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New ITU chief calls for public-private partnerships and “one ITU”

Doreen Bogdan-Martin new.jpg

The new head of the International Telecommunication Union is putting connectivity at the heart of the world’s sustainability goals.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin (pictured), an American who was elected in September as the next secretary-general of the ITU, said in a statement of her vision that she wants to mobilise public-private partnerships to connect the 2.7 billion people who still lack internet access.

“The pandemic demonstrated how much we rely on connectivity, and how much digital undercuts every sector of the economy. Covid-19 was a wake-up call. It was a real game changer for connectivity,” she said.

Bogdan-Martin, who takes over from Houlin Zhao in January, said there should be “unprecedented funds [and] commitment” to achieve the aims.

She cited Partner2Connect, a global initiative Bogdan-Martin put together as director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau over the last four years.

“It’s not just connecting you to the internet. It’s about what you can do with that connectivity.” Promoting digital skills to leverage and use connectivity, while ensuring that connectivity is trusted and safe, affordable, and empowering, remains an important focus, she said.

“It’s the whole of what the digital ecosystem can bring – that goes much beyond the actual connection.”

For her first 100 days in office, Bogdan-Martin has a vision of an “ITU that inspires, includes and innovates”. She wants “much listening and intensive dialogue” with ITU staff and member states to make ITU “the preeminent thought leader and reference point on digital issues”.

Bogdan-Martin said of the ITU: “We’re 157 years old, but what we represent – connecting the unconnected, bringing digital technologies and applications to the world’s people – it’s never mattered more.”

But she said the ITU’s “unique multi-stakeholder membership”, with 193 member states, close to 900 sector members and relationships with 150-plus academic institutions and civil society, “makes ITU rich, makes ITU meaningful, and makes us relevant”.

She said an overarching theme for her first 100 days would be “One ITU”, with regional officials and headquarters needing to work in tandem, while radiocommunication, standardisation, and development work consistently integrated with each other. “Let’s not talk about One ITU, let’s actually be One ITU,” she said.