Mauritius gov’t sets up fund to bridge digital divide

PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS – The government of Mauritius is establishing a Universal Service Fund (USF) that aims to give citizens in poor regions of the country better access to Internet and communication technologies.

Regulations under the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Act of 2001 have been finalized, and the fund should come into operation in several weeks time.

Operators holding a telephony license, be it for local or international phone calls, will be required to contribute to the fund initially set at US$2.5 million.

“We’re quite positive about this decision,” said Ganesh Ramalignum, chairman of Data Communications, one of Mauritius’ main private international telephony companies. “To contribute to this fund is part of our obligations under our license, and the more people have access to ICTs, the better it is for us operators.”

“We would like to know how we would have to contribute,” he nevertheless added. “It should be a win-win situation.”

The island of Mauritius is among the several countries in the African continent that are setting up ICT incubation centres to boost their economy.

Companies such as Microsoft Corp. have also committed billions of dollars towards developing the ICT industry in Mauritius and other African countries.

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) and the Ministry of ICT held discussions with the private sector over contributions earlier this year. Each operator will likely have the choice to either contribute a percentage of its turnover or a percentage of the price of every incoming call on its network.

Following provisions made by the ICTA, which manages the fund, the USF should raise about US$2.5 million.

With the fund, the authority intends to help public institutions work together to reduce the cost of Internet access, as well as to boost the speed of broadband Internet in Mauritius.

The fund may also cover the financing of community access points, with a view toward promoting affordable Internet access.

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