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Mauritius makes its mark

Mauritius, long known only as a prime holiday destination, is now also being recognised as a booming technology centre.

The island has finalists in two categories in the African ICT Achievers Awards – IT and telecommunications minister Deelchand Jeeha and the Internet Society of Mauritius.

The awards are to be handed out at a ceremony in Johannesburg this weekend. Jeeha is in the running for the award for top African minister with an ICT portfolio.

During Jeeha's tenure, Mauritius has, among other things, built a cyber city and ICT business park, provided computer literacy courses to citizens and created an incubation programme for ICT start-ups.

By March 2005, it is expected that e-government will be a reality in the country, allowing Mauritians to interact with their government via the Internet.

The cyber city, 15km outside capital Port Louis, has as its centrepiece the 12-storey Cyber Tower.

The Cyber Tower is an “intelligent building” with advanced telecommunication facilities enabling ICT-related facilities including software and multimedia development; software and hardware design, development and support; hosting of Internet and application service providers; and ICT-enabled services.

The cyber city has, among others, a business zone hosting a number of office developments, a knowledge zone with several educational institutions, a residential village, a commercial centre and several government administrative headquarters.

Liberalisation

Jeeha has also introduced laws aimed at growing the ICT sector. In 2001 a policy paper was drafted to liberalise the Internet service provider market, which now boasts several competitors. The liberalisation of the telecommunications sector led to the licensing of a second network operator.

Internet telephony was introduced officially last year, followed by a new National Telecommunications Policy to prepare for the convergence of IT, media, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

The Internet Society of Mauritius is a non-profit organisation with 120 active members – all of whom are volunteers.

The society helps serve the needs of the global Internet community through involvement in organisations such as Unesco's Information for All, and also raises awareness of the Internet in remote Mauritian villages through initiation workshops and Internet-based courses.

Founder and president Dave Kissoondoyal is represented on five working groups of the United Nations ICT Task Force and is a member of the African Stakeholders' Network.

The society is a finalist for the civil society award for bridging the digital divide in Africa.


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