The Republic of Korea is a land where innovation is gathering speed. I have been discovering this over the past few weeks during the various sessions of the Young ICT Policy Leaders (YIPL) training programme. Established by ITU, this programme gave young people under 35 years of age the unique and exclusive opportunity to gain experience in information and communication technology (ICT) decision-making through immersion in ITU’s biggest conference, the Plenipotentiary, and to engage in intense networking with leaders in the ICT field. The programme consisted of 59 participants from 35 countries – 31 funded by the City of Busan and 28 funded by their national delegations.
The Young ICT Policy Leaders (YIPL) programme has given me an excellent opportunity to experience a sort of ‘pre-internship’ in ITU – and I believe that is also true for my colleagues who participated in the training. We are proud ‘pre-interns’ who were happy to gain an understanding of the workings of this impressive global organization which, as the United Nations specialized agency for ICT/telecommunications, facilitates international satellite communications, develops international telecommunication/ICT standards and works to bridge the digital divide, amoung other things.
Over two weeks, our daily programme took the form of so-called ‘Meet the Leaders’ sessions and we also had the opportunity to attend the various plenary meetings with the delegations of 193 Member States. During the ‘Meet the Leaders’ sessions, we met leading figures from ITU and the ICT/telecommunication sector, such as: Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau; His Excellency Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, USA; Ms Kathy Brown, CEO of the Internet Society; Mr Wonki Min, Chairman of the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-14); and Ms Doreen Bogdan, Chief, ITU Strategic Planning and Membership Department.
We learnt a little more about the careers of these figures, but also, and in particular, their approach to working with and within the Union, the battles they have won and their projects for the future; for example, working to improve the connectivity of populations and achieve sustainable development through ICT. It was interesting to learn a show of hands is the most frequently used means to vote at the Plenipotentiary Conference, as noted by Mr Wonki Min.
Most of the young ICT policy leaders have participated assiduously in the main programme of the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference by attending the various committee and plenary meetings, which have provided a learning experience through which we have been able to gain a better understanding of how ITU operates and what goes on ‘behind the scenes’.
All of the young participants in the YIPL programme were also able to observe from close up the elections for the members of the ITU Council and for the directors of the various Bureaux. The high point was the passing of the baton between the outgoing Secretary-General, the dynamic Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, and his promising successor, Houlin Zhao. The various splendid receptions organized by Member States looking to obtain a seat on the ITU Council also offered us the chance to benefit from productive networking for our future careers.
The culmination was on Monday 3rd November, when the Plenary unanimously adopted a resolution on the empowerment of youth through telecommunication/ICTs (Resolution WG-PL/4). The widely noted speeches by Ms Housna Zoubeiri of the Comoros, and by Mr David Barimah of Grenada, were also highly appreciated. In their speeches, they set out their viewpoints in support of the continuation of the Young ICT Policy Leaders programme and an intensive series of activities for the promotion of youth in the field of ICT, and called for far-reaching support from ITU and all stakeholders.
Next time, it would be interesting to set up working groups of young people so that they can make proposals in fields such as accessibility and Internet infrastructure. Some of these proposals could be integrated into new texts and Resolutions adopted by the Union, which could be one way of enabling the young participants in the YIPL programme to have an impact on the organization over the short period available.
Finally, I would like to conclude with the words of the ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré. In the final ‘Meet the Leaders’ session, “Getting the job done: lessons for 2018” which looked at future processes to be established by 2018, he said, “even the sky is not the limit. Don’t hesitate, just move it.”