Mr Domenico Staglianˇ, Italy
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?
In my opinion, a distinction should be made between regional bodies, industry fora and the WTO. Telecommunication and information services are at present market driven. and these are supported by complex network infrastructures and software platforms (commonly defined as the Global Information Infrastructure GIS). I see a lot of complementarity between ITU and WTO mandates and activities, since trade in services and related technological support are two faces of the same medal, but require different competencies. I am convinced that modern technology can offer solutions to almost every problem related to service provision, provided that the market requirements are correctly interpreted by technologists. In a synergetic scenario, based on good and close cooperation between WTO and ITU, new technologies may be developed to respond to new market requirements for services; conversely trade in services may be prompted by the opportunities offered by modern technology.
Regional bodies necessarily operate within geographically limited frameworks and industry initiatives are driven by specific businesses and interests. The ITU represents the sole forum in which globally applicable standards, projects and policy issues of paramount importance may be tackled and implemented world-wide. I recognize the need for ITU to be as fast and efficient as to keep up with the pace of evolution and commercial reality. This, I believe, requires some innovation in the functioning of the Union, and good use of the ITUs strengths (universality, government/industry membership, neutrality and proven track record of efficiency). Another unique feature of the ITU is its commitment for worldwide telecommunication development, embedded in its constitution. I share the present generalized opinion that telecommunication development, also in emerging economies, must be sustained through sound business practices. In the new liberalized environment, the ITUs catalytic role in enhancing partnership between developing and developed countries is still unparalleled.
The following are, in my opinion the areas where improvement can be sought:
- Working procedures and methods: the ITU activities should be carried out according to carefully prepared and periodically updated operational plans.
- Budget greater transparency
- Human resources policy
- Better definition of the roles of different actors involved in ITUs activities (private sector, regulatory bodies, etc.)
- Definition of cooperative arrangements to improve interaction between the Union and international bodies, regional organizations and industry fora.
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?
I still believe that the ITU can and must be the focal point, if not for all, at least for the most important and global telecommunication issues and matters. This is particularly true in view of the ever growing complexity of global information economy and society. GMPCS MoU, for instance, achieved the required consensus in an ITU forum.
Likely, efforts for solving the standing problem of accounting rates are being deployed within ITU context. Furthermore, I could hardly imagine that Radiocommunication Frequency spectrum planning and sharing could be successfully tackled outside an ITU conference, given the treaty nature of the exercise and the need to achieve consensus amongst all governments. In an increasingly global economy, this is more true than ever.
In the area of sector reforms, although they are basically ruled by national laws, the ITU has been very active in providing neutral guidance and advice to a number of developing countries.. ITUs clearing house role as well as the unparalleled amount of corporate knowledge and information available to membership can greatly contribute to the elaboration of evolutionary models and scenarios, in order to respond to different needs and requirements, drawing experience from all its members past success and failure stories.
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 response to this question cannot be very different from the previous one.
Where conflicting interests or requirements exist, ITUs neutrality, impartiality and multi-national culture are invaluable assets for reaching consensus or at least reasonable compromise solutions. As a matter of fact ITU survived to two global conflicts; the same co-operative spirit should continue to prevail as the main foundation of the Union.
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?
The ITU is expected to provide its membership with high quality services. Services imply costs, therefore cost-recovery seems to me a logical and legitimate principle, when costs incurred do not fall within the institutional budget and are clearly identified.
There is, however, a strong need to maintain the spirit of the ITU charter well alive, without indulging in profit-making practices that could undermine the Unions foundations.
The present contributory system should, in my opinion, continue to constitute the core financial basis of the Union. Member countries in which the sector is liberalized, could continue to build-up their contributions on the basis of cost-sharing among the interested actors, under the supervision of the regulatory authority. Sector membership application processing should be simplified, in order to encourage participation of the industry in the ITU fora. This would, no doubt, enrich the debate on important issues, by providing a greater variety of viewpoints and expertise. At the same time, bearing in mind that the industry is the main user of ITU services, (this is true, in particular, for the Standardization Sector), I believe that industrys contributions should increase in exchange of greater say and in line with the cost recovery principle as well as the contribution levels of other organizations.
ITUs neutrality and impartiality should, however, be safeguarded in order to serve the global community rather than specific interests.
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 basis of the ITU lie on consensus, to the extent practicable. Due to the diversity and increasing variety of actors involved, reaching consensus may prove difficult and require a lot of effort and resources. The alternative to ITUs global arena, that is, tackling the hottest issues in different fora scattered world-wide, would, in my opinion, consume more resources and be less effective. In any case I am convinced that there still room for facing the growing complexity of ITUs role with increased cost-effectiveness, by means of improved working methods, including:
- project-like activities with timeline and milestones
- more focused preparatory work on core issues
- more efficient meeting management through increased self-discipline and more strict chairmanship.
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?
Telecommunications is no longer a purely technical domain. It is also a policy domain of great interest for decision makers of all socio-economic sectors. Awareness of the tremendous potential of the Infocommunication Industry, of the ITU, its important role and mandate must be achieved for a much wider audience than the present restricted community of specialists. I was given, in my professional career, several opportunities to lecture to non-telecom people, including scientists. I was always surprised by the interest of the audience in discovering and getting acquainted with the hidden part of the info-communication iceberg and the ITU. Conversely, it seems to me that people begin to understand the important role of telecommunications in the social and economic development. A realistic and effective communication agenda for the ITU should, in my opinion, focus on the following central theme: "The information era has started and the ICT has an underexploited development potential. The ITU, the oldest international organization that operates in this fast growing sector, has been and is the most valuable global forum to foster the development of national and global infocommunication infrastructures, taking advantage of technological advances in order to bridge the telecommunication gap between developing and developed countries, in the interest of the whole mankind." Such a core message should reach the widest decision-making community. Everybody knows what UNICEF is and does. I see it as an example that, "mutatis mutandis" could provide some inspiration.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
a. To deploy concrete efforts in order to streamline management and working procedures
b. To implement more flexible human resource policies, to ensure the timely availability of skilled and competent personnel and increase their motivation in all areas of activity of the Union.
c. targeted communication to both specialized media and the public in general.
Any other message you would like to communicate?
There is a need for the ITU to enter the third millennium in a very good shape. From Minneapolis on, the elected officials will face, besides the traditional managerial responsibilities and problems, a unique transitional challenge, due to the incredible evolution of the sector which, once government/operator driven, is now increasingly market driven. Although bearing respectfully in mind the requirements for balanced geographical distribution and other political criteria, I sincerely hope that adequate consideration will also be given to the candidates profiles in relation to the characteristics of the posts. Good management will be the key for building a more efficient and responsive ITU, featuring competitive advantages on the global scene.n
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