Mr Michael Goddard, United Kingdom
Candidate for the post of Deputy 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?
I see a strong future for the ITU, just as it has had a strong and influential past. Other international bodies are receiving a lot of attention in their respective fields and these are increasingly overlapping with telecommunications. Telecommunications is no longer a specialised technical subject that can be treated in isolation. Telecommunications is the engine that drives economic development, enables businesses to operate internationally and in remote areas, improves social and cultural life, and is a dynamic business in its own right. It is inevitable therefore that there will be increasingly complex interactions with other subjects and hence other international organisations.
The ITU will continue to play a vital and unique role in the management of the radio frequency spectrum in support of international satellite networks, international broadcasting, aeronautical and maritime communications and navigation, and other areas. It will have a key role in standardising technical, operational and regulatory solutions to enable systems to operate seamlessly across borders, to generate larger markets for industry, and to benefit users. It will remain in a unique position to assist in the development of telecommunications in all countries, but especially developing countries, by disseminating information, transferring experience and expertise, and by facilitating development projects, for example by acting as a catalyst for partnerships between governments, financial institutions, and the private sector.
The ITU will have to adapt itself to be more responsive to the rapidly changing requirements placed upon it, while maintaining its core strengths and activities. It also needs to be able to work more efficiently, that is to achieve more without necessarily increasing its resources. The ITU has to be prepared to change its working methods, both in meetings of the Union and within the secretariat in Geneva. I see the role of the Deputy Secretary-General as crucial in these areas. I would review working methods and internal management to see whether the results desired by the ITUs members could be achieved in a more efficient way. I see an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, development to make the organisation more effective, efficient and responsive without undermining its fundamental purposes and activities.
I also see the need for mechanisms to improve the sharing of information. Many problems faced by countries have been faced, and tackled, by others. This experience should be shared The ITU should facilitate this process, building on some of the very successful activities developed so far. This does not only imply a flow of information from developed to developing countries; several developing countries have valuable experience to share (for example in the introduction of privatisation and competition), which has been gained in an environment which is relevant to other developing countries.
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?
In the broadest sense, the ITU is a technical and regulatory body. It brings together the regulators of telecommunications (including radiocommunications) from throughout the World, as well as the operators of telecommunications services, manufacturers etc., and other international bodies. Its strengths therefore are in areas where World-wide agreement is needed on technical, operational, and procedural matters, and especially where these impact on a multiplicity of interests. One clear example is in the ITUs programme of World Radio Conferences and the regular up-dating of the International Radio Regulations. Inter-governmental agreement is necessary, with the active participation of the operators and manufacturers of radio systems. The conflicting requirements of different interests, whether between countries or between different types of radio system, have to be resolved. The ITU has repeatedly proved that despite the increasingly difficult nature of the task, it has been able to satisfy at least the majority of interests and produce World-wide agreements at relatively frequent intervals and with shorter conferences. At the same time there is a significant role for regional organisations to undertake more detailed planning at the regional level or to co-ordinate preparations for ITU conferences. This approach can take pressure off the ITUs resources and does not, in my view, threaten the authority of the ITU. Indeed it enables the ITU to concentrate only on those issues that need to be tackled at the global level.
In the field of standardisation, again the ITU has a unique and successful record in producing World-wide agreements in the fields of telecommunications and radiocommunications, including broadcasting. In view of the pace of development of technology, and the increased role of the private sector, there has been criticism of the time taken to produce results and the extent to which the processes involved are dominated by governments. This has resulted in the development of regional standardisation organisations and specific industry groups or fora. Again, I do not see these developments as threat to the ITU, as long as the ITU adopts a co-operative and complementary role. The ITUs role should be to concentrate on standardisation activities that need to be conducted at the global level, those that support its treaty-making role, and those that need to involve more than one sector of the industry. For the more specialised activities, the ITU should develop the position of "umbrella" organisation, co-ordinating activities, facilitating the conversion of regional or industry-specific standards to ITU standards, and keeping the ITUs membership informed about developments.
The ITU has significantly improved its role in assisting in the development of telecommunications throughout the World. It has a wide range of experience to draw upon, both from its own activities and from its very broad membership. It has also built strong links with development agencies and financial institutions. These strengths need to be maintained and developed. The ITUs unique understanding of telecommunications enables it to provide expertise to assist countries and to help in building partnerships between those who need telecommunications services and those who have the necessary resources. The ITUs core competence is in playing a catalytic role, bringing the relevant parties together to initiate projects, more than in direct funding or implementation. Where development funds are available, it is sometimes difficult to ensure that they are put into the development of telecommunications services. A key message that the ITU is well placed to deliver is the extent to which telecommunications development can underpin overall economic growth. The ITU could do more to assist countries in developing new regulatory regimes to cope with privatisation and the introduction of competition.
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?
