Ban Kagame Slim Toure courtesy ITUHamadoun Touré is an Africanist both in public concerns and personal life. He is deeply committed to improving social conditions in Africa. He's steered many ITU programs to paying special attention to African needs, including the new Conformance and Interoperability initiative. African technologists such as Joshua Peprah of Ghana often are recognized by ITU awards. He’s ahead of most of us; Africa in a few years will have more Internet users than Europe. There are 360M mobiles among Africa’s billion people, expanding at 15%/year. In the next few years most will upgrade and have an net connection. It’s time to start thinking about about a net with more Africans than Americans.

       Touré presents himself in the dignified suit of the Western businessman but has not been subsumed by Euro-American culture. His friends tell me he’s maintained a fierce pride about his African origins. He became neither Russian while studying in the Soviet union nor French-Swiss after a decade in Geneva.  He was born in the desert city, Timbuktu, 1953 in the French colony Mali as a new era approached.  His father was a civil servant and he was an only child who grew up in comfort.

The dawn is here, my brother! Dawn! Look in our faces,
A new morning breaks in our old Africa.
Ours alone will now be the land, the water, mighty rivers. (PL)

Independence in 1960 did not end the economic struggle. Mali had been in decline, with frequent famines, since the 1500’s. European sailing ships bypassed the trade routes that once made Timbuktu a rich crossroads. In recent years, desertification has expanded the Sahara. The country of Touré’s birth remains one of the poorest on earth.  Life expectancy at birth is 53 years; 1 in 10 infants die; literacy is 31%.  

       Graduating at the top of his class, Hamadoun sought a scholarship for graduate work in Canada but that didn’t become available. He was offered opportunities in the Soviet Union and earned advanced degrees in Electrical Engineering in Leningrad and Moscow. Studying in Russia did not turn him into a Communist, contrary to some ugly rumors.

     Today’s Touré by all accounts is a pragmatist, not an ideologue.. Any young African in 1973 was aware of the U.S. support of the South African apartheid regime, Mobutu in the Congo and the war in Vietnam and at best had mixed feelings for the Western powers. He's built relationships with numerous corporate leaders, including uber-capitalist Carlos Slim and arch-conservative John Chambers of Cisco. He was carefully vetted by the U.S. before his election to head of the ITU, which we did not actively oppose.

   Like so many, he developed a love for the Russian people and a respect for their technical achievements. He is generous in his praise, standard diplomatic practice. He told Vladimir Putin, "Being a graduate of the Bonch-Bruyevich Institute, I consider myself a resident of St Petersburg and a representative of the Russian Federation at the ITU." In ordinary discourse, comments like that would imply a deep alliance. In diplomacy, that’s just ordinary puffery, meaning little. Angela Merkel or Tony Blair make similar laudatory remarks at meetings. Mutual praise is part of diplomacy.

    Living in Russia also showed him the down side of the Soviet Union and gave him a healthy skepticism about the government. The horrors of the Stalin era were in living memory when he lived in Russia, and the country was entering the Brezhnev era of stagnation. There was great ferment in the Russian universities, trying to find a way to reconcile the ideals of the Revolution with the practical needs to get things accomplished.

    Returning home, he worked six years for the Office des Postes et Télécommunications du Mali. He supervised the first earth station in the country in Bamako and managed all international circuits.  In 1985, he moved to Washington, D.C. and the private sector, where he worked for INTELSAT (The International Telecommunications Satellite Organization). That year, INTELSAT carried around the world Live Aid Concert to nearly two billion people. The benefit concert for Africa was broadcast from Wembley in London, JFK in Philadelphia and five other sites around the world. Paul McCartney, Sting, Phil Collins, U2, Elton John, Joan Baez, The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger,  Bob Dylan and dozens more raised over $250M.

    Over 11 years at Intelsat, he rose to Group Director for Africa and the Middle East, key territories for satellite.  Two of his four children were born in the U.S. and are U.S. citizens. He came to love Afro-Cuban jazz and the Fania All-Stars.  He then spent two years at ICO Global, an ambitious effort to launch 12 MEO satellites.  

     All three jobs brought him in contact with international efforts. He became disillusioned with the many recommendations that simply didn’t make sense for the less developed world.  He chose to run for Director of the Telecommunications Development Bureau (BDT) at ITU and was elected in 1998.  Describing his term at BDT, he “cultivated a new type of relationship with the Private Sector and succeeded in creating result oriented Public-Private Partnerships ... supervised two action plans, Valletta and Istanbul, and spearheaded the adoption of a third Action Plan by the Doha World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC-06).”  

