At the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018 (PP-18), Romania was recently elected as one of the 48 Member States to serve on the ITU Council for the next four years, to ensure that ITU’s activities, policies and strategies fully respond to today’s dynamic, rapidly changing telecommunications environment.
Her Excellency (H.E.) Maria-Manuela Catrina, State Secretary of the Ministry of Communications and Information Society in Romania, sat down in the ITU TV studio to discuss Romania’s recent election and the country’s vision for information and communication technologies (ICTs).
“First of all, I want to thank everybody that voted for us for the Council. For us, it was a surprising result…” said Catrina.
She described how Romania is working to get all of its citizens connected to the Internet, and the benefits that such connectivity brings for the country’s digital economy.
“I think we must have done something right because we have one of the fastest internet in the world, but also one of the cheapest internet in the world. That means… the regulators and the government did a good job in providing such opportunities for the people to use these tools. So having it available and cheap is important, but it’s also important to have the knowledge to use it, and also the interest to use it. So we are working on that field for the future,” explained Catrina.
As she explained, Romania hosts a vibrant innovation ecosystem that fosters the success of Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).
“We also try to foster the industry. I don’t know if you know, but we have 7 to 8 per cent of the Romanian GDP that is already delivered by ICT,” said Catrina. “So this means that we have a big industry to foster and one of our concerns is to regulate in a limited amount in order to let these innovative capacities drive the growth further.”
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When it comes to the role of ICTs for delivering progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Catrina was cautiously optimistic for the role of ICTs.
“I think it’s very good that we … look upon on these Development Goals when we talk about ICT. And this doesn’t let us forget about poverty, about inclusion, about gender equality, about food, energy and so on — providing for our people… What we try to do in Romania is to use ICT as an enabler of, let’s say, a social elevator … in order to take care that the new technology doesn’t [produce] wider gaps between the different types of population,” said Catrina.
“We have a very powerful tool but we should remember that it’s a tool. We are in a conference where the most of the participants are working in the field, so sometimes we believe we are the wizards of the world. But, in a way, we are just an enabler for… the digital transformation,” she explained.
For the future of ICT, Catrina was encouraged by progress on youth and gender inclusion initiatives, believing that young people and women are key to future growth of the industry.
“We also do a lot in order to educate the young people in the use of technologies. We have IT classes starting from the fifth grade to the 12th grade. It’s mandatory,” she said.
“I personally believe strongly in involving more and more women in ICT in Romania. We do a very good job where we have around 30% women working already in ICT companies,” says Catrina.
She said she was encouraged by the progress at ITU, with the recent election of Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU’s first woman to be elected to one of ITU’s top posts. “I’m very happy that we already now have a woman in … the high-level dignitaries of ITU. I’m sure she will also push forward for [gender equality].”