Dr Ahmed M. Yousif, Sudan
Candidate for the post of Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT)
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 ITU has to significantly adapt to the economic and political realities of the next millennium which will directly and indirectly influence the telecommunications sector : the telecommunications industry, national and global networks, the extent and variety of telecommunication uses, etc.
The ITU should view the advances in the telecommunications technology and industry, and the exponential rise in the demands for telecommunication services, as the opportunity for bringing about the necessary adaptation to its programmes and to the methods of fulfilling these. The changes needed are both external and internal. The ITU should foster synergy between all players and continue to take a leading role in spectrum regulations, in promoting and setting standards, and be the neutral and technically competent forum for such activities. It should also lead through the ITU 2000 group recommendations, in particular those concerning partnership, and foster the participation of economic players and encourage signature of the WTO Telecommunications agreement. The importance of technical assistance to LDCs should be strengthened and stressed as the catalyst for the LDCs to bootstrap themselves into the global information society in which telecommunication is the backbone.
The ITU should also initiate a new internal reform so that it becomes readily accountable to its members. For example, the programme and budget to the year 2003, should be structured according to the two principles of accountability and transparency. Accountability of the Secretariat and of each Bureau Director for the cost-effective utilisation of allocated resources and the efficient implementation of each programme. And, the transparency of every aspect of policy, finally reflected in strategic quantifiable targets with indicators that measure the achievement, or not, of these targets.
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?
My answer to this question is embodied and stated clearly in my answer to Q1, that is ITU should focus on spectrum Regulation, standardization and Telecommunication development to bridge the gap between North and South.
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 recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) GMPCS, Geneva, 17-18 July 1997, is a fine example as to how ITU will remain the central platform for the telecommunications aspects of the Global Information Society, by fostering cooperation between all players involved: Governments, regulators, industry, operators, etc. by providing recommendations in technical, economic and regulatory fields which reflect their consensus view, thus drawing agreements under its auspices, that protect Nations Sovereign rights and the requirements of the Global networks.
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?
In any organization the lack of both accountability and transparency in every aspect are the main reasons for members recurring to reducing their contribution. In order to restore confidence, accountability can be assured through a clear delineation of management responsibility for programmes corresponding to the organizational structure of the Secretariat and clear lines of responsibility for the achievement of expected results. Voluntary contribution and resource mobilization can be assured especially in the development sector once confidence is established. Telecom surplus can also add to ITU budget in the development sector. Private sector can be encouraged to contribute in kind and in cash if convinced of effectiveness of ITU programmes.
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?
In order to answer this question, we have to define the needs. In my understanding the needs of developing countries and developed countries are very clear viz:
- Fostering sustainable development to telecom to bridge the gap between North and South and in particular LDCs through the development sector strategic plan.
- The Industry, the advanced administration would like ITU-BDT to help in creating the conditions for promotion of partnership by providing the implementation of stable and transparent regulatory structures in developing countries.
- Create an atmosphere of confident investment in telecom sector development of least developed countries. The industry, the advanced countries can be assumed ready to contribute to the above goals if ITU shows accountability and transparency to big contributors and to its members in general.
- The cost effective ways result in ITU conducting its meeting (study group, conference, etc.) in a more efficient manner and less costly by increasing the uses information technology and system.
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?
"Communication", as a means of popularizing and improving the image of the ITU is essential. This has to address at least these four echelons: the government, the industry, the institution and the individual levels.
At the government level, efforts need to be made to tie telecommunication support to other sectors, e.g. health, education, agriculture, etc. At the industry level, more of the current practices. At the institutional level, case studies of the ITU-supported developments, should be written by "Communication" experts and widely disseminated to trigger adoption or adaptation in different languages, etc. At the individual level, the extended uses of traditional and modern time public relations media, should be cultivated including enhancements to the ITU Website aimed at schools, local communications, etc.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
My top priorities if elected as Director of BDT will be:
- Restructuring (reform) of BDT based on two fundamental principles of accountability and transparency to enhance cost effectiveness and efficiency as follows:
- Fostering synergy between BDT, BR, TSB and Secretariat.
- Fostering sustainable development to telecom to bridge the gap between North and South and in particular LDCs through the development sector strategic plan
- Help in creating the conditions for promotion of partnership by providing the implementation of stable and transparent regulatory structures in developing countries.
- Create an atmosphere of confident investment in telecom sector development of least developed countries.
- Dynamic operation and rapid responsiveness to members.
- Cooperation between the new Secretary-General, elected officials, the ITU members and Industry as well as other organizations.
Any other message you would like to communicate?
This Plenipotentiary comes at a timely moment, when all concerned recognize the importance of major changes and adaptation of the ITU. It is thus the opportunity to ensure that the right vision and competence are the qualities of its Secretariat leaders.n
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