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

Meet the Candidates: Jean Philémon Kissangou 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 Jean Philémon Kissangou, candidate for Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

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

In opening up to the outside world in order to meet the different challenges it faces, ITU has chosen the best way of ensuring that top management is accountable and open to all. This is revolutionary, and has been undertaken in good faith. It would nevertheless also be appropriate to initiate some form of “positive discrimination” to ensure that global imbalances are taken into account. I am in favour of introducing a “positive discrimination” clause to ensure that all countries get a chance, whatever their situation.

For developing countries, ITU should emphasize digital inclusion, while for developed countries activities should focus more on innovation. In both cases, issues of investment and partnership need to be considered.

“In opening up to the outside world in order to meet the different challenges it faces, ITU has chosen the best way of ensuring that top management is accountable and open to all.”

Internally, the Union should work on quality assurance (establishment of procedures) and improving governance. In the age of “Industry 4.0”, ITU has a responsibility to undertake more work on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the associated technologies, which will have a growing impact on the world. Investment in this area is already expected to reach 47 billion dollars by 2020, compared to 4.8 billion in 2016 (Deloitte, 2017). This shows clearly the predominant role that telecommunications/ICTs will play, through innovative technologies, in organizations and in terms of jobs and skills in the coming years. In addition, a monitoring body should be set up to promote a balance between development of telecommunications/ICTs and the need to keep our planet clean and green.

What are your top three priorities and how do you plan to achieve them?
  • Digital inclusion, through access to broadband networks and services.
  • Promoting innovation through innovative partnership mechanisms.
  • Improved governance, especially in the context of projects.
What do you see as ITU’s unique role in accelerating progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals?

Of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, ITU could contribute effectively to at least five:

  • Technological innovation (Goal 9).
  • Digital inclusion as a means of promoting public well‑being (Goal 3).
  • Digital technologies, to ensure better access to education (Goal 4).
  • Through its work on tariff regulation, universal access and consumer protection, ITU will help to reduce inequalities (Goal 10).
  • In the telecommunications/ICT sector, there has been an annual 8 per cent increase in energy consumption due to the use of digital systems and an increase of 12 per cent a year in the use of rare metals like tantalum and coltan, although the sector’s estimated carbon footprint is 24 per cent (GISW, 2010).

    “A monitoring body should be set up to promote a balance between development of telecommunications/ICTs and the need to keep our planet clean and green.”

    By contributing to the search for innovative solutions involving green energy and to the reduction in power consumption by ICT equipment, ITU would also be contributing to the creation of a fairer and more sustainable society (Goal 16).

What has been your most important leadership achievement?

As I indicated in my CV, I have held successive leadership posts in non‑governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and in public administration. By far, my greatest success was as coordinator of the NGO CACSUP (Centre Africain de Complémentarité Scolaire–Universitaire et de Promotion). In 2001, CACSUP launched the ECES project (a community higher education college). This project has successfully provided higher education for 2500 young Africans on a non‑profit basis and helped them to become professionally established in administrations, in the private sector and in United Nations agencies including UNHCR, UNDP and UNFPA.

“ITU has a responsibility to undertake more work on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the associated technologies, which will have a growing impact on the world.”

Under my leadership, over a period of 14 years, we had to organize and manage a team of 153 collaborators in the Republic of the Congo and Senegal (the two counties where the project is based). The project has improved the lives and destinies of young people in the Republic of the Congo, Central Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon and Chad. This work made considerable demands on me in terms of organizational skills, ethics, and management of people, teams and resources, in order to obtain the results which are now there for everyone to see.

How have you built consensus amongst diverse stakeholders?

I have the good fortune to have studied four key facets — technical, policy, regulatory and research — of telecommunications, and have been following ITU’s activities at least since the start of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). I have published a number of books and articles on telecommunications. In 2012, I undertook, for the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, two small studies at ITU headquarters in Geneva, one of them on roaming issues and the other on universal service in the developing world. I have also acquired a solid grounding in the Project Management Program (PMP), which is one of the best project management standards.

At the international level, I am a member of the Internet Society and President of its Congolese chapter. I sat on the Board of Directors of AFRINIC (the African Internet resources registry) from 2008 to 2011, and have been called upon to participate in numerous telecommunication/ICT forums. At the academic level, I have lectured to high‑level students on the digital transformation and challenges of ICT in an inclusive information society.

What else would you like to add?

Within the framework of its mission to connect the world, and in the interests of enhancing its credibility, ITU may wish to consider the following.

The Bureau with which I am best acquainted, the BDT, should strengthen the assessment of its projects in order, wherever possible, to learn lessons aimed at avoiding past shortcomings, given that a number of projects, such as ONE Africa (1996–1999), the Iraqi Relief Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) (2003–2005) or Harmonization of the ICT Policies in Sub‑Saharan Africa (HIPSSA) (2008–2012), did not generate the expected impacts for the populations in question.

By failing to open up sufficiently to internal and external oversight, ITU runs the risk of being viewed as a non‑transparent organization. The Union would be wise to lead by example in matters of governance. It should, for example, increase significantly the proportion of the overall budget that is allocated to the audit services, in the interests of improving its position in the ranking of United Nations agencies, where it currently comes 19th out of 22 (ICC, 2015).

“For developing countries, ITU should emphasize digital inclusion, while for developed countries activities should focus more on innovation. In both cases, issues of investment and partnership need to be considered.”

The Union’s priority projects should be those that are endogenous.

In helping organizations to prepare themselves for the challenges of Artificial Intelligence (AI), BDT should step up its efforts to inform States and enterprises, encourage the latter to invest in AI, and foster societal acceptance of the changes resulting from AI.

Note: This text has been translated into English from original French.

Jean Philémon Kissangou is Head of Universal Service Management Department, Economy and Market Division Postal and Communications Regulatory Department (ARPCE), Republic of the Congo. Learn more about Mr. Kissangou 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: Jean Philémon Kissangou for Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

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