Dr Henry Chasia, Kenya
Candidate for the post of Secretary-General
Many consider that the ITU is threatened by the upheavals of the telecommunication industry. New organizations such as the WTO or regional bodies take center-stage and industry fora that are less formal and more focused multiply. What future do you see for the ITU? What would be your personal contribution (what initiatives/focus would you bring) as elected official to bringing innovation and fostering the adaptation of the Union to the driving forces of change so as to keep the ITU a pre-eminent forum for international telecommunications?
Globalization, privatization, convergence all put daunting challenges to ITU which has no choice but to pick up the pace if it does not want to be marginalized. Regional bodies and industry fora do take increased importance nowadays but I personally dont see them as a threat. Regional organizations serve the purposes of groups of countries that share a common view of their future. Industry fora for their part focus on highly specialized areas of interest and short-term objectives of a given segment of the industry. Although some may argue that the best way to deal with them is to change the nature of traditional standards-setting organizations so that they could deal with the short-term issues currently handled by such fora, it seems inevitable that we will continue to see them spring up whenever a gap is perceived between the traditional standards-making and the market demand. Learning to cooperate with such bodies is, in my view, therefore the appropriate long-term solution for the good of the industry.
In order to keep the ITU as the pre-eminent forum for international telecommunications, we must give our membership results concentrating on areas where the ITU has competitive advantage and where it can make a difference.
No organization has such a global scope and reach as the ITU. And in todays global environment, this is a strength on which we must capitalize. The second one is to accept that todays world is radically different from yesterdays. In the area of standardization, for example, our competitive advantage is in the fact that we are the only organization which can provide global standards for telecommunication systems and services. We should therefore review what we are currently doing and concentrate our work on standards needed to operate globally. Rather than engaging in competition, we could have a re-distribution of roles between global, regional and industry fora. In this way, we would avoid duplicating work and effort but rather consolidate our resources to improve delivery.
Also, the ITU should adopt a more dynamic role when a broad consensus among its members to do so clearly exists. Although much progress has been achieved, there remains room for further improvement. The action taken in relation to the Year 2000 problem illustrates this capacity to act in concert, timely, cooperatively and according to needs. I am conscious that this is difficult but, also, that it is vital for our future.
The third area is the delivery of services from Headquarters. Our management must be improved at all levels under a leadership dedicated to its Members and our dialogue with our Members must be enhanced. If we listen to our Members, understand their needs and feed this back into our day-to-day work, we will be in a position to deliver services that match their expectations.
Under my leadership, responsiveness, accountability and customer care will be the watchwords and I will make it a daily priority to make sure that they permeate all management levels. A project has already begun to gear the skills and attitudes of managers towards this objective. This is a very important element because the output of the work of our Members is delivered by the secretariat and the managers are therefore key to the performance of the ITU on the global marketplace.
I strongly believe that to rally our Members into a broad consensus of purpose, a Secretary-General who has concrete experience with the problems faced every day by the whole spectrum of nations can better address their concerns. In the four years I have been in office as Deputy Secretary-General, I have been listening carefully to what many members of governments and the industry had to say. I am committed to help build bridges among our members on all key issues of concern to them. I intend to use all my energy to move this organization into a genuine service organization, embracing issues of concern to the membership.
In todays telecommunication environment, it is no longer realistic to believe that the Union can be the focal point for all matters relating to telecommunications in the global information economy and society. The world is now too complex and telecommunications too pervasive for a single organization to be the focus of all issues of concern to the international community. What do you consider to be the core competencies of the ITU? What issues should ITU focus on and what could be phased out of ITUs mandate or left to regional/sub-regional organizations? What should be ITUs role in telecommunication sector reform?
The telecommunication community which we serve is undergoing some of the most rapid and radical changes ever seen in a single industry, challenging well-established regulatory and economic models. At the same time, the financial foundations of the Union are being affected by these changes. It is therefore clear to me that it is no longer possible to operate as we did in the past.