     His can-do attitude made him a strong contender for ITU Secretary-General in 2007, where he was the “African candidate.” His platform emphasized development and security. He led the “European candidate,” Mathias Kurth, by 15 votes on the first round. After Roberto Blois dropped out in the third round, Latin American votes put Hamadoun over the top.

      As Secretary-General, Touré as promised focused on development. He drove the creation of the Broadband Commission, with private sector participation by Carlos Slim of Telmex, Hans Vestberg of Ericsson,  Muhammad Yunus and some unlikely members like Geena Davis and Youssou N'Dour. The Commission closely aligned their program with the U.N. Millenium Development Goals. The BC and the ITU itself have coordinated dozens of different efforts to bring the Internet to everyone.

     On security, ITU launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda and has called for an international treaty to prevent Cyberwar. Results here are more limited. The U.S. in particular has felt threatened by international rulemaking and actively opposed the efforts.

    Touré promised “I will change the perception that people have of ITU, through transparency and accountability.” Touré and the senior staff of the ITU have been very accessible. They travel widely and discuss issues very freely. There’s much more “transparency” although much of the ITU work remains behind a heavy paywall. Most ITU standards committees cost $40,000 or so a year to be involved and see the documents. The latest European Union law requires open access to standards drafts before they are final; the ITU should do that and more to bring in consumer interests.

   A second promise, “recognition for civil society,” remains at an early stage. The Internet Society is a full sector member, but fewer than 1 in 30 sector members represent the public rather than corporate interests. Provisions for fee waivers for civil society are very slow. Any group wanting to participate in WCIT in December 2012 must be first approved by a council meeting in 2014. That’s difficult.

    Touré took over an ITU in financial crisis.  Five years later, the finances are sound. The operations are far more efficient. Corporations are more active in support. Touré has built relationships with hundreds of national leaders. The majority of nations believe ITU is a well-functioning organization that should take a wider role.

Official Bio

Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) since January 2007, was re-elected for a second four-year term in October 2010.

As Secretary-General, Dr Touré is committed to ITU’s mission of connecting the world, and to helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals through harnessing the unique potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

A long-standing champion of ICTs as a driver of social and economic development, Dr Touré previously served as Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) from 1998-2006. In this role he placed considerable emphasis on implementing the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), launching projects based on partnerships with international organizations, governments, the private sector and civil society.
Dr Touré started his professional career in his native Mali in 1979. He built a solid career in the satellite industry, serving as managing engineer in Mali’s first International Earth Station. He joined Intelsat’s Assistance and Development Programme in 1985. He was appointed Intelsat’s Group Director for Africa and the Middle East in 1994, earning a reputation as an energetic leader through his commitment to various regional connectivity projects such as RASCOM. In 1996 he joined ICO Global Communications as African Regional General Manager, spearheading the companies’ activities across the African region.
A national of Mali, Dr Touré holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Technical Institute of Electronics and Telecommunications of Leningrad, and a PhD from the University of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics of Moscow. He is married with four children and two grandchildren, and is proficient in four official ITU languages: English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Decorations, honorary titles and memberships; font-family: verdana; font-size: 12px; text-align: -webkit-auto; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">
  • Knight of the National Order of Mali 

  • Knight of the National Order of Comoros

  • Grand Officer of the National Order of the Dominican Republic (Orden al Mérito de Duarte, Sánchez y Mella)

  • Officer of the National Order of Burkina Faso  

  • Officer of the National Order of Côte d’Ivoire

  • Officer of the National Order of Mali 

  • Honorary Citizen of Grecia, Costa Rica

  • Honorary Citizen of Yamasa, Dominican Republic

  • Honorary Citizen of Quito, Ecuador

  • Honorary Citizen of Guadalajara, Mexico

  • Honorary Doctorate, Azerbaijan Technical University, Azerbaijan

  • Honorary Doctorate, Russian-Armenian Slavonic University, Armenia

  • Honorary Doctorate, State University of Belarus

  • Honorary Doctorate, Razzakov Kyrgyz State Technical University, Kyrgyzstan

  • Honorary Doctorate, National University of Moldova 

  • Honorary Doctorate, Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland

  • Honorary Doctorate, Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, Rwanda

  • Honorary Doctorate, Odessa National Academy of Telecommunications, Ukraine

  • Honorary Doctorate, Bucks New University, United Kingdom

  • Member of the World Federation of Scientists (Erice, Italy)

  • Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences

  • Member and Officer of the Golden Order of Honour of the International Telecommunication Academy, Moscow, Russian Federation

  • Member of IEEE (since 1986)

  • Radio Amateur (call sign: HB9-EHT)  

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein


Professor Noam's "Many Internets"

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See . More from Noam

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list,