Interview with Dave Kissoondoyal

“Mauritius has Embarked on the Path of Making ICT a Part of Daily Life”

What e-content means in Mauritius:

A: Mauritius has witnessed a quick development and has mastered latest technology at an amazing speed. The technology has enabled the Internet revolution, services and products based on digital content are playing an increasingly important role in the emerging ‘new economy’. It is increasingly becoming visible in many sectors of society ranging from education to retailing.

What is the current status of e-content in your country, including national e-content development across all the sectors of the industry?

We, in Mauritius, have the necessary ingredients to ensure a successful passage to this new world. We have commitment at the highest level spearheading the ICT drive. We have one of the highest literacy rates in this part of the world and we are committed to fostering an enterprising spirit and a culture of innovation in our young people and in those who are not so young as well. People are conscious of the importance and the benefits of ICT and computer and Internet use is becoming more and more widespread, both at home and at the enterprise level. We have given ourselves the means for quick access to the information superhighways with the SAFE optic fibre cable link joining us to Europe via South Africa and to the Far East via India. We have also built strategic alliances with friendly countries which are willing and prepared to help us succeed in this stage of our development.

The e-content situation is quite encouraging at the moment in Mauritius and the latest figures from the National Computer Board (NCB) prove that Mauritius has a healthy future in this filed. Compared to the year 2000, we have had an increase in computer ownership and Internet use in Mauritius.

According to the survey, the installation of personal computers (PC) And Internet connections are becoming increasingly common among households having telephone connectivity. The main findings of the survey are as follows: Computer ownership in Mauritian households having telephone connectivity stood at 29.4% in June 2002. In the rural areas computer ownership has increased from 18% in 2000 to 27% in 2002.

There has been a marked increase in Internet penetration with 23.8% of households having telephone connectivity reporting having access to Internet in June 2002 compared to 12% in September 2000. Internet penetration among households having telephone connectivity & owning computers has registered an increase from 58% in year 2000 to 81.1% in 2002. It has been observed that although males have a tendency to surf more on the net than females yet this gap has considerably declined since year 2000.

Which e-content area is best developed in your country?

Bearing in mind the current technology status of Mauritius, we currently have a very well developed e-learning sector. We have a university specialized in the teaching of Technology with an online facility, and more and more training institutions are opting to go online in order to reach potential students. Both private and public sector has invested massively in the e-learning sector.

Which sectors in your country are the leaders in e-content development?

Both the business/private sector and government sector are backing the e-content progress and they are both investing capital to make the country the leader in electronic development in the region. Both parties believe in this dream. We have the emergence of the Ministry of Information Technology as well as Telecommunications bodies like the National Computer board and other private institutions to ensure that IT is present in each an every development. Private and public sectors have opted for computerization and further press the development of e-content. Moreover, every year we have the INFOTECH, the annual Information and Communication Technology exhibition and conference event. INFOTECH is the platform for dissemination of awareness on the latest technologies in ICT.

The Government has created several bodies to see that IT development is well regulated and the right use is made: These bodies include:

» National Computer Board

» Central Informatics Bureau

» Central Information Systems Division

» State Informatics Limited

» Information and Communication Technologies Authority

Please describe the progress of e-content development in your country.

We have had quite an amazing progress in the development of e-content in Mauritius, public awareness on IT is increasing day by day and this is due to the education sector. Nowadays computers are available in all schools and computer studies form part of the education curriculum. In a survey conducted by the National Computer Board in the year 2000, it revealed that home computer ownership was 21 % in October 2000. This figure has increased by 84 % since 1998. The younger generation (age group 12-20 years) was making the most use of computer and Internet and secondary education students were among the main users.

Please list the major initiatives which have influenced and spurred the development of e-content in your country.

» Inclusion of Computer studies in schools.

» The creation of the University of Technology.

» Computer loan schemes developed by the Government, to encourage the buying of computers.

» The Information Technology Scheme has been introduced to offer assistance to professionals and enterprises willing to modernize and automate their processes.

» Soft Loan Scheme which provides for the granting of a loan of Rs 25, 000 to children of sugar workers for the purchase of a computer.

» Emergence of a Ministry of Information Technology and other state bodies to regulate the development of IT.

» The annual organization of the Information and Communication Technology exhibition and conference event.

What have been the major bottlenecks in the development of e-content in your country?

Despite the massive effort of both the private and public sector to develop e-content, there still exist some obstacles. The ICT infrastructure in place is not enough compared to the demand and this is resulting in low investment. In order to attract more investment, we need to provide a high level of ICT infrastructure. We are also limited in professional main d’oeuvre that can help to develop this sector further, we have many people eager to learn the new trade but the lack of training professionals is slowing down the process. If we get more qualified personnel the industry will get the boost needed.

In developed countries ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily left to the initiatives of individuals or organizations. On the other hand, in less developed countries, the development of e-content is largely dependent on ICT infrastructure. Please give a detailed analysis of the situation in your country.

E-content development is simply impossible without proper ICT infrastructure and we in Mauritius strongly believe in that concept. This is why the Government of Mauritius is investing in projects like Informatics Park and the Cyber City and is also encouraging the private sector to invest in ICT infrastructure. We have an idea of how the new economy will be and if we don’t want to lag behind other countries we need to provide the necessary tools for a good and healthy development of e-content. In Mauritius, we have a good computer literacy level and this is due to the easy access to computer infrastructure and it is important to point out which can be compared to other developing countries; Mauritius has embarked on the path of making ICT a part of daily life.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in your country? Please describe it in terms of infrastructure, penetration, acceptance and policies.

