Exclusives : Doreen Bogdan-Martin Wins ITU Election to Become First Female Secretary-General

Doreen Bogdan-Martin Wins ITU Election to Become First Female Secretary-General

United States-backed candidate Doreen Bogdan-Martin has been elected the first female Secretary-General in the history of the International Telecommunication Union. She received 139 votes against 25 gathered by her opponent, Rashid Ismailov.

“As Secretary-General, I will continue to drive this institution to be innovative and increasingly relevant for our Member States, better positioning all of us to embrace this digital environment (…) We are riding a powerful wave of innovation and growth and must use this opportunity to improve peoples’ lives – especially those who are excluded,” she said during her acceptance speech.

Beyond an individual and historical achievement for Bogdan-Martin and women in general, the result is also a geopolitical win for the US.

Prior to the election, there was a strong push from American entities pointing out the fact that Ismailov has deep connections with the Russian government, making his election a threat, according to a letter sent from the US Congress to president Joe Biden.

Bogdan-Martin’s future challenges include the development of 6G technology and standards. “We must be at the vanguard of understanding transformational technologies such as 5G and then 6G, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and machine learning,” she noted in the brochure with her full propositions.

In addition, the next Secretary-General has selected closing the digital divide as her main goal for the mandate. “We must deliver universal connectivity underpinned by resilient and secure networks for the 3.7 billion people still offline. This is at the heart of my vision for our organization,” she said.

According to the document, she aims to focus on regulatory practices that attract investments, something that has marked her tenure as a director. She also wants to bridge the digital gap from a gender perspective, making internet access available for more women.

In a statement, Bogdan-Martin commented, “Whether it’s today’s children or our children’s children, we need to provide them with a strong and stable foundation for growth. The world is facing significant challenges – escalating conflicts, a climate crisis, food security, gender inequalities, and 2.7 billion people with no access to the Internet. I believe we, the ITU and our members, have an opportunity to make a transformational contribution. Continuous innovation can and will be a key enabler to facilitate resolution of many of these issues.”

Bogdan-Martin also plans to establish a “crisis team” to engage with scenario planning, contingency planning, and strategic forecasting exercises to be ready in case any situation similar to the COVID-19 pandemic takes place.

Looking Inside

In addition to the regulatory works, Bogdan-Martin has also proposed a package of internal changes within the ITU itself. “As Secretary-General, I will build on the organization’s results-based approach to professional management and our working methods. We will produce clear and measurable outcomes and communicate our results clearly to our members, especially our conference outputs,” she promised.

One of the solutions the candidate envisions to fulfill this vision is making better use of “shared internal platforms and common procedures for ITU meetings and their preparatory processes in order to maximize our collaborative efforts.”

Resources distribution would have a change in her mandate as well. Bogdan-Martin promised to improve the regional distribution of resources to meet members’ needs, reduce duplication, and improve coordination across the Bureaus.

“We will identify, propose, implement, and monitor measures across the institution that ensure our financial management and preparation systems are robust, and that our reputation is rock solid,” she finished.




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