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ITU: The Communication Wonderland

Sivasubramanian M

I kept wondering if all that I had said about Dr Toure was fair — I hadn't met him before and had written so much to comment on the transcript of his speech at ICANN, Cairo . My discomfort was short-lived and even before a month elapsed I met him at the Internet Governance Forum, Hyderabad. Exchanged pleasantries before saying "I wrote some strong comments about your speech at Cairo". Dr Toure looked happy to see me, beamed with a bit of surprise and said he read my comment, he tried to find me and I was charmed by his unassuming manners and the spontaneity and the responsiveness with which he offered to clarify a few points about his speech and the ITU. I was even more happy to meet him and it was instantly agreed that we would meet the following day at 11 30 hours. In between Dr. Toure visited a Diplo Foundation meeting, he conversed a little and was warm and friendly, it was pleasant to talk to him and he again confirmed the meeting.

Contrary to my expectations of a Diplomat who is very calculative and careful about what he says or does, I found an approachable gentleman, who is spontaneous and speaks without hesitation and with a simplicity that charmed me.

The tête-à-tête on the next day near the ITU booth in the IGF Village was informal and lasted 45 minutes. ITU has a rare Secretary General who has chosen not to be detached at a level that is inaccessible. Dr Toure would not wait for the General Body of members to identify issues, debate and escalate them to his office, but would rather break conventions to set a new style, take the initiative and pro-actively tackle issues. That is very positive. One has to congratulate the ITU on its good fortune of having Dr Hamadoun Toure as its Secretary General.

I had earlier said "Dr.Toure is a diplomat. Every word in his speech has a specific weight". I wondered if it was right to assume an overall design behind everything that he had said at Cairo. It is with the positive doubt that some of his earlier remarks at ICANN were harmless that I listened to the Secretary General attentively and with openness.

Dr Toure, with all his charm, keeps his focus on the ITU agenda. He did not deviate from what he said at the ICANN and maintained that there is no reason for ITU and ICANN to fight each other. He is only bringing up points for discussion, the issues need to be discussed. Did we say we wanted to take over Internet Governance anywhere? The ITU mandate was renewed sometime last year for the next four years. His plate is full. ITU depends on voluntary subscriptions, and where will he find funds if he takes up some thing new? Why is ITU misunderstood?

He talked inspiringly of the 143 year old organization, and in particular of the unanimity at the ITU between member governments. I intervened to ask if the unanimity between ITU member governments is possibly due to the inability of most member states to disagree: no member state can afford to dissent because if it does, its communications with the rest of humanity would be cut off? (What I implied was that Syria votes along with US because Syria can't afford to find its phones off-line.) He said, no, it is both ways, when Iran or Syria proposes something US agreed with it. Just as Syria or Iran agrees with the US. I said that is good, that is positive.

ITU is committed to multi stakeholderism. Any organization has a membership form and somebody has to approve it. ITU also has a membership form for Civil Society participation. To avoid bogus Civil Society members it insists on a certification from the local government for approval. When I agreed that due diligence is important, and gently suggested that there could be alternate ways of verifying the authenticity of Civil Society member-applicants rather than seek a government approval, he didn't get into the point, probably because it was time to go.

There were other points brought up, there were some comments about the early history of the Internet, about the Secretary General's meeting with the ICANN CEO Paul Twomey, about the good work that ITU did in Africa.

I was charmed, I liked Dr Hamadoun Toure. He didn't quite look like Sir August de Wynter, but whenever I think of the ITU I am reminded of The Avengers.

The script, largely printed here verbatim, but rearranged with some insertions introducing Sir August de Wynter as a millionaire who owns half of the Highlands. Former head of Special Projects at the Ministry. A recluse with a wife called June. And a daughter somewhere — Julie. June, July ... August: The family does seem to be somewhat meteorologically inclined. Sir August de Wynter was associated with a next generation climate engineering project called The Prospero Project. The plan was to manipulate weather by injecting a chemical cocktail into the atmosphere by laser and satellite. Sir August de Wynter also happens to be the Chairman of BROLLY (British Royal Organization for Lasting Liquid Years), which is profoundly concerned about atmospheric Security, that the weather has been tampered with by aliens.

It all takes shape as the Wonderland Corporation whose line is "Be natural. Act natural. Think natural. The natural beauty of Wonderland Weather." Natural weather delivered to your door on demand. Down your phone line. As real as you wish. Hot or cold. Humid or dry. Anything with reason. People expect weather to be free. They're used to it. They buy water, electricity, gas. Why shouldn't they be able to buy their own weather if they want to?

Wonderland has the technology, equipment and power to make or destroy local weather systems. Wonderland could zap a thousand Chernobyls into the air. If you can control the weather, you control the world

The World Council ministers assemble: slick pin-striped suits or African robes, Chinese Mao-suits, Indian Nehru-jackets, all distinguished men and women, surrounded by fussing officials, minor dignitaries, and butlers, bowing and weaving a web of diplomatic protocol. Sir August de Wynter causes a sudden extreme climate change to coincide by setting off sudden storms and snow blizzards. Outbursts of rain, scattered hailstorms and freezing fog ... Chaos. Transport paralysis. Crop failure. Economic disaster. Frostbite or sunburn ... on a massive scale.

The council is perplexed at the extremely destructive climate change and realizes that there is no magic umbrella to shield the world. Sir August de Wynter arrives to say "Now is the winter of your discontent! You will buy your weather from me! And by God you'll pay for it.

By Sivasubramanian M, CEO, Turiya and President, Internet Society India Chennai. Views expressed here are those of the author's only. Sivasubramanian Muthusamy also contributes to the Wealthy World weblog located here.

Related topics: ICANN, Internet Governance, Telecom

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