In preparation for the 1982 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Nairobi, Ambassador Michael Gardner asked leaders of major, often competing, U.S. ICT corporations to join together with senior U.S. government officials to provide diverse tuition-free training for qualified communications professionals, regulators, and entrepreneurs from the developing world. The affirmative response was overwhelming and, as a result, the USTTI was launched at the Nairobi ITU conference as a public-private, non-profit partnership dedicated to aggressively sharing ICT knowledge with women and men dedicated to making modern communications a reality throughout the developing world.
Among those joining Ambassador Gardner as founding members of the USTTI Board were: William McGowan, founder of MCI Communications; Dr. Joseph Charyk, Chairman of the Board and first President of the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT); Charles Wick, the Director of the United States Information Agency (USIA) during the 1980s; Dick Nichols, Vice-President of AT&T International; and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, former United States Senator from New Mexico and the twelfth man to walk on the moon.
Since offering its initial 13 tuition-free courses in 1983, the USTTI has expanded its curriculum to provide 84 diverse courses in 2015. Thanks to the steadfast support of USTTI corporate and government board members, as well as other volunteer experts in the ICT industry and academia throughout the United States, the USTTI has graduated 9,194 women and men who are working today to make modern communications a reality for their countrymen in 171 developing countries.
The model for USTTI’s continued and effective program is simple: each year hundreds of ICT experts from industry and government provide intensive tuition-free training to women and men who are involved, typically at senior levels, in their developing countries ICT infrastructure. The USTTI’s training takes place at industry and government offices throughout the United States where these ICT experts volunteer their time and high tech facilities. This efficient volunteer approach allows the USTTI to conduct its 84 course curriculum with a lean six-person staff working out of the USTTI’s office in Washington, DC.
The USTTI Board of Directors reflects the dynamic public-private partnership that remains a core principle of the USTTI’s approach to training. Corporate Board members of the USTTI are: Rebecca Arbogast, Comcast Corporation; JB Ballard, SPX Communication Technologies; Ellen Blackler, Disney; Kathryn Brown, Internet Society (ISOC); Mark Cleverley, IBM; Gonzalo de Dios, Intelsat; Belinda Exelby, GSM Association (GSMA); Bruce Gustafson, Ericsson; Eric Loeb, AT&T; Paul Mitchell, Microsoft; Chris Murphy, Inmarsat, Inc; Dr. Robert Pepper, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Peter Pitsch, Intel Corporation; Michael Regan, 21st Century FOX; Jacquelynn Ruff, Verizon; Aparna Sridhar, Google; Tom Wasilewski, QUALCOMM Incorporated; and Sarah Wynn-Williams, Facebook. USTTI Board Member companies provide tuition-free training at their corporate facilities, finance the general overhead costs of the USTTI, and designate a senior executive to serve on USTTI’s Board of Directors.
Senior communications officials from the Federal Government also play a critical role in the success of the USTTI, and are represented on the USTTI Board of Directors by: Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); Lawrence Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and Administrator of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA); and Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and United States Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, U.S. Department of State.
In addition to their membership on the USTTI Board of Directors, U.S. government officials and their departments and agencies provide significant training as well as other in kind and scholarship support for USTTI participants. USAID is a vital source of travel and subsistence funding for highly qualified USTTI scholars from less-developed countries. Each year, scholarships for travel to training are awarded through the invaluable assistance of the women and men working in USAID Missions overseas. The FCC provides vital training through its seven courses each year in spectrum management, spectrum monitoring, and regulatory and privatization issues. The FCC also prints the biennial Participant Handbook, an orientation guide for USTTI trainees. The NTIA offers three senior-level spectrum management and ICT policy training courses, and provides an annual grant to help publish the USTTI’s Course Catalog and Annual Report. Finally, besides participating in USTTI leadership seminars, the State Department provides valuable support by utilizing its extensive network of officials in developing countries to process candidates for USTTI training.
The United States Congress has recognized the significance of the USTTI’s global training outreach through special amendments to two legislative acts: the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 and the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986. These amendments explicitly authorize support (including use of staff, other appropriate resources, and service on the Board of Directors) of USTTI’s activities by the State Department, FCC, and NTIA.
To ensure a robust learning experience for all USTTI scholars, the Board of Directors is committed to maintaining the relevance of the USTTI’s diverse cutting-edge curriculum. Instead of operating a costly training center, USTTI offers the vast majority of its tuition-free training in corporate and federal training facilities, laboratories, and television broadcast stations that are volunteered by our sponsors across the United States. As a result, the same facilities used for corporate and government in house training also effectively serve as classrooms for USTTI scholars.
Throughout the past thirty-two years, the USTTI has offered a total of 2,055 diverse training courses and graduated 9,194 women and men who are the key IT-communications regulators, managers, and service providers in 171 developing countries. As the USTTI enters its 33rd year of training, the increased popularity and need for the USTTI’s tuition-free training is reinforced by the fact that in 2014, the USTTI’s 87-course curriculum attracted 10,435 applications for the 1,540 available training slots, a 10:1 ratio of qualified applicants for each USTTI training slot.
For USTTI scholars, the free exchange of ideas and experiences with professionals from the United States and around the world is critical to maximizing the benefits of USTTI training. This exchange of information begins prior to each training course, with an important orientation session hosted by the USTTI staff in Washington, DC.
USTTI orientations are mandatory and typically held on the last business day prior to the first day of training. During these one-day orientation sessions, USTTI scholars familiarize themselves with topics that may be addressed in training, receive introductory materials, and acquaint themselves with fellow participants. In addition, USTTI orientation sessions often include discussions about communications policy in the U.S. led by government officials, academics, and policy experts from the business and legal community. Importantly, these meetings provide an excellent forum for the exchange of professional, cultural and technical information that is critical for the fulfillment of training objectives.
Orientations also provide the USTTI staff an opportunity to brief scholars on a variety of subjects, including the history and layout of the nation’s capital, Washington, DC. Weekends are flexible to allow USTTI scholars to explore Washington or use the day to travel to alternate training cities when necessary.
GRADUATION and DEPARTURE
Most USTTI training sponsors conduct a graduation ceremony at the conclusion of each US-based program, where certificates are awarded to USTTI scholars in recognition of their successful completion of training. In addition, an oral and/or written evaluation takes place at the completion of USTTI training. These evaluations are a reliable means for USTTI graduates to identify additional training needs and ensure that the USTTI curriculum continues to respond to the emerging technology and policy priorities of officials and entrepreneurs throughout the developing world. In accordance with the Conditions of Participation form signed at orientation, all USTTI graduates receiving travel funding assistance through USTTI grants must return to their home countries within three days of graduation.