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 Malcolm Johnson, candidate for ITU Deputy Secretary-General.
Let me start by saying that I consider it a privilege to serve the ITU at this time as it spearheads the digital revolution which underpins the digital economy and brings social, economic and environmentally sustainable benefits to the world’s citizens. With the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Agenda, and its reliance on information and communication technologies (ICTs), ITU’s work is more important than ever before in its long 153‑year history.
Throughout that history, ITU has reformed itself to meet the growing demands placed upon it, resulting in it being recognized as one of the world’s most resilient organizations. I believe ITU needs to continually look at ways of making itself more relevant and efficient to cope with the accelerating changes in the sector.
“I believe ITU needs to continually look at ways of making itself more relevant and efficient to cope with the accelerating changes in the sector.”
This means continuing to focus on its core competencies in radio‑spectrum management, satellite coordination, development of common technical standards, and capacity building.
ITU needs to ensure that new technological developments such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and 5G bring benefits to everyone, everywhere, and do not further increase, but close the gap between developed and developing countries.
As we know, a large part of the world’s population remains unconnected, particularly the rural, remote and isolated communities. I can relate to this having been brought up in a small village in the middle of Wales! Bringing connectivity to these people should be ITU’s top priority. But connectivity does not mean people will connect. The service has to be affordable, with relevant content in the local language. I would put more resources into encouraging investment, raising awareness, and developing the digital skills to allow people to benefit and innovate.
Radio spectrum and new wireless technologies
ITU’s international treaty on the use of the radio spectrum and satellite orbits, the “Radio Regulations”, is now 112 years old, but remains essential to ensure that spectrum and satellite orbits are used rationally, equitably, efficiently and economically, recognizing that they are limited natural resources. It provides the regulatory stability for long‑term investments, prevents harmful interference, enables interoperability, and brings down costs through economies of scale.
“I am passionate about delivering a new ITU headquarters building which we can all be proud of.”
I have extensive experience in the ITU Radiocommunication Sector, having chaired the European Conference Preparatory Group for two major World Radio Conferences (WRCs) in the 1990s. So I am well placed to respond to the changes that will be adopted at the WRC in 2019, and will ensure that ITU devotes the necessary resources to this fundamental work. Besides this wide knowledge of the Radiocommunication Sector, I have also worked in the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector, and have served eight years as Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau.
New ITU HQ
As project manager, I am passionate about delivering a new ITU headquarters building which we can all be proud of. This building will be an iconic “smart” building which will inspire and significantly enhance the working environment for delegates and staff for years to come, using the latest technology and modern working procedures. It will be the new image of ITU.
I will also continue to work to increase transparency, efficiency and accountability.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address a wide range of challenges, including ending poverty and hunger, providing quality education for all, and bringing clean water and sanitation to everyone. But if we look at the 169 targets set to achieve the SDGs, it is clear that they can only be met by widespread high‑speed access to ICTs.
“With the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Agenda, and its reliance on information and communication technologies, ITU’s work is more important than ever before in its long 153‑year history.”
For example, halving the number of deaths and injuries on the road can be achieved by using smart transport management techniques, including collision avoidance radar and autonomous vehicles. Doubling the rate of energy efficiency can be achieved through the use of smart meters, and innovative energy‑saving solutions. Substantially increasing water‑use efficiency will rely on ICTs to control irrigation and identify and remedy water leaks. Combating climate change can only be achieved by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through clean technologies.
ITU is currently working with partners in all these areas and will have an important role in achieving all the SDGs because they will largely rely on the new technologies that ITU is working on. And since most people now connect to the Internet through their smart phones, conformity with ITU’s spectrum allocations and global standards will be essential to ensure interoperability and reduced costs.
I am most proud of two key programmes I initiated and developed which have allowed people to get online affordably and reliably and resulted in around 50 countries getting involved for the first time in ITU’s standards work:
The “Bridging the Standardization Gap” helps developing countries to improve their ability to access, implement and influence telecommunication standards. The “Conformity and Interoperability programme” helps developing countries prevent low quality and counterfeit ICT equipment entering their markets and improve standards.
ITU has a wonderful tradition of working by consensus. It is something I have always strived to enhance. For example, I proposed the first ITU Resolution on regional preparations (at WRC‑97) to ensure all regional interests are taken into account, and to make it easier to achieve consensus at ITU conferences. I also initiated informal inter‑regional meetings to improve understanding of the intent and goal behind the proposals, overcome misunderstandings and increase trust. I am known for finding compromises to differences that seem intractable, so that everyone feels satisfied, even if the result is not their ideal.
I am known as a team player, which is an essential characteristic for an ITU elected official. We must work together as a team for the good of the whole organization. Collaboration, coordination and cooperation are my three key words.
“I would put more resources into encouraging investment, raising awareness, and developing the digital skills to allow people to benefit and innovate.”
Not only within ITU, but between ITU and the numerous organizations ITU needs to work with. We must bring our own specific competencies to the table, pool our resources, avoid duplication and work to the common good. This will be particularly important in order for ITU to enhance its developmental role over the coming years, and ensure we bring the benefits of our technology to everyone, everywhere.