I see three main areas of work which should guide our action. First, I think the ITU will be increasingly drawn towards a stronger policy role. It is increasingly difficult to dissociate policy from technology and the telecoms community requires comprehensive responses to the challenges it faces. One example is the role we took in the case of GMPCS. Under ITUs leadership and in an exemplary short time-frame, a set of "voluntary principles" to govern the conduct of national regulators and operators of GMPCS systems was developed, followed by the development of a memorandum of understanding known as GMPCS-MoU and the associated arrangements for the circulation of GMPCS terminals across national borders. This is an example of the ITU advancing its mission by leveraging the actions of others and by playing a catalytic role where its resources do not permit it to play a direct role.
Secondly, I think that the ITU must tackle the Global Information Infrastructure (GII) under all its facets, not only technical, to ensure that it can become a global reality. Because the GII will be the way of life of the 21st century, those who have access to that highway and are equipped to make use of it will be full partners and active players in that century and those who have no access will not. It is the ITUs responsibility to help developing nations to gain access to the GII and what it promises. The GII and its pervasive influence in tomorrows way of life is also giving some of our traditional responsibilities, like standards setting, even greater importance. Global standards are essential to the efficient operation of the GII. The ITU has a vital and unique role to play in developing these standards. Similarly, the ITU's role in global allocation of spectrum has and will continue to be central to tomorrows integrated broadband networks using satellites for example.
Thirdly, the area of partnerships is an important domain of activity that needs to be strengthened. Given the demands put on developing countries in the provision of modern, reliable and widely accessible telecommunication services and the enormous requirements to bring access to all the worlds growing population another basic objective of the ITU private investments are the cornerstone of future network growth and access. The new market environment which the WTO agreement reflects, has helped shift the terms of the telecommunications development debate from assistance to good business. This is helped by the confidence which the recently signed WTO Agreement on basic telecommunications services offers to potential investors and telecommunication players from industrialized countries. Partnership arrangements are one of the most promising potential strategies for telecommunications development. The global reach of the organization with both governmental and private sector members, its credibility in offering sound and impartial advice to developing nations, gives the ITU a unique role to play in brokering partnerships for mutual benefit to all players.
Recent ITU conferences have shown that the requirements of global networks and national sovereign rights are increasingly on a collision course. How can they be reconciled in an ITU context?
Since its inception over 130 years ago, the ITU has shown a remarkable capacity to operate on a consensual basis. Although the strong competition which characterizes todays global marketplace makes it more difficult to reach consensus, it also makes it more imperative. With the globalization of activities and strategies of business, key standards and spectrum allocation must also be global. There is therefore vested interests in ensuring that a confrontation is avoided. An agreement, even at a cost of a lot of compromises, is always better than persistant conflict. That is to say that in every conflict also lies the seeds of its solution. Of course, this takes time, energy and creativity to define a path that will be reasonably acceptable to all. But that is also one of ITUs strengths. We have seen it in the context of GMPCS, we have seen it for 56k modems and we are seeing it also in accounting rates. One thing for sure is that the future is not going to be like the past. And making sure that we can continue to provide the type of forum where such delicate negotiations can be successfully concluded in the interests of all parties will underpin my actions.
Demands on the organization are increasing faster than its resources: deregulation brings more players on the scene and, in turn, more members in the ITU; on the other hand, the financial foundation of the organization is eroding because of the smaller number of contributory units chosen by members. Various proposals to strengthen the ITU including cost-recovery and revenue-generation options have met stiff resistance as did the proposal to grant the industry a greater say in the allocation of resources and in the setting of priorities in exchange for a more important share in the expenses. What would you advocate as the way forward?
Let me first say that we must be efficient in the use of the resources that our members entrust to us and ensure an optimum delivery of services to our members, in other words give value for money. As Secretary-General, one of my top priorities will be to ensure strong financial security and stability for the ITU. I believe that the Union should retain the current free-choice system of contributions from Members. But this should be supplemented with cost-recovery for some of the products and services that we provide and which are of value to members. We should also welcome voluntary contributions for performing certain activities that lie within the ITU mission but outside its core programme. I am also convinced that, in an ITU that is responsive to the needs of its Members and fully accountable to them, the industry members will want to shoulder a greater financial responsibility for ITUs activities against a greater say in the decision-making processes. Some resistance to change is natural, and expected, but I trust that the common good will prevail the long-term viability of the organization as a whole. We must, as we have done before, embrace rather than resist the changes taking place around us.
