Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Japan
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?
1. I would first like to emphasis the fundamental point that the ITU is an inter-governmental organization that deals with treaty matters between nations to form a multilateral framework for international telecommunications. In this regard, the ITU is essentially different from international bodies, such as the ATM Forum, which principally form agreements between private enterprises. It is also different from inter-governmental organizations, such as the WTO, that deal with more issues than simply telecommunications. While it is true, for example, that the WTO plays a vital role in promoting free trade, it can only deal with limited, trade aspects of telecommunications. In contrast, the ITU has the unique role of solving a wide range of matters concerning the whole field of telecommunications, by bringing together not only representatives of governments but also the private sector.
2. But despite its unique role, the ITU has tended to lack flexibility, due to its inter-governmental nature. It has taken too long for the ITU to respond to a variety of requests, and in the rapidly changing telecommunication environment, this is a serious problem that threatens the raison d'etre of the ITU. In order to solve this problem and maintain its focal position in telecommunications field, the ITU should:
- First, sensitively monitor at all times what ITU members want;
- Second, take timely action in response to those needs, and
- Third, through greater efficiency, to make that action as effective as possible.
3. In order to improve the ITU's efficiency, it is necessary to undertake such measures as:
- introducing financial and personnel systems that are flexible enough to adapt successfully to changes in the environment and resulting changes in priorities;
- maintaining a cycle of "plan, do and review" in its activities;
- introducing a market mechanism into the ITUs finances wherever appropriate through such means as a cost recovery system;
- introducing a mechanism that more clearly rewards the achievements of ITU staff, and that offers more chances to extend their range of expertise;
- ensuring that all ITU meetings are relevant, timely, thoroughly prepared and, therefore, productive, including exploring the use of electronic methods for conducting meetings.
4. The tasks I have described are large and complex. They require not only a unified view among the ITU membership, but also committed and energetic management of the ITU in all its aspects. I can assure members that I have that personal commitment and that, if elected as Secretary-General, I would immediately seek to focus on the priorities I have listed above. My initiatives in the post would all be directed towards creating a cohesive vision and getting things moving to achieve the ITU's goals.
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?
It is certainly true that telecommunications is a field that is becoming increasingly diverse, with a growing number of players. In that situation, it is vital for the ITU to define its mission clearly; half-completing a plethora of tasks is much worse than successfully dealing with a smaller number of top priorities.
In my view, the core competencies of the ITU lie in three main areas:
1. Frequency allocation and radiocommunication issues are historically, and remain, core functions of the ITU. No other organization can replace the ITU in dealing with these matters on a worldwide basis. However, there is always, of course, room for improvement. The ITU must consider more efficient and effective procedures in these areas. For example, preparatory study of issues at regional and sub-regional levels should be encouraged, so as to facilitate smooth co-ordination at the appropriate conferences and other venues dealing with those matters.
2. In the area of standardization, the ITU plays an essential role in establishing global standards against a background of emerging global services. Uniquely, the ITU can give formal authorization to world standards, and it is very important that this function is maintained.
3. Apart from, but no less important than, the technical responsibilities of the ITU is the organization's role in promoting telecommunications development. One of the most vital tasks of the ITU is closing the gap between developing and industrialized countries in terms of access to telecommunications. I believe the strength of the ITU in dealing with this issue lies in its capacity to build bridges between the public and the private sector. In contrast, many other telecommunications organizations today are purely business-oriented and tend to favour advanced technology rather than the full range of systems and equipment that are needed in countries with diverse conditions.
It is not only economic and geographic conditions that vary dramatically, but also policy and regulatory frameworks. In the days when telecommunications was almost always a public monopoly, decisions on its development might have been comparatively simple. Nowadays, however, the picture is much more complex and it is not easy for governments to decide what measures to take, and in which regulatory framework, in order to encourage development. The ITU can help enormously by gathering and sharing information on solutions to these issues. To do so, I believe it should place priority on the following points in its mission to assist telecommunications development:
4-. I believe these are the core competencies of the ITU, but there are also many other areas where its work can be extremely useful. At the same time, among the various activities of the Union, obsolete ones may be diverting resources from necessary and urgent business. The limited resources of the Union must carefully be allocated, and the Secretariat must do its best to assist that process.
Decisions on whether to enlarge or retrench the ITUs mandate should be made by the members themselves who govern the ITU, with the role of the Secretariat to help the decision-making process by gathering and distributing necessary information, as well as then implementing the decisions properly and effectively. However, I believe that emphasis should be placed on a relatively new role of the ITU. That is, to facilitate the development of telecommunications in the competitive environment that is spreading around the globe. At the same time, it is of great importance to help create the shared vision among the ITU membership that is required to smoothly launch new global services which are emerging with advances in technology.
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?
