The role of ITU critical to global innovation and sustainability

With the potential for changes in the US administration I took the time to stop and consider the global role of technology going forward.  My hope is that the positive global potential and promise of ICT will continue to be delivered.  I see this not as a faint hope but one likely to be realized. I say this because I have been following the recent work, meetings, and conferences of the United Nations agency specializing in ICT – the ITU.

Regular readers will know of ITU from my earlier posts but for those reading for the first time, the ITU, formed in 1865 is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies and allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develops the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, and strives to improve access to ICTs to under served communities worldwide. This group more than any other has guided our use of technology for over 150 years. Its membership includes 193 Member States and approximately 800 public and private sector companies as well as international and regional telecommunication entities, known as Sector Members and Associates, which undertake most of the work of each Sector.

They recently held the ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (ITU WSTA) in Hammamet, Tunisia and this week are hosting ITU Telecom World and the ITU Kaleidoscope academic conference in Bangkok, Thailand. The report from ITU-WSTA event states that in Tunisia “ITU members also encouraged ITU–T to increase digital financial inclusion; promote affordable mobile roaming tariffs; and strengthen consumer protection and ICT service quality. Members have in addition called for ITU standardization to support the use of cloud computing to record event data from aircraft, vehicles and other connected machinery.”

“The diverse membership of ITU–T has reached a series of agreements to assist all regions of the world in their efforts to share in the social and economic benefits that will be accelerated by ICTs in coming years.”  It is a global endorsement of the power of collaboration.

Over the past 150 years the world has been guided in its technology journey, including ICT, by ITU events like the WSTA, Telecom World, Kaleidoscope and their predecessors. Going forward into the future it is critical that business, government leaders and individuals become familiar with, understand, and actively support the ongoing work and leadership of the ITU. Here is a great way to do just that!

I just finished listening to an interview with the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, Dr. Chaesub Lee, conducted by fellow IT World contributing blogger Stephen Ibaraki. By the end of this interview I had a solid understanding of ITU, its areas of focus, its historical role in technology leadership, and its continuing leadership in all aspects of our ICT world including participation in the Financial Services Roundtable Technology Advisory Council and the IBM Watson AI-XPRIZE.  Dr. Lee has a long history of service with the ITU.

Who is Dr. Chaesub Lee?

Dr Chaesub Lee is the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, following his election at the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Republic of Korea. He took office on Jan. 1, 2015. Dr Lee has been involved in the telecommunication and ICT standardization field for 27 years, specializing in areas such as integrated services digital networks (ISDN), global information infrastructure (GII), Internet protocol, next-generation networks (NGN), Internet protocol television (IPTV) and cloud computing. He started his professional life in 1986 as a researcher at Korea Telecom. After 17 years he took up a role at the country’s Electronic and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), where he stayed for the next eight years. Most recently he worked at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and as a senior advisor to the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP).

Within ITU Dr Lee served as Chairman of the ITU Next-Generation Networks (NGN) Focus Group to address the growing need for global standards for NGN, including service requirements, functional architecture and mobility, security and Quality of Service (QoS). He was also Vice-Chairman of the ITU IPTV Focus Group which works to coordinate and promote the development of IPTV standards. He acted as Vice-Chairman of ITU-T Study Group 13 ‘Future Networks and Cloud’ from 2001 until 2008, becoming Chairman of that group in 2009. Study Group 13 works to develop standardization solutions for NGNs, future networks and cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile telecommunications, to ensure their smooth international deployment in the coming years. Dr Lee holds a PhD in Multimedia Engineering.

A few excerpts from the interview

Dr Lee, can you describe your journey from a very early age to your current role and some of the milestones and valuable lessons that continue to shape your vision, goals, execution style?
I’m South Korean, born after the Korean War. I started my professional life in 1986 as a research engineer in Korea Telecom during the initial phase of Korean ICT development (modernizing of Korean Telephone networks). I had an opportunity to attend an international meeting called CCITT (currently ITU-T). It gave me a great experience to look at the global world….My experiences, coming from one of the least developed countries to this country (an ICT diverse country), helped to shape my vision and goals in terms of UN systems where ITU belongs. It was also a good way to find how we can work in collaboration to execute the UN system based on my experiences in so many different domains.

Can you briefly talk about some of the areas that the ITU in general is concerned about?
Practically, the telecommunication boundary, between telecommunications and ICT (the information communications technologies), is very difficult to differentiate clearly – it’s already converged together. My bureau is working hard to extend how we can harmonize between telecommunication infrastructure to support these information societies, using the information technologies or communications technologies.

You are on the Financial Services Roundtable Technology Advisory Council and contributing to their summit which is called the FinTech Ideas Festival, an invitation-only CEO-focused summit. What will you be contributing to the summit and what do you hope to learn?
We understand financial services is one of the critical essential platforms building trust. So my bureau also has a study on how to build trust relationships in an information society. We have a certain study reserved but it’s at a very beginning stage. It would be good to use this roundtable to address the issue of trustworthy relationships in an information society.

What is your relationship with the XPRIZE foundation and their work with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and what do you hope to achieve?
From our point of view as a specialized agency of the United Nations, we strive to promote innovation with a potential to lead to a better quality of life for all the world’s people. IBM Watson AI-XPRIZE plans to celebrate the development of scalable AI solutions to address humanity’s grandest challenges. I think this really aligns very well with the priorities of ITU; so many of these grand challenges are best described by the United Nations STGs….We believe the ITU contribution to the facilitation of this XPRIZE will give us some good opportunities to grow this global network. This offer of our assistance will also extend to the provision of our eco-system of technical tools and resources.

Can you comment on the future of the workforce?
Around 78 per cent of business leaders are expecting to have digital limitations within three years. Digital is desirable, bringing with it cost efficiencies, innovation, more productivity and high quality work. This can be achieved using technologies, specifically when they say all these digital limitations should be in need of support, big data processing and more intelligent processing, maybe coming from artificial intelligence….We believe all this could be an essential part of the future of the workforce.

I encourage you to listen to the full interview and if it somehow finds its way to the ears of President Elect Trump, then the USA, the world and ICT will be the better for it.

To listen to the interview you can go to the non-profit ACM Learning Center podcasts or click on this MP3 file link in the learning centre.

I encourage you to listen to the full interview and share it widely; the world and ICT will be the better for it.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Dave O'Leary
Dave O'Leary
Dave is a founding managing partner of REDDS Venture Investment Partners ( His career in post-secondary education included roles as CIO, Vice-President and acting President. Dave is a member of the Practitioner Board of the Association for Computing Machinery. He chairs the ACM Practitioner Board Marketing Committee and is also a second term member of the Board's Professional Development Committee. (ACM - Association for Computing Machinery--official IFIP international member representative, largest and most respected international computing science, research, education, innovation professional association well known for their AM Turing Award (Nobel of computing) with 1 million USD prize, 1.5 millions user digital library, 2 million reach, learning center, Applicative conference, Queue magazine, 200 conferences/events, 78 publications/news, 37 Special Interest Groups). He is a board director of the Global Industry Council and the immediate Past President of the Canadian Information Processing Society of British Columbia. Dave is co-founder and director of an ISV computer technology business and is currently leading and advising start ups in the USA, China, Europe, and Canada. He serves as a task force member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is the past chair of the Canadian National Council of Deans of Information and Communications Technology. He served two terms as a director of the Canadian National Information and Communications Technology Sector Council advising on National technology and economic strategy. Dave has appeared as a panel member in a number of Microsoft webcasts and has presented globally on the business and technical impacts of technology in training. He is the recipient (2002) of the highest national award for leadership in post-secondary education.

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