Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)



Houlin Zhao, 2015 Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World-leading ICT Executive Authority

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Houlin Zhao.

Houlin ZhaoMr. Houlin Zhao has served as Deputy Secretary-General of the ITU since 2006 and was re-elected for a second four-year term in October 2010. He served as Director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau from 1999-2006.

A graduate of China's Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications with an MSc from the UK's University of Essex, Mr. Zhao has spent most of his career working in the international arena. His leadership is characterized by a tireless commitment to further streamlining ITU's efficiency, strengthening its membership base and enhancing strategic partnership between Member States and Sector Members. He has helped ITU enhance its level of international cooperation with other international organizations and is dedicated to harnessing technology to bridge the gap between developing and developed countries.

He is married with one son and two grandchildren, and is fluent in three official ITU languages: English, French and Chinese.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Manager's Blog where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:33: What are your specific goals for the ITU in 2015 and for the next several years?
"....The ITU set up a strategic plan for the next four years so my main task is to implement those strategic plans. ITU, as the specialized UN agency responsible for IC telecomm, our commitment is to connect people in this connected world...."

:01:37: In what ways can the ITU benefit business enterprises?
"..... We are very pleased with our cooperation with them because it is our business family who offer telecomm ICT services to serve our planet and humanity...."

:02:44: How can global companies align with the ITU?
"....Without ITU's contribution of international standards we may not have the same telecomm services today. We know that with the standards we also need a very good environment, so ITU takes on the task to facilitate market development with fair competition - a favorable environment to invest and to encourage investment....Also today no technology can be really effective and efficient without proper spectrum co-ordination and we are very proud that ITU is still considered the only competent place to take care of the world spectrum co-ordination issues. I think industry needs ITU and ITU also relies on the industry for implementation of new technologies and we all benefit from this co-operation...."

:05:19: In what ways can the ITU benefit Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in a way that is different from the benefits for large enterprises?
"....I see the new potential and it is clear to me that it is very beneficial to work with them and help them and try to find a way to strengthen their power so that they can grow up very quickly and become stronger. I firmly believe that with the development of SMEs and the local entrepreneurs (with their economic power and with their new ideas), the country and the region will benefit from their contributions....If we offer them the opportunity to have a bigger chance to network in different countries or even different regions I feel that they may become much stronger more quickly than we could think about. I would like to see if ITU could work with our members to create a new environment to facilitate their interaction among themselves, to facilitate them to get access to the rest of the world and also to show their potential to the big companies for potential partnerships with the big guys (or even partnership among themselves would also be very good for them)...."

:10:42: What do you see as some ICT opportunities for government, industry, and academia?
"....ITU is the specialized agency for the United Nations and we have governments as our members. We see the very important role that governments have to facilitate ICT and technology development. I don't think that anything can be really successful if the government is not supportive of development. Government roles include policy making roles, regulation roles and facilitator roles....ITU also has a long tradition of working with industry members. They are very active in ITU in all activities including standardization activities, in spectrum co-ordination activities, market facilitating activities - they are almost everywhere and we are very pleased with our co-operation with them....Academia is a new area we started to work with. I found that they have a lot of advanced technology projects in their laboratories or their research areas and some of them are very close to our standardization-making process project at ITU so it would be useful to bring them close to us, to bring the academic family close...."

:15:26: How might ITU promote, within its many activities, professionalism in the practice of ICT?
"....In order to reach the maturity of our technologies and also reach the maturity status of our market we really need our experts, engineers and teaching meccas to show their maximum proficiency and professional skills. It's quite important for us to look at this issue and try to work with our members to increase those skills and proficiencies...."

:17:02: You were the keynote for IFIP WITFOR 2009 in Vietnam at the invitation of Leon Strous, IFIP President. How do you further plan to work with organizations like IFIP?
"....We have developed a lot of good co-operation with many partners relative to ICT technologies and services, but it's still not enough....In many countries in the world we have associations for engineers, associations for teachers, associations for professors, associations for researchers, etc. - these kinds of associations I think are one of the areas we have to take the opportunity to co-operate with because they have very high expertise and they have a lot of experience and a lot of strategic views for the future of our ICT technology development...."

:20:55: I sit on the practitioner board of the ACM and chair their professional development group. What benefits can the ITU offer to ACM and its members?
"....For such kinds of computing associations there must be a lot of ideas and innovations and I think that it will be useful for us to try to co-operate with them to make our co-operations beneficial to both sides...."

:24:56: What added notable story (something amazing, interesting or amusing) or closing thoughts you wish to share?
"....I am really excited with the challenge of my job starting at the first of January of 2015. In the areas I visit, quite a number of areas are still not covered by mobile phone signals and some countries still have their telephone penetration less than 30 percent today. You may not believe that exists, but this is true and in some areas communication is still very difficult. In some villages in the African continent the villagers within 40 kilometers walking distance share one communication center where they can come to see the so-called internet or the laptop....There is still a lot of disparity and I think it is really important for us to work together to try to improve the current situation...."

:29:41: Houlin, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.