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A senior US official was elected with an overwhelming majority to head the United Nations body that establishes international standards for telecoms and tech infrastructure, Politico reported Thursday.
US candidate Doreen Bogdan-Martin became the first female secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union after nearly 140 countries voted for her during the agency’s election in Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
Bogdan-Martin was pitted against Russia’s Rashid Ismailov, who secured only 25 votes. Election organizers did not reveal which country voted for which candidate.
Bogdan-Martin will succeed China’s Houlin Zhao, who has led the agency since 2014, amid mounting concerns in the West over Beijing’s efforts to rewrite global norms for the Internet.
Thursday’s election drew international attention because it juxtaposed Western democracies’ vision of a more open Internet against the government-controlled approach of authoritarian countries.
It also comes amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has seen Moscow implementing cyber surveillance strategies in the occupied territories, including rerouting local populations’ data through its own network and restricting Internet access.
In her four-year term, Bogdan-Martin will set the course to address a number of significant telecom and technological concerns, including the lack of Internet connectivity around the world.
Only 40 percent of Africans have access to the Internet, compared with 89 percent of Europeans, the most connected region in the world.