ITU’s 19th Plenipotentiary to appoint Houlin Zhao as secretary general

ITU's-19th-Plenipotentiary-to-appoint-Houlin-Zhao-as-secretary-generalCurrent deputy secretary general Houlin Zhao, a Chinese national and respected telecom engineer with over 30 years’ experience will be confirmed as next secretary general at ITU’s 19th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.

The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference opened its doors to over 3,000 delegates in Korea’s Busan city and will elect secretary general, deputy secretary general and the directors on 23rd October.

The ITU will appoint directors of the Radiocommunication, Telecommunication Standardization and Telecommunication Development Bureau – as well as other governing bodies of the Union, the ITU Council and Radio Regulations Board.

Five candidates are contesting the post of deputy secretary general and three candidates are contesting the post of director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. The current incumbent directors of both the Radiocommunication Bureau and the Telecommunication Development Bureau are running unopposed for a second term of office.

There are 20 candidates for the 12 seats on the Radio Regulations Board and 60 candidate countries for the 48 seats on ITU Council, the governing body which oversees the running of the Union in between quadrennial Plenipotentiary Conferences.

Hosted by Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), the event is taking place at Busan’s BEXCO exhibition and conference centre from 20 October – 7 November.

Known informally as PP-14, this year’s conference welcomes participants from some 175 ITU member states, sector members and observer organizations, including over 104 ministers, 35 deputy ministers and 67 ambassadors.

The Plenipotentiary Conference is held every four years to set the strategic direction of ITU and to develop policies and recommendations that address the evolving needs of the union’s members. This year’s agenda include digital inclusion and broadband rollout, broader international cooperation on ICT development and new strategies to encourage membership and strengthen multi-stakeholder participation.

For the first time, the conference will also try to reach international agreement on establishment of new global ICT development goals and targets under a new framework called ‘Connect 2020’.

Speaking to delegates at the opening ceremony, Dr Hamadoun I Toure, secretary general, ITU noted that since he took office in January 2007 the number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide has more than doubled, from 2.7 billion to 6.9 billion. During the same period, the number of Internet users has grown from 1.2 billion to an estimated 2.9 billion.

“In ultra-connected environments like Busan it’s too easy to forget that, for most of the world’s people, phones, smartphones and connected computers are a lifeline, not a luxury. Connectivity brings healthcare, education, employment, banking and improved governance, so over the course of the next three weeks I hope you will take the time to dream, to imagine, to innovate, and to create a bright, long-term future for the ICT sector,” commented Toure.

In her commemorative speech to delegates, President Park said, “Telecommunications and ICT has been catalytic in the rapid development of the Internet and mobile communications… We have reached an inflection point in the hyper-connected digital revolution – a revolution defined by increased connection, smarter connection, and faster connection.”

UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, himself a Korean national, joined the event via video message, telling assembled delegates that “mobile phones have connected people as never before. Broadband networks have made information accessible, helping to bridge the digital divide, especially for women, youth and people living with disabilities. ICTs are in short, among the keys to achieving sustainable development. As we shape a new development agenda and strive for a new agreement on climate change, let us continue to work together to harness the power of technology to create and accessible and sustainable future for all.”

Other high-ranking delegates present at this morning’s opening included Korea’s minister for science, ICT and future planning, Yanghee Choi, and mayor of Busan Byung-soo Suh.

“We are about to enter an age of hyperconnectivity where cross-border activities and connections become stronger than ever. In such a world, ICT development is no longer an individual nation’s issue. And the fact remains that there are still many who have little or no access to broadband or ICT… we look forward to PP-14 not only discussing technological and industrial development, but also collectively addressing the issue of expanding the infrastructure in developing countries and creating the environment conducive to secure and sound utilization of ICT,” said Yanghee Choi.

One of the principal tasks of PP-14 will be to determine ITU’s Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 and the Financial Plan for the same period, which will provide the resources needed to meet the goals and deliverables mandated by members.

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