Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG | ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018
October 23, 2018

Meet the Candidates: Cosmas Zavazava for Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

ITU’s Member States will soon elect the Union’s top executives at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018 (PP-18) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. ITU News is highlighting written interviews (Q&As) with the candidates for each of ITU’s top posts. Below is the Q&A for Cosmas Zavazava, candidate for Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

How should ITU evolve to maintain relevance in today’s world?

ITU should adapt to change, it should be a learning organization, and it should be innovative in order to maintain relevance in today’s world.

ITU has an advantage in that, besides governments, it has a broad stakeholder base that includes the private sector and academia as members. These stakeholders drive research and innovation.

Adaptation to change calls for a thorough assessment of ITU Member States’ and other stakeholders’ needs, assessment of new capacity requirements within ITU, and embracing technological trends.

The culture of a learning organization is important as it encourages and supports staff in their efforts to develop new transformative skills that keep ITU competitive, delivering, and thriving, in a fast‑changing environment.

What are your top three priorities and how do you plan to achieve them?

My top three priorities are to:

    • Implement fully the outcomes of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17) adopted by the ITU membership with accountability, efficiency, and financial prudence, compliant with the principles of “results‑based management”. This requires simplifying and adding clarity to working methods, and reviewing and shortening processes and procedures.
    • Focus on digital inclusion, which implies that all countries and their peoples, irrespective of their circumstances, should enjoy equal access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), and enjoy the benefits that come with these technologies. Focused support for Least‑Developed Countries, Landlocked‑Developing Countries, Small‑Island Developing States, and countries in special need (those emerging out of war situations and major natural disasters) will be of high priority. Support to countries in their efforts to improve access (connectivity), skills and the use of ICTs, including those living in remote areas, women and children, and people with specific needs, is important. Helping attract investment in the ICT sector is important so as to get the remaining nearly half of the world’s population online.

“Also important is to build in‑house capacity to ensure that staff embrace cutting-edge technology that in turn empowers them to more effectively support countries.”

  • Support countries in building institutional and human capacity to help them cope with technological developments and avoid a knowledge gap. Also important is to build in‑house capacity to ensure that staff embrace cutting‑edge technology that in turn empowers them to more effectively support countries.
What do you see as ITU’s unique role in accelerating progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals?

ICTs cut across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in varying degrees. For this reason, ITU has a unique role in accelerating progress on the United Nations’ SDGs, owing to the organization’s mandate in developing technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, allocate global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, foster international cooperation in the delivery of technical assistance, creating an enabling environment, and project execution.

“Measuring the information society and progress being made towards the attainment of the SDGs through evidence-based statistics is a key role for ITU.”

Today’s major global challenges are poverty, climate change, disasters, and epidemics, which are topics at the core of the SDGs. ICTs and their associated digital technologies can facilitate entrepreneurship to fight poverty. Monitoring the environment using remote sensing can help to detect climate‑change impacts, and help countries to mitigate and adapt to these impacts. ICTs can help to mitigate disasters. Modern technologies such as Big Data, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence can help us deal with epidemics.

Measuring the information society and progress being made towards the attainment of the SDGs through evidence‑based statistics is a key role for ITU.

What has been your most important leadership achievement? How have you built consensus amongst diverse stakeholders?

My most important leadership achievement has been in both addressing new needs and re‑engineering.

In terms of new needs, in 2001, I recognized that ITU could directly intervene to help to save lives when natural disasters strike. I approached a private sector entity to make a contribution for satellite terminals that ITU could deploy to help countries coordinate humanitarian work. That organization was quick to realize the importance of this project. I raised 105 000 Euros, which we used to procure 15 satellite terminals. There was a lot of debate on how that would work both inside ITU and among stakeholders. After a detailed explanation, the project received clearance. The first deployment was made in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean region. To date, the project has benefitted almost all the regions of the world.

“Adaptation to change calls for a thorough assessment of ITU Member States’ and other stakeholders’ needs, assessment of new capacity requirements within ITU, and embracing technological trends.”

Further, in 2014, I led an innovative project on mitigating the Ebola virus disease through big data analytics to combat transmission. The project benefitted affected countries in West Africa. This project has now put in place a platform that can help health workers to track anonymously (thus upholding individuals’ right to privacy) people movements coming from Ebola‑affected areas into other areas so that they may quarantine those areas and check if there have been new transmissions.

Due to the sensitivity of call‑data details, I had to build consensus between telecommunication operators, telecommunication regulators, the ministries responsible for telecommunications/ICTs and civil society. This project can now be replicated across the globe for monitoring epidemics, and also for use in economic activities, such as road‑network planning, and commercial‑business planning.

In terms of re‑engineering activities, I led the change process of ITU’s Centres of Excellence programme, which was 100% funded by ITU. A turnaround strategy has made the Centres of Excellence (CoE) self‑financing on a cost‑recovery basis. This strategy has seen the emergence of a symbiosis between the CoE and the ITU Academy, which I was instrumental in establishing, and which has helped thousands of people to benefit from ITU capacity‑building activities.

I also initiated the peer‑reviewed content development working jointly with the other two ITU Sectors (the ITU Radiocommunication Sector, and the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector). Some of this content has already been accredited and incorporated into university modules for both undergraduate and Master’s degree programmes.

Further, I re‑engineered key meetings which graduated to high‑level strategic events such as the Human Capacity Building Symposium (CBS), the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators’ Symposium (WTIS), and the Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (GET).

I also formulated and implemented a strategy for the establishment of an e‑waste coalition, bringing together ITU and UN Environment, a host of United Nations agencies, industry, and the World Economic Forum, with the aim of bringing coherence between countries in dealing with e‑waste. This initiative contributes to environmental protection, which is one of the pillars of sustainable development.

What else would you like to add?

“As the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector, we have a great opportunity to touch people’s lives by delivering tangible and practical results.”

Finally, as the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector, we have a great opportunity to touch people’s lives by delivering tangible and practical results. With the diversity of our membership, we can, and will do more, in delivering ICTs for a Better Life.

Cosmas Zavazava, prior to announcing his candidacy, was Chief, Projects and Knowledge Management at ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. Learn more about Mr. Zavazava and the other candidates for ITU’s top posts on the Candidates page of the PP-18 website.
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Meet the Candidates: Cosmas Zavazava for Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

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