SA re-elected as member of ITU Council

South Africa has been re-elected as a council member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Council, a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for many matters related to ICT.

On Twitter this morning, communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said: “After months of intense lobbying, South Africa yesterday was re-elected to its seat on the ITU Council, which is currently taking place in Bucharest, Romania.”

The country was re-elected during the ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference 2022.

“In a very emotional and tense environment, our country could not secure enough votes for the Radio Regulations Board (RRB) seat, unfortunately,” adds the minister.

“Accepting this hard-won victory, South Africa will ensure it redoubles its efforts to also regain a seat on the RRB at the next Plenipotentiary Conference, which will be held in four years.”

The ITU is governed by the Plenipotentiary Conference and the Administrative Council. The Plenipotentairy Conference is the supreme organ of the union. It is the decision-making body which determines the direction of the union and its activities.

The council, on the other hand, acts as the union’s governing body in the interval between Plenipotentiary Conferences.

Its role is to consider broad telecommunication policy issues to ensure the union’s activities, policies and strategies fully respond to today’s dynamic, rapidly-changing telecommunications environment.

The ITU Council also prepares a report on the policy and strategic planning of the ITU and is responsible for ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of the union, co-ordinating work programmes, approving budgets, and controlling finances and expenditure.

Ntshavheni congratulated other African countries that made it into the council. There are 13 African countries which make up Region D of the council: SA, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Ghana, Tunisia, Algeria and Uganda.

“Well-wishes are equally extended to the fellow SADC [Southern African Development Community] member states for their election to the council of the ITU.”

Meanwhile, the 12 members of the coveted RRB are also elected at the Plenipotentiary Conference. They perform their duties independently and on a part-time basis, normally meeting up to four times a year, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ITU’s 21st Plenipotentiary Conference, known as “PP-22", featured elections for the organisation's top management posts – secretary-general, deputy secretary-general, and directors for radio communication, telecommunication standardisation, and telecommunication development – along with the 12-seat RRB and 48-seat ITU Council.

According to the UN specialised agency, digital networks and technologies have empowered billions of people worldwide, facilitating business, education, government services, trade and social interactions through the toughest phases of COVID-19.

However, it says internet uptake has slowed over the past year, leaving 2.7 billion people – or one-third of the world’s population – unconnected.

“We are in the middle of a digital revolution that enables and provides the means for the development of new industries and converged services, such as smart vehicles, healthcare, smart cities and homes,” said Romania's vice prime minister Sorin Grindeanu in his opening speech to PP-22.

“At this turning point in technological development, we must not forget our essential duty to respect the human being.” He stressed the need “to protect the freedom and prosperity of future generations, in whose lives the technologies we see today as emerging will play a determining role”.

Also during the conference, member states of the ITU last week elected Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the US as the organisation’s next secretary-general.

Bogdan-Martin becomes the first woman to lead the ITU, which was established in 1865 and became a United Nations specialised agency in 1947.

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