The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a specialized organization of the United Nations which addresses international communications and information technology, regulatory, and policy issues. Its origins date back to the formation of its predecessor in 1865, the International Telegraph Union. It plays a crucial role in promoting efficient sharing of spectrum and compatibility of communications technologies for all types of uses.
The ITU is headed by five full-time elected officials: Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, and Directors of the Telecommunication Development (D), Radiocommunication (R), and Telecommunication Standardization (S) Bureaus. These officials are elected roughly every four years at Plenipotentiary Conferences by the nearly 200 member countries of the ITU. These positions are important to countries as a reflection of their technological expertise and for the opportunity to influence the priorities and work of the ITU.
From 1950 on, U.S. nationals often filled one of the full-time elected positions, with special emphasis on the Radiocommunications activities of the ITU. U.S. nationals served as the ITU Secretary General from 1960-1965 and as the head of the R sector from 1966-1994. However, in 1994, a new U.S. candidate to head the R sector was defeated. From that election loss until 2018, the U.S. did not run a candidate for any of the full-time elected positions at the ITU.
Happily, this extended absence of any U.S. national as a full-time elected official at the ITU has come to an end. At the Plenipotentiary Conference in November 2018, U.S. national Doreen Bogdan-Martin was elected Director of the Telecommunication Development Sector of the ITU beginning effective January 1 of this year. She is the first woman ever elected to a full-time elected position at the ITU.
The Telecommunication Development function at the ITU fosters international cooperation in training, technical assistance, and the development and improvement of telecommunication equipment and networks in developing countries. Its work facilitates understanding of competitive market principles in the sector and promotes confidence in developing countries to select and deploy new communications technologies and equipment.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin is eminently qualified for this position. She worked from 1989-1994 at NTIA in the Department of Commerce on telecommunications development issues. From 1994-2018, she worked at the ITU in the D bureau and other offices culminating in ten years as the first woman to head of the Strategic Planning and Membership department, which is the highest-ranking staff position at the ITU.
Congratulations to Doreen Bogdan-Martin and to the U.S. government for her election and an overdue renewal of U.S. participation on the elected leadership team of the ITU!