In all our Member States, the winds of liberalization have brought with them sweeping changes and adjustments and it is only natural that the ITU adapts as well. There are clearly two facets to our organization: one dealing with international regulation and treaty-making activities which rightly is of the domain of governments of our Member States. The other relates to market activities which is undoubtedly of the domain of the private sector. We should not think of the ITU as a monolithic entity where all the rights and obligations are the same across the organization. We should carefully distinguish who has what role to play where and modulate the rights and obligations accordingly.
Given the broad membership of the organization (vendors, scientific organizations, service providers, broadcasters in countries from the poorest of the planet to the most powerful nations), how can the organization address their competing needs in a cost-effective way?
One of our strengths is our universality and global reach. But with it comes an acute need to focus on agreed common objectives and activities. A core programme of activities agreed by all members would be subject to general funding by all Members.
To complement the core programme, for specific "niche" activities that represent the interest to only a group of Members, sufficient funds and skilled resources to advance the projects should be funded by them. There is simply no way all the demands of all Members States and all economic players Members of the ITU can be met. Priorities must be set. But at the same time, mechanisms must be established to bring, under the ITU umbrella, those activities which are within the purposes of the Union but of the interest to a limited number of members as long as such members pay for them. Rather than creating the conditions that might result in the creation of yet another industry forum, we could in full synergy offer this framework in a cost-effective manner. We must show ingenuity if we want to remain relevant to our Members needs within reasonable budgets.
The 1995-1999 Strategic Plan said "At present, the ITU is surely one of the least known international organizations, in spite of the fact that the development of the global telecommunication network is increasingly vital to the welfare of humanity. The Members of the Union have asked it to play a leadership role in the international community. To do this, the ITU must communicate its message more effectively than it does at present, to ensure that governments are aware of the importance of telecommunications as a tool for social and economic development". What concrete steps would you take to fulfill this objective, what would be your "Communication" agenda?
I consider "communication" a duty not only of every staff member working on projects which receive public attention but also of our Members. In the secretariat, the resources to foster our communication dimension must be consolidated and reinforced. For example, medium- to top-level staff of every department, in their contacts with external audiences (Members, industry and national/regional/international organizations), should communicate effectively their activities in a timely fashion as part of their core tasks. And they should be encouraged to do so.
In our membership, credit to the work of the ITU needs to be stressed. Testimonials from our Members would be probably the most effective channels of communication. The ITU can boast of many successes but more often than not, the key role of the ITU is not publicized. Our Members, and in particular our Sector Members, should be encouraged to give credit and visibility to the work of the ITU in their own success stories. The work of ITU is as glamorous as that of the industry but its importance for industrys own successes should be highlighted. Also, the ITU should not focus only on its traditional constituencies but should reach out to a much broader audience. It should deepen its reach outside the traditional telecoms industry to tap new members; it should also it raise awareness among the top decision-making circles of the industry of the role and true value of the ITU in shaping the sectors future.
The idea is to be seen and heard as forcefully as possible with a view to creating a favourable climate supportive of ITUs work. But, clearly, if we want to communicate, we must have a story to tell and there is no better story than that of an effective, pro-active, dynamic, responsive and successful organization. Our successes can speak for ourselves much more effectively than the best communication programme.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
My first top priority will be in the area of reform in these specific areas:
My second top priority has to do with taking such actions in collaboration with members that would enable the ITU to fulfil its mission of extending the global infrastructure to those who have no access.
My third top priority has to do with making the ITU truly responsive to its members by speeding up processes in standardization and radiocommunications and all other areas of providing service to members.
Any other message you would like to communicate?
The reason for the long success story of the ITU over the past 130 years or so lies precisely in that it remained relevant to all its Members. We are today at a critical cross-roads and the margin for manoeuvre is narrow indeed. We must exercise extreme caution and keep an open mind. Keeping the course will require a lot of talents and skills. I see the role of the Secretary-General as harnessing such talents and skills which the ITU members and staff alike do possess collectively.
We are entering an era of uncharted territory where it will be necessary to forge new ways of doing things. There is potentially much to be gained but also to be lost. My goal is to make sure the ITU is vibrant and there to help find a way forward for all, driven by global cooperation, wisdom and foresight. Let us hope that, in developing the new global networks of the future, we finally succeed in building a global community where the right to communicate will be translated from words to deeds for the benefit of people everywhere. I am personally determined to make a difference.n
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