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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

ITU Staff Meeting

31 January 2011, Geneva, Switzerland

Good morning,

Before I commence, I would like us all to stand for a moment in silence to commemorate Mr Kisrawi, who passed away at the weekend...

It is a great pleasure to be here with you all today.

And let me just reassure you that our colleagues in the Cairo office are well – I spoke with the head of the office over the weekend and can let you know that our staff over there are safe and sound in this difficult time in Egypt. We will continue to monitor the situation.

As you will know, two weeks ago we held a formal inauguration ceremony for the five elected officials.

Today, however, is our opportunity to address you, ITU’s most important resource: the staff who make this organization great.

It is an enormous personal honour for me to have been re-elected as ITU Secretary-General – but I am very much aware that without you, each and every one of you, my job is impossible.

Before looking at the year ahead, I would therefore like to thank you for all your hard work, and especially for ensuring the success of PP-10. I can tell you most sincerely that your work never, ever goes unappreciated.

One of the outcomes of PP-10, as we are all aware, is that we have net reduced member contributions over the next budgetary period. We should recognize and be grateful to those countries which increased their contributions this time around, and which substantially limited the net decrease.

Nonetheless, we do have a funding shortfall, and as a result, we need to undertake a certain amount of re-engineering, to invest in the future of ITU.

We are not an organization in crisis, but we must accept the global reality that the world has changed, and that financial security is no longer guaranteed – for governments, enterprises, individuals, and even UN organizations.

We need to remember the UN charter, and its clear message that there is a balance to be struck between benefits and entitlements on the one hand, and duties and obligations on the other.

I have asked the Directors of the three Bureaux to review their current structures, and determine any necessary actions to be taken in terms of refining or restructuring.

Within the General Secretariat, I myself am reviewing ways to improve our structure and working methods, so that we can become a better service provider – both to our membership and of course to the three Bureaux.

We are also working to re-orient and restructure ITU Telecom, ahead of this year’s 40th anniversary event in October.

I know that many of you will be concerned about these changes, and what they mean for each of you. Change can be unsettling and is not always welcome, but it can also be exciting and motivating.

It is in any case now essential, as we follow through on the decisions made at PP-10 – and I do believe that this change will in fact be beneficial to us.

It will make ITU a more effective and efficient organization, more responsive to external requests, and better-equipped to deal with the challenges ahead of us over the coming years.

It will help us to optimize existing resources and adopt innovative working methods.

Indeed, concerning innovation, I would like to take this opportunity to announce the forthcoming launch of our ITU Ideas Incubator. This will be an opportunity for all staff members to come up smart new ideas for making the Union a better place – from innovative new working methods to improving our visibility to
helping achieve our core mandates.

I have often said that human brainpower is the greatest and most sustainable asset available to us a species, and this will be a new opportunity to put this philosophy into practice, here, in our own house.

The best ideas will be put forward as candidates for seed funding, and I am genuinely looking forward to seeing what inspiration comes forth.

Change will also encourage the Union to seek new sources of funding and ways of expanding and enhancing our membership. Indeed, this is something which we are already actively pursuing: we are looking for various ways in which to strengthen our financial base. And I am pleased to report that we are already seeing membership growing, with the accession of our first members from academia two weeks ago.

 The Strategic Plan adopted at PP-10 gives us the means and the roadmap to build a common sense of purpose, so that you can all see how your valuable work is contributing to meeting the purposes of the Union.

Dear colleagues,

The most important task immediately facing us is to implement the resolutions agreed by our members at PP-10 in Guadalajara.

These resolutions cover a wide and diverse range of subjects, including:


  • Accessibility;
  • ICTs and climate change;
  • Reviewing the International Telecommunication Regulations, which are one of the four Treaty Instruments of the Union;ulations
  • Strengthening regional presence;
  • Reshaping the ITU Telecom event;
  • Measures to help prevent the illicit use and abuse of telecommunication networks;
  • Conformance and interoperability;
  • Emergency communications and humanitarian assistance;
  • The admission of Sector Members from developing countries;
  • The admission of members from Academia;
  • Bridging the standardization gap;
  • Special measures to assist Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries;
  • Electronic meetings;
  • A stable constitution for ITU;
  • A number of key Resolutions on Internet issues;
  • and many more.

You will not be surprised to hear that I also have many other ambitions and goals for the year ahead. That is how I operate!

One of my goals for 2011 is to improve collaboration, coordination and communication, both internally and externally. We must also standardize, harmonize, simplify and integrate our internal processes, procedures and policies.

This will help us work together to truly become One ITU. We may have said this before, but just saying things does not make them happen automatically.