Computerization level: 83.3% of business establishments surveyed owned at least one computer. Computer usage by business activity fluctuated in the range of 50% to 100%. The reason put forward by most of the uncomputerized establishments for not owning a computer has been the low necessity of it at the moment. However, 42% of them intend to computerize and the majority (76%) would do so in less than two years time.

Features of establishments which own Computers: 37.3% of establishments have between one and three servers. 24.3% of establishments have between one and three PCs, and 20% of them have more than 20 PCs. The possession of cloned Notebooks / Laptops, Thin Client and Terminal is relatively low. 93.2% of establishments wish to upgrade their computers. The most widely used software packages were office tools (96%), financial and accounting packages (44.8%), inventory / stock control systems (28.4%), and payroll systems (27.2%). The applications that formed critical IT systems in the day to day running of business of the establishments in the sample were stock control (41.6%); payroll (38.4%) and process control (12%). 96.4% of the computerized establishments have an anti virus software. 73.6% of the establishments have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). 83.6% of the establishments review their security procedures once a year.

ICT Infrastructure of establishments which own Computers: 43% have Local Area Networks (LAN) and 12.7% have Wide Area Networks (WAN). Electronic transfers of funds are conducted by 17% of the establishments while only 10.7% of them indicated using electronic data interchange on the Internet.

Internet Access of establishments which own Computers: 90% of computerized establishments have access to Internet. 75% of establishments surveyed have access to the Internet. Internet usage is high in sectors like manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transport, storage and communication, banking and finance. Use of the Internet in the education and training sector is 63.2%. Use of the Internet in public administration is 72.7% Establishments mainly use the Internet for information search, exploring new modes of business and maintaining their competitive position. 28% of those establishments not having Internet access has indicated their intentions to get connected shortly through dial up line mainly. The two most important reasons put forward by establishments for not having Internet access have been security concerns and other priority items.

E-commerce Adoption in establishments which own Computers: 21.3% of the establishments have web sites and 27.1% of them hosted their web site at site of work but the majority (72.9%) of them have their web site hosting outsourced. Establishments are resorting more and more to electronic means of conducting business like having web sites. There is evidence that the Internet is also increasingly being used for purposes of enhancing the trading process and confirming by the same token that e-commerce has taken off as well. In this regard, 25.8% of the establishments use the Internet to get access to databases of suppliers and 8% of them conduct purchasing of goods and services whilst another 3.6% sell over the net. A significant proportion of the establishments also advertise and undertake marketing activities over the net and this is expected to grow with time as both the computerization and the extent of ICT adoption improves. Establishments face a number of constraints in adopting e-commerce. The main ones reported have been the limited size of the market (42.2%), inadequate IT infrastructure (31%), shortage of IT skills (26.2%) and that goods or services produced do not lend themselves to transactions over the Internet (23%). 19.8% of establishments which do not have a web site have expressed their intention to invest in e-commerce.

ICT Spending in establishments which own Computers: Establishments have spent a greater proportion of their ICT budget on three main items namely, software (43.2%), consultancy (15.9%) and hardware (14.8%). The establishments have indicated that they have an ICT budget, which can go well beyond Rs 5 million. It is observed that over the last three financial years most of the establishments have had a tendency to have their budget on software within the range Rs 80,000 to Rs 500,000. As far as hardware are concerned there has been no big discrepancy in the number of establishments having budget ranges of Rs 1 to Rs 500,000. A similarity has been observed for budgets on consultancy, maintenance, Internet access, ICT staff training and e-commerce. In fact, the majority of the establishments tend to have a budget less than Rs 50,000.

ICT Benefits of establishments which own Computers: Among the computerized establishments whilst 79.6% have reported that they were satisfied with the return on their IT investment, a larger proportion (88%) have confirmed that computerization have had a positive impact on their organization. Establishments reported that computerization has also brought in its wake other beneficial effects like an increase in turnover as well as a reduction in costs.

ICT Manpower: It is observed that the proportion of ICT staff to the total number of employees turned around a threshold of 11% during the year 2001. ICT support staff form 92.9% of the total ICT staff employed during the year 2001. Prospects for employment exist across the ladder from Project Managers to Computer Operators. 46.1% of staff employed is qualified up to the computer literacy skill level.

How do you see the future of e-content development in your country?

The future looks very bright for e-content in Mauritius and it has received a massive boost recently with the Government’s decision to make Mauritius an e-country (Cyber Island). The first step toward this goal was the construction of Informatics Park and the next level is the completion of the Cyber City. We have the public and private sector investing heavily.

As an expert in your country, what would be the five most important pillars of e-content development?

E-Finance: With the geographical position of Mauritius, the Government is investing a lot to develop the finance sector and the e-finance concept will give a boost to our financial sector.

E-Learning is very important to make the population IT conscious and we already have several institutions giving online training and distance education courses.

E-Media: All the media companies are present on the Internet. The leading newspapers offers online service and the local TV station and radios have made themselves available to the public via the Internet.

E-Service: The service sector is very important to the country and the use of available technology in this sector might prove to be very beneficial for the service / tourism industry.

Please explain which medium is the most preferred medium for e-content development? Would it be Print, TV, the Internet, Radio, Mobile/Wireless or a combination of some of these?

The combination of TV and Radio is the best way to make people become e-conscious as these sort of media devices are available to everyone, and more people spending time watching TV or listening radio. thus this is a very good overture and an excellent medium for the propagation of e-content.

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