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Home | Development | WITSA, Dr. Jim Poisant
Dr. Jim PoisantWITSA's World Congress update

World Information Technology and Services Alliance Secretary-General Dr. Jim Poisant, talks to InterComms about the forthcoming World Congress on Information Technology and Global Public Policy Conferences

Dr. Poisant was appointed the Secretary-General of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) in June, 2006. In that capacity, he directs the day-to-day operations of the alliance. The WITSA alliance consists of 70 ICT Associations from around the globe. Its members represent over 90% of the ICT industry worldwide. WITSA's signature events are the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) and the Global Public Policy Conference (GPPC).

Prior to joining WITSA, Dr Poisant headed up Poisant International LLC., an internationally recognized events management company. In 1996, Jim was appointed the President and CEO of the 1998 World Congress on Information Technology that was held in the United States. From there he was appointed the International Executive Director for the 2000 World Congress held in Taipei, Taiwan.

Prior to organizing large international events, Dr. Poisant held a number of senior-level positions at Electronic Data Systems (EDS) including the Vice President of EDS' Entertainment Division. At EDS he was responsible for EDS' involvement in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the 1994 World Cup in the US and the 1996 Goodwill Games in St Petersburg, Russia. He was also responsible for the design, construction and operations of EDS' first marketing center in Dallas, Texas.

Before EDS, Jim was the founder and first director of the Walt Disney Company's Business Seminar Division, where he was responsible for all external Business, People Management and Quality Service seminars, and speeches. Jim has presented speeches and seminars on management and customer service to over 200,000 executives world-wide.

Dr. Poisant is the author of "Creating and Sustain a Superior Customer Service Organization," He has a Doctorate and Masters degree in Public Administration as well as a Masters Degree in Urban Education and Bachelors Degree in English and Secondary Education. Jim is a former member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for Operation Smile, a former professor of Marketing and Management at George Mason University's MBA program and a senior consultant to the Jamestown 2007 Commemoration committee.

Q: Where are you in terms of preparing for the World Congress in Kuala Lumpur next year?
A: The World Congress is a project and these projects take anywhere from three to four years to complete. First, we have to raise money from sponsors such as Microsoft, Dell and Intel, plus Congresses gather groups of local and regional sponsors as well. They may be smaller organisations, but they typically attract both up and coming firms and major players within a particular area. With respect to sponsorships, the forthcoming World Congress, to be held in Kuala Lumpur on May 18-22, 2008 (ref., has been doing very well. In terms of speakers, we are in negotiation with number of people, including former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Once the programme is established and sponsors are enlisted, you then have to get the right people to come to the event. By the 'right people', I mean senior level executives from industry, members of government and academics. Typically, they average around 2000 people. For Kuala Lumpur, they are projecting 2500. At Kuala Lumpur, a number of other activities are also being combined around the Congress. For example, there is the MSC Malaysia International Advisory Panel (IAP) meeting which is by invitation only from Malaysia's Prime Minister to 30-50 senior industry executives, government officials and academics. The Prime Minister has changed the schedule so they are going to meet around the same time as the World Congress. They are speculating that there could be up to 20,000 people in related events around the World Congress, using it as an anchor. That is somewhat of a new concept. Usually World Congresses have been pretty much been independent and operate on their own; we haven't thought of adding auxiliary events around it. For WCIT 2008, a large number of executives will have the opportunity to combine their meetings, if they wish.

Q: What other auxiliary events are there?
There is a United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) meeting that is going to occur at the same time. There is a NEC meeting on the international network of E-communities that is also going to be in Kuala Lumpur as well as a number of others. We are focusing on the substance and level of participants more than sheer numbers. This makes us quite different from even the most well respected trade shows.

Q: How is Malaysia's government helping the World Congress?
A: They are very involved. All of Malaysia is geared up for this event. The Prime Minister was at our World Congress on IT event in Austin, Texas last year, and he brought 300 business and government executives with him. There is no other venue that brings together the ICT industry like the World Congress. You can go to trade shows or exhibitions, but nothing comes close to this. WCIT is a wonderful venue for countries interested in economic development for their nations, because historically there is a lot of investment in the areas that host these events.