We now have the real opportunities to put One ITU into practice, and I will be seeking your continuous support and endorsement of One ITU this year.

This year will also see us continue our ongoing – and I must say crucial – work in cybersecurity, a subject that increasingly affects all countries, and all the world’s people.

We will also be continuing our work in partnership with UNESCO on the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which got off to a very good start last year. We are planning to hold two meetings of the Commission this year, one in June and a second one in October, in conjunction with a Broadband Summit scheduled to coincide with ITU Telecom World 2011.

ITU Telecom World 2011 will be held here in Geneva in October, and marks the 40th anniversary of the first ever ITU Telecom event. It will also be the first edition of a newly redesigned, integrated and more interactive event, which responds to the needs of our rapidly evolving ICT industry. We are counting on all of you to work closely with the ITU Telecom team: to ensure that the event is a great success; a credit to the Union; and a valuable service to our membership and to the wider ICT sector.

ITU is also partnering with another of our sister UN agencies, the World Health Organization, on another initiative, entitled the ‘Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health’.

And we are playing a leading role in the CEB/ICT network, where ITU is chairing the task forces to enhance information security – an issue that all organizations have agreed to give highest priority in the CEB/ICT network.

Initiatives such as these demonstrate ITU’s continuing commitment to the ‘One UN’ concept, which has been strongly championed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and to which we are all accountable.

ITU’s technology showcase on a more permanent basis – the ICT-E – will be unveiled by the end of October in the Montbrillant building. And I am sure that this, too, will prove to be of lasting credit to the Union.

We will also of course be continuing to support the work of the three Sectors, which each have a busy year ahead of them. Just next month, BR will be holding its major Conference Preparatory Meeting ahead of the WRC next year, which is expected to attract over 1,000 participants. TSB and BDT will also be expecting our support in their activities throughout 2011. And of course there are other inter-sectoral events as well, such as the WSIS Forum, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, and Council.

Dear colleagues,

Before I close, I would also like to stress the importance of improved working practices this year and in the years ahead. By becoming more efficient and productive, we will be able to achieve everything that our membership has asked for, even with slightly reduced resources.

To give you some examples:

  • We should not forget that email, e-fax and voice data now account for over 90% of all requests and communications with the Union. We must therefore all be responsible and accountable for what we receive and dispatch individually. A major step in this direction will be the full-deployment of the Records and Information Management system, RIM, which allows all incoming and outgoing communications to be categorized, tracked and maintained electronically.
  • We will be replacing the 10 year-old telephone system with Unified Communications facilities to manage our voice data as files;
  • We will be introducing a customer relationship management (CRM) solution to enhance our interaction with membership and other external clients;
  • We will deploy the VIP briefing system across the Bureaux to ensure a common approach;
  • We will be working on performance measurements for the Strategic Plan, and notably results-based budgeting and management;
  • We will continue to enhance, streamline and improve HR processes, and will be releasing several online self-service applications to staff for managing their annual and sick leave, phone bills, travel and many other services which are currently managed on paper forms;
  • The PP10 request for electronic meetings will put ITU at the forefront of the UN organizations. A new meeting culture will have to be developed with a mixture of onsite and remote participants. This means more electronic inclusion and lower travel costs – but it also puts pressure on the Union’s infrastructure and support services.

At ITU, we are incredibly fortunate to be very much in the right place, at the right time. Indeed, in the second decade of the 21st century, ICTs are at the very heart of the modern world.

What was once the rather dry and arcane world of telecommunications, is now the fast-moving and exciting world of smartphones, satellite tracking and monitoring, social networking, cloud computing, tablet computing, 3D TV and so much more.

As we hoped and expected, PP-10 has given us tremendous opportunities to improve and enhance the work of ITU. And I am sure that you, like me and the rest of the management team, are looking forward to the challenges ahead.

We live today in a world that has become more competitive. Some countries have had to reduce their contributions to UN organizations in order to meet national and regional obligations. Increasingly, we are seeing competition for limited resources at every level – from climate change, to poverty reduction, education, peace and security, and even the mandate of ITU.

It is nonetheless my sincere hope that when we reach the end of our present mandate, four years from now, the world will be a better place.

A world where most of the world’s people have affordable access to the Internet.

A world where the social and economic benefits of ICTs have reached all the peoples of the planet, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.

And a world where social and economic justice prevails.

We have a very busy four years ahead of us. But we also have a very exciting four years ahead of us.

Each of us has an important role to play. In the current climate of financial uncertainty and economic downturn, I need you to be flexible, open-minded, and innovative. By re-doubling our efforts in the interests of the Union, we will make this world a better place, together.

As Thomas Jefferson once famously said: “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. But nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

Thank you.