Michel Cordani (Africa) - Mauritius: leading the way for ICT growth in Africa

Mauritius has made impressive progress up the ICT global rankings. Michel Cordani, regional director at Microsoft, discerns the key reasons as to why Mauritius has reached the summit of African ICT standings.

Mauritius was ranked 47th internationally for its success in leveraging ICT by The Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 published 15 April by the World Economic Forum. This is a significant achievement for the island - it marks a six-place improvement since the last report; placing it first in Africa and ahead of several European countries.

ICT has become an integral part of any modern society, but in Africa, its role is that much more critical given its capacity to provide solutions to some of the most challenging problems facing the continent.

A Mauritian Recipe for Success

So why is Mauritius leading the way in Africa - even topping African economic powerhouse, South Africa in terms of perceived ‘ICT readiness'? One possible reason outlined in the report is "the country's high level of interest and preparedness in using ICT by all national stakeholders". The Mauritian government's push to make ICT a ‘pillar' of the local economy has been supported by fruitful public-private partnerships - and this has proved to be a formidable foundation for the development of the local ICT industry. The Government has outlined ICT as a top priority, with a goal to make it one of the top three contributors to the economy and a vision of the Island as an international IT hub. For example, one project underway aims to increase the current ICT - ITES/ BPO industry from 15,000 to 25,000 by the end of 2012. To achieve this, the Ministry of ICT is investing in an ICT Academy specifically focused on addressing the current shortage of skills in the ICT-ITES sector. The Academy will encourage the active participation of industry associations and will offer international certifications to ensure that skills are aligned with global standards.

Also key to Mauritius' recipe for success is a solid backing from the private sector. I'll use Microsoft's efforts here as one example of a company who shares a commitment to powerful partnerships as a means to build sustainable and agile business in the country. But to be clear, we certainly do not stand alone. Microsoft has been an active partner with both industry (including the MITIA), and local government, working to create a strong local economy that encourages the development of ICT skills, and helps fuel entrepreneurship, local growth and competitiveness in the IT space.

For example, the local economy relies heavily on the private sector to provide training and key services - not only to keep abreast industry trends, but also to enable it to compete at global standards. Microsoft is both challenging and equipping it partners to be experts in their craft: encouraging them to become solution-providers and specialists, and to think internationally - rather than just selling products and seeing the local market as the extent of their pursuits. And we are currently assisting the local IT industry in preparing for what will ultimately define the nature of IT in coming years - cloud computing.

In fact, just last month I had the privilege of attending Mauritius' first-ever ProIT conference - organized by the MITIA in collaboration with the National Computer Board - and aimed at bringing together various ICT stakeholders from both the public and private sector. And the energy around cloud computing was palpable. There was lots of great content and all sessions - both technical and strategic - were well attended. I had the chance to catch up with several of our partners, and was excited to hear that many of them are finalizing their plans to launch cloud-based services in the region, from messaging and collaboration, to CRM and specialized solutions. Hopefully these developments coupled with the government's initiatives will see Mauritius become as strong an international player in cloud-services as it is in the BPO industry.

Mauritius has shown what is possible when all stakeholders commit to one goal - and this is a valuable example for the rest of Africa. Microsoft is committed to enabling partners in all regions to take advantage of the latest trends affecting the IT industry and hopes to see ‘ICT readiness' improve across the continent as a result.

By Michel Cordani, Regional Director of Microsoft Indian Ocean Islands