It is inevitable that there will be concerns about national governments losing control over services provided in their country by governments or operators of another country. However, recent history has shown that such concerns can be addressed effectively by the ITU. The ITU mechanisms for reaching international agreements give every Member State an equal voice and the same voting rights. In practice, every effort is made to reach a consensus and take into account all views including minority views. Depending on the issue, there may be a number of steps that can be taken. One specific example concerns the development of mobile radio services which will provide global coverage using satellite networks. Initially it was feared that there would be nothing to control the use of mobile terminals in a given country and that there would be unfair competition with national networks. A combination of technical, operational and regulatory solutions now ensures that these new mobile-satellite services will complement, rather than compete with, existing networks, and that governments may maintain control through the licensing of the service and the mobile terminals. The ITUs first World Telecommunications Policy Forum developed a non-binding framework for these services which gave further reassurances and at the same time considerably assisted the operators of these new services.
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?
Taking the contributions from the Member States first, it is unrealistic to expect any significant increase in income. Indeed, the trend has been downwards. With Member States being able to chose their level of contribution freely, it is imperative that the ITU continues to meet the needs of its members, and uses their contributions to the maximum possible effect.
The rapid increase in the number of non-government players in telecommunications has increased the demands on the ITU. However there has not been a corresponding increase in the size of membership or income of the organisation. It is essential that the ITU considers carefully why this is the case and what can be done to improve the situation. Work carried out so far indicates that those who contribute want a greater say in the relevant activities of the ITU, they want to see how their money is spent, and they want better value for money.
The first priorities therefore must be to demonstrate that the ITU is responsive to the needs of its members, whether governments or private-sector, and that it is making efficient use of the available resources. Without these steps it is unrealistic to expect existing members to contribute more, although some encouragement should be given to those who do not appear to be paying a fair share. There should also be a concerted effort to encourage new members to join the ITU, especially those who participate in, or benefit from, the Unions activities without making as direct contribution.
The ITU has taken steps to account for its resources more visibly, especially in certain areas, but much more needs to be done. The development of the ITUs Strategic Plan and Financial Plan must be linked more closely; detailed Operational Plans for each year should be produced; and the whole financial accounting regime must be made more transparent. Only in these ways will the ITUs members be confident that the organisation has a clear programme of work with each activity properly costed.
The ITU has been practising cost-recovery for some services (such as publications) already. I support the idea of extending this approach to other areas where they are outside the unions core activities or where the benefits do not fall uniformly across the membership. It is imperative however that the criteria are clearly set out and agreed, that the basis for the charges is clear, and that the income will be used for the intended purpose. There has been considerable controversy over the application of cost-recovery to the notification of satellite networks. This is an activity which is consuming ever-increasing resources, has resulted in an unacceptable back-log of work, is potentially open to abuse, and benefits a relatively small numbers of ITU Members. It therefore seems ideally suited to cost-recovery, but the membership must be able to see the implications clearly before agreement will be given.
There may be opportunities for revenue-generation. For example the ITU has resources and expertise that would be of value to others. There should be no objection in principle to capitalising on such assets in order to boost the ITUs income provided that such a step does not impact on the ITUs core activities and that any decision to do so is taken by the membership as a whole.
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?
The breadth of the ITUs membership is one of its strengths. The current arrangements appear to satisfy competing needs fairly well, especially where the interested parties are all governments or all private sector. There is however a tension between the pressure for the private sector to have a greater say in the decision-making processes of the ITU and the inter-governmental nature of the ITU as a UN body. His arises because of the tendency to treat the ITU as a homogeneous body with similar procedures applying to all activities. Greater attention should be given to the differences between the various activities, for example between the three Sectors or between treaty-making and non treaty-making meetings and conferences, and matching the working methods, decision-making process, membership, and possibly financial arrangements, to the circumstances.
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?
The ITU has published a great deal of information about the organisation and on telecommunications more generally. This has been made more accessible via electronic means and the ITUs Web-site provides a wealth of information in a user-friendly format. However most of the material is aimed at the ITUs membership and others closely involved in the subject. A concerted effort is needed to reach a wider audience, and the message must concentrate on headline issues. Some material is available on the impact of telecommunications development on economies in general and it presents a very powerful message. However this material is limited in scope and geographical coverage. The ITU should encourage further work in this field and publicise the results, emphasising ITUs key role in the process. The message should be targeted at governments and industry at high level. The ITU should also make presentations to conferences and seminars, in accordance with a pre-planned programme, and continue to use the ITU TELECOM events for this purpose. Consideration could be given to the ITU organising its own events, on a commercial basis. ITU staff at all levels should be briefed on the key messages to deliver and appropriate training given on presentational skills.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
I see the Deputy Secretary-General playing a crucial role in the internal organisation and management of the ITU. In this respect, my priorities would be:
Any other message you would like to communicate?
The role of the Deputy Secretary General is not well-defined in the ITU Constitution and Convention. However I believe that, under the authority of the Secretary-General, this post could take on specific managerial duties such as: the introduction of more efficient working practices; improving collaboration between the General Secretariat and the three Sectors; increasing the transparency of the financial processes; improving the efficiency of services provided both internally and to all members of the ITU; providing greater motivation and job-satisfaction for the staff of the ITU. All of these objectives have to be achieved within the framework of the UN Common System.
I believe I have experience highly relevant to this challenge. In particular, I have first-hand experience of turning a government department into an effective, efficient and responsive organisation, run on business-like lines but within the framework of a government service. I am eager to contribute to the ITUs success in responding to the challenges it faces in the coming years.n
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