemination of information on ICT development.

  • Undertake economic, financial and technical studies on questions related to the development of telecommunications and ICT, in conformity with the terms of reference of ITU–D study groups and in close coordination and cooperation with ITU as a whole, and disseminate the results.

ITU/A. de Ferron

The General Secretariat

The mission of the ITU General Secretariat is to provide accurate, timely and efficient services to the membership of the Union and to coordinate and support the activities of its three Sectors. This is mainly achieved through providing conference services, centralized common services, information services, legal services, financial planning and cost control and human resource management, as well as services delivered directly to the membership such as TELECOM events. The General Secretariat has the following main objectives outlined in the draft plan:

  • Provide the membership, the Council and the Plenipotentiary Conference with information on the ITU budget, programmes and activities and their financial implications, including the thorough application of the principles of cost-recovery and the identification of new sources of funding.

  • Progressively improve the efficiency of the Union’s operations by proposing to the Council a sound and balanced budget; by ensuring financial accountability (including the implementation of a results-based approach with appropriate feedback mechanisms); by effective and efficient management of conferences and meetings; by cost-effective provision of information services, enhanced security, infrastructure and facilities; by effective management of human resources, and, where appropriate, by outsourcing.

  • Facilitate the coordination of activities among the three Sectors in their external relations and corporate communications and where work programmes overlap or are related, so as to ensure that the membership benefits from the full complement of expertise available within the Union.

  • Assist the membership in the areas of strategic planning and policy development by preparing papers and reports tracking trends in the global telecommunication environment, including relevant WSIS outcomes.




  • Further enhance international cooperation and develop innovative mechanisms for such cooperation, and act as the depository of international treaties and agreements.

  • Improve the exchange of information among the membership and promote the Union’s activities so as to increase membership; encourage the use of ITU products and services, and raise the overall visibility of the Union within the ICT industry and the international community as whole.

Strategic synergy

The importance of creating synergy among all these areas of ITU is also strongly emphasized in the draft Strategic Plan. To achieve its overall objectives, the whole of ITU has to work together as more than the sum of its parts.



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Updated : 2007-01-09