(ITU) (Yonhap Interview) ITU on its way to connect the world under new chief: Toure
By Kang Yoon-seung
BUSAN, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- Hamadoun Toure, the outgoing secretary-general of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), said Monday the U.N. agency has made efforts to connect more people around the world during his eight-year term and will continue to do so under its new leader.
"We have a vision, which is to (provide) broadband for all. The ITU has put forward the slogan 'Connect 2020,' whose vision is to connect the world," Toure told Yonhap News Agency. "Today, we can pride ourselves for achieving a lot."
Connect 2020 aims to "enable and foster access to and increased use of ICT," "bridge the digital divide and provide broadband for all," "manage challenges resulting from ICT development," and "lead, improve and adapt to the changing technology environment," eventually connecting the world via a global network.
Secretary General Hamadoun Toure said Oct. 27, 2014 the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has successfully continued its efforts to connect more people around the world online over his eight-year term. (Yonhap file photo)
Toure, whose term ends this year, said the ITU has come closer to achieving such goals, although challenges still remain.
"We have 3 billion people connected to the Internet. The remaining 4 billion people are still not connected. That's a challenge for all of us," he said, adding his successor, Zhao Houlin, is the right person to keep the vision alive for the next four years.
"We could not have a better secretary-general. He was an excellent deputy secretary-general. For the past eight years, we worked hand in hand. All of (the) major decisions I have taken, he's been fully part of it. And we will have full continuity (of the ITU policies). He is very (well) matched (to the role)," Toure said.
Zhao, 64, was elected Thursday as the new head of the body, becoming the organization's first leader from China.
Zhao served two terms as the ITU's director of the Telecommunications Standardization Bureau from 1999 to 2006, and became the deputy secretary-general in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011.
Toure said the ITU also made significant achievements in bringing member states closer and improving the organization's financial health during his two consecutive terms.
"To me, (one of the accomplishments during my term) is the 'one ITU' concept. We have a federal structure, which is excellent. It could be divisive if those five elected officials are not working as one. I was able to demonstrate that indeed they could act as one. That has contributed a lot to the unity of our member states," Toure said.
"I was able to bring some good order in financial balance budget over the eight years. That is something what our member states always wanted," he added.
Toure said the ITU was also successful in promoting the importance of ICT around the globe, applying it to solve various global issues, such as climate change and environmental sustainability.
"ICT is also the part of a solution," he said. "This is one place with no political fight, with no ideological fight. ICT is (a) common thing for all of us."
When asked about some countries' move to draw a clearer line between the role of the secretary-general and the deputy, Toure did not give a direct response but said members should put a priority on sharing instead of dividing.
"Why would you want to divide it if you can share it? Divide is a negative word. Sharing is what we are doing, and that is what's happening today. Zhao, he and I have shared everything. Therefore, there is no need to divide when we can share," he said.
Toure said South Korea can contribute to humanity via its ICT competence.
"To go from the information society to the knowledge society that we are trying to build, where we will have access to information, use of information, creation of information, and sharing of information... that's what South Korea's ICT has been doing," Toure said.
Toure, from Mali, started his first term as the secretary-general in 2007. He studied electrical engineering in Russia where he earned his Ph.D.
South Korea is currently hosting the 19th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, referred to as the PP-14, in this port city until Nov. 7.