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New ITU head has no ambitions to run internet

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The new head of the United Nations' telecoms agency said he has no plans to increase his body's role in the governance of the internet. He would prefer the current coalition of groups running the internet to co-operate more effectively, he said.

Hamadoun Toure is the new head of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN agency, and he said that he has no plans to take a bigger role in regulating and governing the internet.

Some activists have pushed for the ITU to take an enlarged role because the other bodies involved in internet governance are almost exclusively from the US. Toure, though, said that co-operation was the key.

"We all must work together each agency has its role to play," he told a news conference in Geneva. "We must come to a better co-operation and avoid setting up a superstructure which would be very controversial and very difficult to put into effect.

The most important body in internet governance is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is overseen by the US Commerce Department. The US government recently decided to retain control of ICANN for another three years.

ICANN runs the domain name system which governs internet addresses and the connection systems between sites, and there have long been calls for a truly internationally accountable body to take over that role. The ITU is one of the few such bodies.

"It is not my intention to take over the governance of the internet," Tour said. "I don't think it is in the mandate of ITU and as secretary-general I will continue to contribute to the debate over internet governance and continue to provide technical support," said Toure.

Toure believes that the ITU should focus on the security of the internet and on helping poorer countries to harness its power. "I will be focusing on cyber-security," he said.

The body has a vital role to play in setting standards so that technology from different manufacturers works together. This is an important factor in keeping technology relatively cheap and easily available. Toure said that standards for broadband internet access and for 3G mobile phone accessibility will be amongst his priorities.

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