Avoiding a collision between global networks and national sovereignty requires co-ordination at various levels, but especially among senior policy-makers. I believe that such co-operation and compromise required by globalization need not lead to violation of national rights, provided that there is a mechanism in place to co-ordinate global policy and at which all voices can be heard. That is why I took the initiative of proposing the creation of the World Telecommunication Policy Forum, which was established at the Kyoto Plenipotentiary Conference of the ITU. Among the ITU's various conferences and fora dealing with policy issues, the WTPF has proved to be an efficient venue for policy co-ordination that has contributed greatly to the smooth launching of global services such as Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite (GMPCS).
Because its membership includes nearly two hundred nations, I am sure the ITU can continue to make an enormous contribution to the establishment of the global telecommunication policy framework, while recognizing fully the sovereign rights of ITU Member States.
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 a matter of urgency, we must strengthen the ITUs financial basis and its efficiency, including through cost-recovery and revenue-generation options, where appropriate. Introduction of the new financial concept has been delayed, in my opinion, because of the lack of clearly organized introductory plans that follow a definite timetable. I believe the following steps are indispensable for implementing these new systems:
1. First, we should develop a common understanding among the members of the Union of the purpose for introducing the new systems. In the case of cost recovery, for example, it is true that it would increase the revenues of the ITU through fees. But the main point of cost recovery would be to act as a mechanism for improving the efficiency of the ITUs operations through making it clear where resources should be allocated.
2. The next step is to clarify general principles, including to which service these mechanisms should apply, what part of the cost members should pay and the consequences for members' financial contributions to the Union.
3. We must also decide a clear schedule and procedures for introduction of the system.
To accomplish the above process, it may be necessary to establish a special task group of the Council, or even to hold a special session. In any case, the General Secretariat, in co-operation with the three Sectors, should gather all the information required to assist the ITU membership to make a fully informed decision on introducing a new financial system. The Secretariat should also thoroughly prepare to implement that decision, in line with the schedule adopted by the ITU. As Secretary-General, it would be one of my highest priorities to make sure that these matters are carried out smoothly and speedily.
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 broad membership of the ITU is one of its main strengths. No other comparable organization can claim to represent such a wide range of members, from states to various private companies, in both developing and industrialized nations. All these interests must be fairly represented and considered, and in fact there is no other organization which can do so in the field of telecommunications.
I believe that the following principles should be followed in balancing the diverse interests of the ITU membership:
1. Because the weight of the private sector has been increasing, it is necessary for the ITU to examine constantly schemes which can better reflect private-sector views and opinions on the activities and decisions of the ITU.
2. As an inter-governmental organization, the ITU must also maintain the present system by which every Member States opinion is equally reflected.
3. The ITU should co-ordinate voices from various members by strengthening in an effective way the functions of the Council in representing Member States, as well as by making the best use of advisory bodies, which are open to the entire ITU membership, to reflect the views of the private sector. For that purpose, the functions and procedures of the advisory bodies might be more clearly defined in the Convention.
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?
People involved in the telecommunications field are already well aware of the deep importance of telecommunications in our social and economic lives. What we must do now is to make its importance better known to policy-makers and the general public. To achieve this, the ITU Secretary General should make every effort to act as a dynamic spokesperson on telecom issues. In addition, links between the ITU and other organizations, especially those outside the field of telecommunications, should be expanded and reinforced.
In addition, we should improve the ITUs publicizing of its activities and expertise by such means as improving the various ITU journals and the website. I am sure that allocating part of the Union's budget to such measures will in the long run help telecommunications development by creating a more supportive general climate of opinion. In addition, while making TELECOM exhibitions and fora more cost-effective, we should seek to encourage wider participation through improving their content. The events must be made as relevant as possible to the concerns of policymakers and the public in general.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
The four-year period between plenipotentiary conferences is tiny in relation to the history of the ITU, but at the same time it is also likely to see continuing tremendous changes in telecommunications. For that reason, my priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference are all of the points raised by the above questions. It would be difficult to classify them into just three. Instead, I would like to outline the following five priorities, all of which are published in my "Agenda for the Future of the ITU":
1. Promoting Telecommunication Development
2. More Efficient and Effective Management
3. Policy Co-ordination
4. Encouraging Private-Sector Activities
5. Focusing Attention on Telecommunications.
My commitment to the above principles is, and will remain, firm and focused.
Any other message you would like to communicate?
During the last ten years the ITU has made great efforts to fortify and extend its central role in world telecommunications. But at the same time, the pace of change in the environment has been accelerating and we must take further steps to reform the ITU. Failing in this could mean that the ITU would become irrelevant in the field of telecommunications.
I believe it is of great importance for the members of the ITU to share an ambitious vision for the reform of the organization and for its mission. The most important responsibility of Secretary-General is to help in the creation of that vision.n
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