BT Chairman Sir Michael Rake: ICTs are ‘absolutely critical’ to society

BT Chairman Sir Michael Rake visited the ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland last week. After a meeting with ITU officials, Sir Michael sat down with ITU News for a brief interview. Below are excerpts from his comments.

ITU NEWS: What are the key challenges facing the telecommunications sector in the next few years?

Sir Michael: “Well, I think the real challenge is the importance of ICT and telecommunications to society as a whole, to the global economy, to competitiveness, to education, to lifting people out of poverty, to e-government. It’s become absolutely critical. It’s become more a utility than a luxury. …

ITU NEWS: How is BT addressing some of those challenges?

Sir Michael: “Well, I think the essential challenge is: Can we get fast enough? The demand for superfast broadband is exponential. Wherever you are in the world, that’s what people need and insist upon. So the challenge is to make those investments, get a reasonable return, a fair return, over a period of time, and to negotiate very complex and different regulatory environments right the way around the world, which has to be done. You know, the question, therefore, is having really good systems of interoperability and telecommunications, having as much as you can a level playing field for operating across the world – and for ensuring that across the world the ICT and telecommunications providers are providing what society really needs.

ITU NEWS: What are the key roles for ICTs in achieving some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Sir Michael: … What’s really clear is that ICTs have a really important role in dealing with [sustainability], whether it’s smart metering, whether it’s sufficient use of energy, whether it’s recycling, everything comes down to the use of ICT to do this. It also comes down to Telecoms companies. BT, for example – you wouldn’t necessarily see that – consumes .7% of the national grid in the United Kingdom. So telecom operators have a lot to do in dealing with their machinery, their equipment, their powered units. We all want super-fast broadband and fibre. That requires power in a way that copper doesn’t. Managing those dynamics when you’re giving society what it needs and wants, and doing that in an efficient way, in an environmentally friendly way is [at the absolute core] of what BT’s trying to do: develop home hubs and machines that switch off when they are not being used, not on standby, makes a huge difference. All of those issues and leading by example as well as providing a means for others to improve their environmental levels of efficiency and responsibility are really critical.

Sir Michael Rake

mike_rakeSir Michael Rake is Chairman of BT Group plc as well as chairman of payments processing firm Worldpay Group plc, a director of McGraw Hill Financial and Chairman of Majid Al Futtaim Holdings LLC. He was President of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) from 2013 to 2015; a member of the British Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group from 2010-2015; non-executive director of Barclays plc from 2008, becoming Deputy Chairman from 2012-2015; chairman of the private equity oversight group the Guidelines Monitoring Committee from 2008 to 2013; Chairman of easyJet plc from 2010-2013; the first Chairman of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills from 2007 to 2010.

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