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Tracing the Successful and Rich Journey of Dr. Anne Bouverot, General Director, GSMA PDF Print E-mail

In this month’s “Women in Telecom” section, Telecom Review interviews and traces the journey of one the highest profiles in the telecom industry - Dr. Anne Bouverot, who was appointed as General Director of the GSMA last year. The GSM Association (GSMA) is an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to supporting the standardizing, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system. The GSMA organizes the largest annual event in the mobile industry, the GSMA Mobile World Congress, in addition to smaller, targeted events

TR NA: Could you please tell our readers more about yourself?

Probably the first thing to say is that my mother is Canadian and my grandparents were Hungarian. And even though I was born and raised in France, I think this is the reason why I have always been keen to meet with people from other countries and understand different cultures.

The second thing is that I have studied mathematics, computer science and engineering. I studied mathematics and computer science at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, receiving my M.S. degree and then my Ph.D. I then received an M.S. degree in telecommunications engineering from Telecom Paris telecom was a new field, and I thought that there would be opportunities in this area.

I started my career in telecommunications as a project manager for Telmex, in Mexico, and then worked at Equant, where I led a 600-person business unit and was responsible for developing IT services for its multinational business customers.

After this, I held several roles at France Telecom Orange. I was first the Chief of Staff for the global CEO of Orange, working in the UK, and after three years, I moved back to Paris where I took over international business development.

My achievements in this role included the privatization of Telkom Kenya, new mobile licenses in Armenia and Tunisia, and partnerships in Portugal and UAE. I later served as Executive Vice President for Mobile Services for France Telecom Orange, where I was responsible for defining the strategic priorities and led transformation programs for the mobile business, and was also responsible for the selection of mobile devices sold to customers with mobile offers.

And in September 2011, I joined the GSMA as General Director. The GSMA has played an important role in the development of the mobile industry, uniting the world behind a standard technology and ensuring seamless and interoperable mobile services for billions of users globally. We are now entering a new phase where virtually everyone and everything is connected by mobile, and with many new challenges facing the industry. The GSMA is focused on supporting its operator members as they face these challenges and explore new opportunities.

TR NA: Telecom is a very technical and male-dominated field. What are the main challenges you face as a woman in such a field?

When I started out, telecom was a relatively new and rapidly developing field, and of course, it was quite technical - there were not that many women in the field at the time, and you have to prove to people that you can make good recommendations and take sensible decisions and manage people as well as anyone else. The challenges have become a bit easier as I have grown in my career – I have taken on new and greater responsibilities, so that certainly helps establish credibility with my peers, both men and women.

I have been fortunate in having many opportunities, and my mindset along the way was to embrace the challenges, think about the big picture and importantly, to not be afraid to fail. It is like sitting at the border of a pool and deciding to jump in to be sure you will manage to swim. Otherwise, you would never try anything and you would just sit there on the side.

TR NA: How is the GSMA empowering and encouraging women to engage in telecom and ICT activities?

ICT is one of the most vibrant sectors of our global economy today, and one that affects the way people around the world work, live and play. ICT has a very broad-reaching impact, with important economic, social and even environmental ramifications.

For instance, if you look at mobile specifically, research has shown that a 10% increase in mobile phone use has led to a 1.2% increase in gross domestic product (GDP) in low- and middle-income countries. That is a pretty amazing impact.

TR NA: How is mobile changing the world?

Mobile Education - Mobile technology can have a significant impact on education, particularly in the provision of eBooks and courses, online tutoring, collaboration tools, simulation and game-based education and assessment tools. By simply enabling access to the internet, mobile devices open up a wealth of information and knowledge to all of the citizens of the world.

Mobile Health - An aging population is driving a phenomenal increase in healthcare costs, and by 2030, healthcare is expected to absorb 15% of the developed world’s GDP. Clearly, this is not sustainable. mHealth solutions will allow providers to better diagnose disease, manage complications and intervene ahead of acute events, reducing costs in the healthcare system.

