Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG | ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018
November 13, 2018

Interviews with ITU’s next top elected officials: Malcolm Johnson

By ITU News

Mr Malcolm Johnson of the United Kingdom, the Deputy Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), was recently re-elected to serve another four-year term.

During a video interview at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018, Malcolm Johnson discussed his re-election and how he plans to continue to improve the efficiency of the organization and his vision to modernize the Union.

“You’ll recall that the last Plenipotentiary Conference adopted a number of efficiency measures — 30 in fact. So we’ve implemented most of those, I’m pleased to say, and made quite a lot of gains through doing that,” said Johnson.

As the lead United Nations agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), ITU is turning towards innovate technologies to help with efficiency measures. For example, through digitization, machine translation, and remote participation the organization is becoming more sustainable and more inclusive.

“We’ve also done a lot of work on simplifying and digitizing our internal processes. A lot of these processes were paper-based… I’m pleased to say since I started we’re now using three million less pages a year than we were doing,” said Johnson.

“We are looking at trialing some machine translation and machine-captioning tools. These technologies are developing rapidly, so I think in the next few years… the quality will be sufficient to be able to use them and implement them and thereby increase the amount of translation we do for the same budget,” explained Johnson.

As he discussed, “another area that I’m particularly keen on taking further is the remote participation to our meetings, because this will reduce the cost of participating, the cost of traveling and cost of accommodation for participating in meetings, most of them being in Geneva… For those countries that are far from Geneva and with limited resources that are not able to come to the meetings, it means they’ll be able to participate at no cost. So it will increase the inclusiveness [and] the opportunity for all our members to participate in our work.”

“But the one thing that will give us a huge move forward on modernizing the ITU, I believe, is the new building. [It] is going to be a smart building, environmentally sustainable…. [It] will inspire staff and delegates for future generations,” said Johnson.

The new building will be “an opportunity for us to introduce modern working methods, [including] flexible working, … improve efficiency, but … also enhance staff life-work balance,” he said.

“We’ve been very fortunate to get generous sponsorship from Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Czech Republic has made a donation. So, with their support, we will be able to enhance this building and make it something that we’re all very proud of.” He also encouraged other Member States and Sector Members to contribute to the new building project fund.

Mr Johnson also spoke about the need for gender parity across the whole of the organization, and steps that are being taken to ensure that ITU inspires the next generation of girls and women to join the fast-growing field of ICTs.

“It’s very important, all the work that we’re doing to encourage more women and girls to come into the sector and acquire digital skills…. In the TSB [ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau] when I was there, I’m very proud to say that we increased the percentage of women professionals from less than 20 percent to over 40 percent. And I always like to say that that’s not because I chose women candidates because they were women, I chose them because I thought they were the best candidate on merit and I’m pleased to say they proved me right!” said Johnson.

“We’ve seen in this conference a number of women taking leadership positions. We have more women chairing the committee’s than men, so we’re definitely making progress. And we have the ITU Gender Policy, a very sound policy, so implementing that I’m sure we will continue down the road of reaching gender parity,” he believes.

Finally, Mr Johnson discussed ITU’s unique role in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“As we know, ICT is going to be essential for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and ITU as a lead UN agency on ICT has clearly got a very important role to play,” said Johnson. “But there are many organizations, all involved in implementing the SDGs and using ICTs to help implement the SDGs. So, I would say that collaboration, coordination, and cooperation are the key to ensure that we all bring our own specific competencies to the table that we don’t overlap and duplicate our efforts, and pool our resources to the common good so that we do achieve the implementation of the SDGs and bring this wonderful technology to everyone, everywhere.”

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Interviews with ITU’s next top elected officials: Malcolm Johnson

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