IIC Director General Lynn Robinson took up her post in March 2020, just as the Covid-19 outbreak began turning into a pandemic. Here she reflects on her first 12 months leading the institute.
1. Your first year at the IIC obviously hasn’t been what you were expecting, but what’s been the hardest part?
When I joined the IIC in March last year, the pandemic was already sweeping the globe. Although we had little idea it would go on for so long, we very quickly realised that we were going to have to re-orientate the organisation. From that point on, my focus was on setting out our short-term priorities and on pivoting the institute through a digital transformation programme. This turned out to be critical.
The most disappointing part has been not being able to meet, in-person, our wonderful members and community, although the welcome I have received from the IIC board, the members and the team has been exceptional.
2. In what ways has the IIC adapted to working in the ‘Covid-19’ environment?
The success of our digital transformation has been staggering, with chapters and members around the world stepping up to host debates. To date we have held over 30 online events since April, attracting nearly 4000 participants from over 75 countries. These events included our annual International Regulators Forum (IRF), expertly hosted by the CRTC and our annual Asia Telecoms and Media Forum (TMF). I’m really grateful for the efforts our IIC chapters, and we have highlighted their fabulous work on our website.
3. What are the main lessons to come out of the pandemic? How will the experience change the way in which the IIC operates in the future?
It’s been very interesting listening to operators and regulators around the world discussing the speed with which they were able to change when the pressure was on. I think, like many organisations, we have surprised ourselves with our own agility and I want to keep that sense of the ‘possible’. One of the great benefits of the online programme has been the greater reach we have achieved. Many people have been able to attend events for whom physical attendance would have been limited, or impossible. However, the experience also tells us how important it is to have meetings in person – however hard you try, you simply can’t replicate the informal chats and networking that make ‘IRL’ events so valuable (yes, the acronym for ‘in real life’ has arrived). The opportunity that we now have is to develop a programme of hybrid events, which has already started and is a great positive.
4. What topics do you see leading the industry agenda over the next 12 months?
Closing the digital divide has become ‘the’ key objective, emerging from a pandemic which has starkly exposed educational, health and economic inequalities. There are many interesting initiatives emerging around this subject, but the costs are daunting, so it’s intricately bound to investment and infrastructure issues.
The debate around ‘big tech’ platforms continues to heat up, because it is the nexus of so many industry issues, from competition, to content, privacy, online harms and even investment. At the IIC, we’re very proud that we bring together all the players to make their case and hear from others. This debate has much further to go.
Digital trade and taxation has also become major global issue.
5. What one thing would you like to achieve over the next 12 months?
I’m very keen that we further develop our Small Nations Regulators Forum (SNRF). It’s a fantastic place for our smaller nation regulator members to share information and hold conversations with each other, but also push forward their ideas and thought on the wide stage that the IIC provides.
If I’m allowed a second, I really want to grow the IIC’s Future Leaders Network and the Future Leaders competition, which encourages and promotes original thought in the areas of communications and policy. It’s now in its fourth year and entries open in April. The future is bright with the next generation!
Q & A with Lynn Robinson
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