5G | Broadband/Network | Infrastructure | Policy/ Regulatory Reform
August 29, 2019

The digital transformation of Mauritius: Q+A with Minister Sawmynaden

By ITU News

For the second consecutive year, Mauritius is the most mature telecoms market in Africa, according to the annual BuddeComm Telecoms Maturity Index (TMI).

The BuddeComm TMI looks at the broadband, mobile and fixed markets, as well as other economic parameters, giving each country’s telecom maturity a score from 1 to 100 and benchmarks the results across the region.

Mauritius achieved a telecoms maturity index score of 49 – with broadband sector growth stimulated by the country’s thriving tourism market, according to the report – followed by Algeria (43) and South Africa (34).

Mauritius was also ranked first in Africa in ITU’s 2017 ICT Development Index (IDI) thanks to high levels of ICT access, with 144.24 mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants and 63.8 percent of households with Internet access. Mauritius also ranks highly on the skills sub-index, thanks to high levels of secondary school enrolment.

ITU News recently connected with H.E. Mr Yogida Sawmynaden, Minister of Technology, Communications and Innovation, Mauritius, to learn more about the digital transformation underway in Mauritius.

How did Mauritius achieve the status as the “most mature telecoms market in Africa”?

Mauritius has achieved the most outstanding Telecom Maturity Index (TMI) in Africa with a score of 49. This comes as a result of massive investment from the government into improving connectivity in the island.

Mauritius Telecom has invested more than Rs 5 billion (approx. US$75m) to roll out fibre across the island, and the project which was expected to be complete in 2020 was way ahead of schedule and saw completion last year. Mauritius is the sixth country in the world with 100% Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and citizens can benefit from broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s at affordable prices.

“The Government recognises that a modernised telecommunications system is central to the economic development of the country and that privatisation and economic liberalisation of telecommunications is a critical condition for attracting the capital needed to achieve the necessary targets.”

Since the liberalisation of telecommunications in 2003, Mauritius has seen the emergence of a number of companies providing services in the mobile space. Today, the mobile penetration is 146% in Mauritius and the whole country has a comprehensive 4G coverage.

Why is a strong telecoms market important for Mauritius?

The telecom sector is undergoing huge transformation. Driven by changing consumer behaviour and new mobile technology, innovative and sustainable revenue opportunities need to be supported.

Increasing competition from non-telecoms providers, reduced network investments and the rise of digital media and mobile technology mean that telecoms operators need to radically change their business models and service offerings to survive.

To harness our Prime Minister’s vision of a digitally-driven economy, there has to be market operators who compete for the benefits of the customers, including all our citizens and our economic operators.

As a small island nation, has it been difficult developing your Internet infrastructure? How did you overcome these hurdles?

The creation of Mauritius Telecom in 1992 enabled the country to prepare itself for the IT revolution. Soon afterwards, the international and national activities of the company were merged and this gave a major impetus to the development of a more modern telecommunications infrastructure within the country.

In parallel with the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in 2003, the rapid development and convergence of information and telecommunications technologies gave rise to an ICT industry which is today the 3rd sector of the economy and employ around 25,000 people with a growth potential of at least 100%.

It is also true that the government helped with many incentives and policy measures. Today, the Ebene Cyber-City is the cradle of that industry. From the basic Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services, it has now transformed into a value-added sector.

“An Artificial Intelligence Council has been set-up and we are getting expertise from an international consultant to define our Blockchain strategy both as a novel database technology but also as a way to enhance the life of our citizens through fintech.”

With Mauritius having crossed the one million Internet subscribers’ milestone, and Internet becoming ubiquitous (adequate infrastructure, mobile Internet coverage and network access and user capability), Mauritians can get online and be a part of the global community. The economic benefits of connectivity and the social impact on our communities at large are substantial.

What are your goals for future telecoms infrastructure development in Mauritius?

Telecommunications has entered a period of explosive, global growth and is evolving as the modern trade route. The telecommunications revolution is reflected by the technological changes, the competitive forces, the privatisation of state monopolies and the emergence of new companies and consortia of global service providers.

In response, the Government decided to formulate a new set of policies to ensure that the nation possesses the necessary infrastructure and regulatory framework to take full advantage of the changing global environment. An Artificial Intelligence Council has been set-up and we are getting expertise from an international consultant to define our Blockchain strategy both as a novel database technology but also as a way to enhance the life of our citizens through fintech.

Telecommunications is one of the most important enablers of access to information. The government has taken a number of measures, through a state agency called the National Computer Board, to give to previously marginalized populations the same freedom, liberty of expression and access to information as others.

Telecommunications in Mauritius has become a vital vehicle for all forms of economic activity and a traded service in its own right. We are building capacity so as to become a swift digital economy in the near future.

The Government recognises that a modernised telecommunications system is central to the economic development of the country and that privatisation and economic liberalisation of telecommunications is a critical condition for attracting the capital needed to achieve the necessary targets.

The new era of 5G, characterized by high broadband speeds and intelligent networks, will provide seamless connectivity and support over 50 billion devices by 2020.

What lessons can you share with other nations who want to develop their telecommunications infrastructure?

Many efforts have to be made regarding connectivity and more affordable access to it. My government has introduced 350 free Wi-Fi spots around the island and this number will increase in the coming months.

Now, let’s take a leap forward and imagine how Blockchain technology and Artificial Intelligence can propel us further in our development. The new digital economy will undeniably shape the country’s future performance.

Blockchain, which until recently was mainly of interest to financial institutions, presents incredible opportunities for ICT – reducing roaming fraud, optimizing ID management with smart contracts, increasing revenues from identity-as-a-service solutions, etc.

I therefore invite all nations to embark on this great adventure, keep connecting and bridging gaps for the well-being of our populations.

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The digital transformation of Mauritius: Q+A with Minister Sawmynaden

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