Q: What is the continuity from the World Congress at Austin to Kuala Lumpur?
A: Austin had four global issues which they anchored their agenda around and invited major sponsor companies to address these issues. Kuala Lumpur is doing similar things. They have several major issues; Intel has taken the lead in discussing education, for example. Whether the global issues are consistent from Congress to Congress is actually not that important. What is important is what issues are hot at the time of the event. Our industry changes so quickly that we don't want to restrict the host from adding a new dimension. Something unique to this World Congress is the 'Chief Information Officer (CIO) Perspective'. We have invited Gary Beach, the publisher of CIO magazine ( to work with us on inviting major users of ICT and then put them on a panel, next to ICT suppliers. We have the CIOs of General Motors and FedEx and the tentative agreement for the CIO of Deutsche Bank and a number of other invitations as well. We want to ask them how they are using ICT today and how they project using ICT in the future. Innovators in the ICT audience can then listen to the ICT users in terms of what their future requirements will be. We want to talk about the issues that are most important to the ICT industry, to the users, all keeping within the framework goal of WITSA and the World Congress which is to promulgating the use of ICT globally. Exactly how each congress chooses to accomplish this goal is left to the host.

Q: What are the WITSA's new Corporate and Government Advisory Committees, and what roles will they play?
A: We are currently formulating two new WITSA committees; one is a Government Advisory Committee, the other is the Corporate Advisory Committee. We have a commitment now from the U.S., Argentinean and Egyptian governments on the Government Advisory Committee. Our goal is to bring together between 12-15 governments on the committee.

What we are planning on doing is adding another dimension to WITSA; that dimension being collecting inputs from both the developed and developing countries' governments in terms of what their major issues are. The exact agenda items will be determined by the committees themselves, but we will ask them to consider trade and telecommunications regulation and policy, development, investment and E-government. We will ask them to focus on the agenda that is most important to them. Once they determine what those major issues will be, they will begin to develop recommendations. They would then advise WITSA's Public Policy Committee, which comprises all of the associations that make up WITSA on their findings. Once these finding and recommendations come out, they will be available for those who would be interested, such as other governments, the World Bank, and the OECD. What committees will be doing is enhancing WITSA's capabilities to have a more comprehensive grasp of the critical issues that are occurring within government as they look at their ICT policies.

What we want to do with the Corporate Advisory Committee is to restrict it to eight corporations, spread globally, so we will have representatives from the European region, South America, the Middle East ,the US and Asia. IBM is the very first to sign up to be a member of this Committee. The Corporate Advisory Committee will be very similar to the Government Advisory Committee, and will meet independently of WITSA to come up with the most pressing issues that they have. One of the issues that are facing corporation is the restriction of the free trade in ICT products and services. The specific issues will be covered in a timely fashion and based on when this group forms and when they begin to prioritise what is most important to them. They in turn will also advise WITSA in terms of the global industry's position on issues, which will then be available to all of WITSA members as well as the major ICT related entities that often ask us for our recommendations.

We are excited about these new committees, because in the past, we have pretty much restricted the input from these entities in formal way. What we'd like to do is formalise and articulate information on what the pressing issues of the day are, so that WITSA can provide a higher degree of intellectual leadership on matters concerning ICT.

Q: In addition to the WCIT, WITSA holds the Global Public Policy Conferences (GPPC) every other year; how do these events differ or complement each other?
A: At the World Congress, we talk about global issues affecting the ICT industry. An aspect could be government policy. We also want to challenge the ICT industry to talk about their visions of the future. At the GPPC, because of the importance of government policy to the ICT industry, we focus on bringing governments and industry together to talk in much more specific terms about issues related to ICT trade, Internet governance, security and privacy, and other policy-related issues. There are two very distinct but related events. We did not want to turn the World Congress into a government forum, although the host will determine how much government involvement they need. For the next event in Kuala Lumpur, for example, they are considering forming a panel of ministers to talk about what they are looking for from the industry and their countries.

Q: What are WITSA's priorities for the next few years?
A: We want to continue to grow. We have 70 national or regional ICT organisations as members today. We want to include many more in the family. We want very much for the GPPC and the World Congresses to be successful. These are our flagship events and this is where we can affect the most change. We want to continue to grow and to be healthy as an organisation and to positively impact the use of and adoption of ICT globally, for the benefit of individuals, governments, societies as well as our industry.

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