Mr Pierre-AndrÚ PROBST
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?
The changes in the environment, globalisation, liberalisation and technological convergence all make it essential to have an organisation that is responsible for creating the conditions required for harmonious development in telecommunications at international level. This aim requires, on the one hand, a guarantee of interoperability between services and networks by means of technical standards and, on the other hand, the assurance of coordinated development in global telecommunications by means of an appropriate regulatory framework.
By grouping together all those affected by such a changing environment: governments, companies, regional standardisation organisations and national operators, the ITU is the only organisation in a position to achieve this goal.
In the field of standardisation, in order to address the specific of technical and regulatory application of standards, the procedures for drafting and approving recommendations currently in force must be adapted.
As a permanent body, the TSB plays an important part in producing recommendations. To better meet the needs of the members of the Union and the standardisation sector, the TSB must become a customer-oriented organisation with a range of well thought out services and working methods that allow it to maintain excellent levels of quality whilst at the same time increasing the efficiency, speed and profitability of the recommendation production process.
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 processes of change that currently characterise the world of telecommunications require the implementation of a minimal framework to allow harmonious global development of the infrastructure required for telecommunications services. Taking into account the speed with which technology is developing and the increasing number of players who have an influence over the development of telecommunications, the implementation of this technical and regulatory framework is vital if we are to avoid an approach that is solely governed by the laws of the market, an approach that would without doubt lead to a significant widening of the gap between different areas of the world. This framework must nevertheless allow the market to develop according to the needs of its customers.
In global terms, the ITU's activities should therefore take better account of market demands, particularly with regard to technical standards. Coordination and the division of labour with other organisations should also be improved, with the aim of better use of the resources and know-how available amongst the members of the various sectors. In the development sector, in order to support developing countries, the ITU should offer services that allow them to make progress and catch up. Regional particularities should be taken into account in the relevant organisations, both at the technical and regulatory level. In the spirit of more efficient and less bureaucratic cooperation, the work of organisations designated as a "forum" or "consortium" should also be taken into account when drafting recommendations. Other specific tasks, such as conducting performance and interoperability tests, can be delegated to other organisations, as is already the case.
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?
The requirements of global networks and national sovereign rights are two key aspects in the development of telecommunications. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the laws of the market with national interests, mainly for economic and political reasons. Like telecommunications, which crosses borders, the ITU, thanks to the presence of representatives from both sides (the market and states) and know-how in the different sectors, is a platform for discussing such issues on a global scale and for helping to find solutions.
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?
As part of its mission, the ITU gears its activities towards the interoperability of networks and services, as well as services of a more general nature aimed at promoting the development of telecommunications at international level.
For certain activities, e.g. standards, the production costs should be covered by the sale of publications (recommendations) and revenue should be boosted by better promotion of activities in general.
In other fields, such as the development sector, it is essential that financing is based on solidarity between the various members of the ITU, so that the information society is accessible to everyone.
In summary, efficiency should be improved, i.e. costs reduced, and profit maximised by creating value for members and clients of the ITU.
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?
For the standardisation sector, it is important to involve in the drafting of standards all players affected by the current changes (globalisation of markets, convergence of information technologies).
In order to address the needs of all representatives of the economy and states, the terms of involvement in standardisation work and the procedures related to information exchange between organisations concerned must be adapted. In the fields of technical and regulatory standardisation, separate procedures should be established for drafting and approving standards. Furthermore, the circle of those involved should be broadened and the procedures for exchanging documents and information with external bodies should be made more simple and efficient.
The TSB must bring its service portfolio in line with the new environment, cut production costs, improve efficiency and define its priorities.
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 some difficulty in distancing itself from its image as "a bureaucratic organisation overtaken by markets and technology". One of the reasons for this misconception is the lack of awareness of the organisation's activities and the results achieved in the different sectors.
As far as the standardisation sector is concerned, the study programmes in the different fields and the recommendations themselves must be advertised to specialists and telecommunications users by means of a well-focused public relations programme. Some measures that could be implemented here are press releases when new study programmes are launched and standards approved, a coordinated presence in and activities at recognised international seminars and conferences, organising visits to the ITU etc.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
The three priorities for the TSB :
Any other message you would like to communicate?
The future of the ITU is in all our hands!
The changes should not be seen as a challenge and not a threat - above all an opportunity that must be seized.A positive attitude towards the changes, the readiness to adapt and a team spirit are the factors that will determine the future success of the ITU.n
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