Mobile Identity – As an ever-growing number of services are becoming digitized, mobile phones are increasingly being used as the primary access point for consumers and businesses on the move. Within our lifetime, we will see an end to passwords as mobile identity enables people to sign documents via mobile digital signature, perform business transactions, access medical records, vote and engage in a wide array of personalized online services via their mobile phones with the knowledge their personal information is secure.

These are just a few of the powerful examples of how technology is positively impacting the lives of millions, and the GSMA is actively engaged in strategic projects and initiatives that will help drive the further adoption of mobile. The rapid growth of mobile and the dynamic nature of the industry offer young women many career opportunities – and in this industry, they will have the ability to create change, every day.

TR NA: How do you manage your work and your personal life?

Yes, of course this is a challenge, but this is a challenge for many people, men and women. I think one of the keys to balancing work and life, and perhaps it’s quite obvious, is to surround yourself with a very strong team, one that you have confidence in and one that delivers results.

The second thing is to prioritize, to think that there are three important things to try and make happen today. Then I try to balance some time for work, some time for my family and friends, and also some time for myself – but invariably there does not seem to be enough of any!

TR NA: Do you see a more powerful presence for women globally in ICT and telecoms in the future?

Yes, I do. Mobile has become nearly ubiquitous, and as we move forward, nearly everything in our lives will be connected. As an industry, we will need more people who develop infrastructure, build networks, create devices, imagine new services and bring them to consumers and businesses around the world.  And I expect that many of these people will be women. And certainly at the GSMA, when we organize conferences such as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and the Mobile Asia expo in Shanghai, we will try to get more women as speakers to show that there are already some amazing women in the industry today.

TR NA: The GSMA focuses on many events beside the main big one, the Mobile World Congress (MWC), such as Mobile Money, Mobile Health and Mobile Asia, etc. What is the strategy behind this? Can we expect a big MWC somewhere else?

Yes, in addition to driving strategic program and initiatives on behalf of our mobile operator members around the world, the GSMA produces several industry events throughout the year. Some of these, such as Mobile World Congress and our new Mobile Asia Expo event, are quite broad-based and cover a wide range of areas within mobile communications, while others are smaller, more focused and address a specific area, such as NFC and mobile money or mobile health.

While I would not expect to see us holding multiple events that are as large as Mobile World Congress each year, we are focused on developing our Mobile Asia Expo event in Shanghai. We just held the inaugural edition of Mobile Asia Expo June 20-22, drawing more than 15,500 attendees from over 80 countries. The three-day conference and exhibition attracted executives from the industry’s largest and most influential mobile operators, software companies, device makers, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as government delegations, and, for the first time at a GSMA event, consumers. The strong attendance at the first Mobile Asia Expo is indicative of the impact and importance of mobile in China and throughout Asia, and we look forward to building the Mobile Asia Expo brand.

TR NA: What are your future plans and projects?

The GSMA works on projects and initiatives that address the collective interests of the mobile industry and of mobile operators in particular, and there are a handful of strategic initiatives that we are especially focused on, including Spectrum, Connected Living, Near Field Communications (NFC) and Rich Communications. For instance, in Spectrum, we are running an ongoing global campaign to secure the spectrum required to meet the fast growing demand for mobile broadband.

In NFC, we want to accelerate the standardized deployment of mobile NFC using the SIM as the secure element to provide authentication, security and portability across many different handsets.

The GSMA is also working to drive the adoption of Rich Communications, which enables multimedia communications to be delivered in a simple and intuitive way from your address book, across any network and any device. And in Connected Living, we have market development programs to enable a wide range of devices across the education, healthcare, automotive and utilities sectors to benefit from the usage of wireless connectivity.

In addition, we work on key subjects such as helping ensure that applications respect users’ privacy, and are efficiently using mobile networks; we debate how best to ensure that investment in infrastructure and new services can continue to contribute to the economy; and we look at how SIM cards and mobile devices can allow men and women to carry their identity with them and access places and services.