Nº 5 2014 > Electing ITU top executives: Meet the candidates
Interview with Chaesub Lee
(Republic of Korea)
Candidate for the post of Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau
What are your top three priorities for the Telecommunication Standardization Sector?
Chaesub Lee: The fundamental and essential function of the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T) should be to produce standards (ITU–T Recommendations) that are worthwhile for all members of ITU. To achieve this, I believe you can summarize the priorities as value, action and techno-competence.
Value means producing better quality standards effectively and efficiently.
Action includes proactively investigating issues needing international involvement and initiating the timely development of standards, taking into account the needs of developing countries as well as harmonization with other relevant standards organizations.
Techno-competence means providing a high-end working platform that will enable a truly global discourse between members and participants, and better facilitate the development of world-class standards for telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT).
What trends and issues are emerging that you feel will have an impact on standard-setting work within ITU? And how should ITU respond in order to remain the pre‑eminent global standards body?
Chaesub Lee: Convergence has been a defining factor for many years and, in the short term, as telecommunications and ICT become more pervasive we need to better embrace the vertical integration factor.
The current study group system is horizontally focused, examining standardization from a technology perspective but without properly taking into account the intended destination of the technology. Think of e‑health, e‑banking, smart cities, and so on. Standards need to be developed with these sectors specifically in mind, and this will demand a more mission critical and time sensitive approach. Thus flexibility is required in terms of development and harmonization. To respond to this new environment, ITU–T should build on the solid foundation of its study groups and develop new mechanisms to augment the existing system.
From a long-term perspective, ITU–T should investigate and develop relevant standards for an even more advanced information society. This means taking into account principles of trust and creativity. The information society is continuously evolving with new features that are not only fomenting a knowledge society and social good, but also a burgeoning dark side. Cybercrime could significantly undermine the credibility and development of telecommunications and ICT, and I believe that ITU should take a leading role in envisioning a future knowledge society that is trustworthy and good, and that ITU–T standards should contribute to this. There will be a great deal of creative thinking required to keep up with innovation on both the light and the dark sides.
ITU’s “federal” structure — the General Secretariat along with the Radiocommunication, Telecommunication Standardization and Telecommunication Development Sectors — is unique in international governance. How do you intend to leverage this structure for maximum impact, while ensuring the unity of the Union?
Chaesub Lee: ITU focuses on all aspects of telecommunications and ICT: policy and regulation, technology and deployment, fixed and mobile. The core role of ITU–T should be to provide capabilities based on technology and standards for further enhancements of mobile and deployments led by the other two Sectors — ITU–R and ITU–D. Those capabilities should also contribute to the identification of policy and regulatory guidelines dealt with in the General Secretariat. As a member of the management team, the TSB Director should enforce these features and strengthen collaboration with the other Sectors as well as the General Secretariat to ensure the unity of the Union.
ITU’s 150th anniversary in 2015 will be celebrated under the theme “Telecommunications and ICTs: Drivers of Innovation”. What in your view are the three innovations in this industry that have most changed our world? And what do you see as the most significant technological innovation on the horizon?
Chaesub Lee: For all of the following, ITU has played a significant role. I believe that, in another 150 years, future generations will be able to make the same claim for the technologies that will shape our future.
Digitization — the switch from analogue systems to digital — has contributed to the more widespread availability of telecommunications to the general public, and also data communication (Recommendation ITU–T X.25) and telematics (G2/G3 Facsimile standards).
Mobile has fostered the extension of telecommunications from the household to the individual, which was a key innovation and a truly great step towards ITU’s objective to “connect the world”. The continuing potential of mobile in developing countries is still far from being realized.
Broadband has raised the quality of connectivity from simple text and voice to a truly multimedia environment. This was the innovation that shifted the world from an industrially-based society to the information society. Broadband over fixed or mobile networks is now acknowledged as essential for sustainable development and to promote and enhance economies and the quality of human life.
Smart technologies, that is technologies that enhance efficiency while reducing human intervention, should be considered the next most significant innovation on the horizon. Virtualization and context-based communication are important examples. While today, these are being developed at the network level, development will soon be extended to various device functions, including services and applications.
What needs to be done to bring more women into leadership positions, both in ITU and in the ICT sector as a whole?
Chaesub Lee: The gender issue is critical in ITU's road map. To bring more women into leadership positions in ITU, we also need to tackle the wider problem of women experts in ICT. For its part, ITU’s organization of and involvement in various programmes including “Girls in ICT Day” and the “Global Network of women ICT decision-makers” have significantly raised the profile of this issue. A continued and proactive approach to attract women experts will help gain gender parity in the organization, while also significantly contributing to value and credibility.
Young people are avid and creative users of information and communication technologies. How will you involve them in ITU?
Chaesub Lee: The most important thing here, especially as far as standardization is concerned, is education. At the simplest level, this means gaining wider understanding of the fact that without standards you couldn’t use the Internet or make a telephone call. If there is better acknowledgement of the fundamental importance of standards, there will be more interest. Providing opportunities to attend ITU events offers an important stepping stone. Also worth exploring are the joint development of scholarships with industry partners, open internships for assisting standardization activities and traineeships within the Bridging Standardization Gap programme.
People are a crucial part of any organization. What is your message to ITU staff?
Chaesub Lee: ITU is dealing with telecommunications and ICT, the most innovative and the fastest developing sector in the world today. It clearly influences every area of commerce and humanity. This is an enormous responsibility. I applaud the ITU staff’s ability to provide state-of-the-art knowledge on the issues that face this hugely important sector. I believe there is a strong foundation to build a team where proactive harmonization with all other players allows ITU to continually improve services to the members in terms of value, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency.
What has been the most rewarding moment in your professional life?
Chaesub Lee: In 1994, the Republic of Korea’s Information Infrastructure plan was developed under the leadership of the government to prepare the ground for Korean ICT over the next 15 years. Six experts from several organizations, including myself, were invited to develop this plan. The completion of the implementation of the plan was achieved in 2010. It was a pivotal framework for the country’s ICT landscape. Having participated in the development of this plan and observing the results has been one of the most rewarding moments in my professional life.
Short biography of Chaesub Lee
Chaesub Lee started his professional life in 1986 as a researcher at Korea Telecom. After 17 years he started work at the country’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), where he stayed for the next eight years. He is now working at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and as a senior advisor to the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP). He has been involved in the telecommunication and ICT standardization field for 27 years, since 1987, specializing in areas such as integrated services digital networks (ISDN), global information infrastructure (GII), Internet protocol, next-generation networks (NGN), Internet protocol television (IPTV) and cloud computing. Mr Lee served as Vice-Chairman of ITU–T Study Group 13 from 2001 until 2008, and was a co-Chairman of the ITU NGN Focus Group and a Vice-Chairman of the ITU IPTV Focus Group. He is now Chairman of ITU–T Study Group 13, a position he has held since 2009. Mr Lee is married and has two children. He holds a PhD in Multimedia Engineering.