ICT in the Islamic World

ICT in the Islamic World

F. M. Mohamed-Saleck (Nouakchott University, Mauritania)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch144
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Abstract

A priori, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania was not prepared for the information and communication technology (ICT) revolution. This vast West African desert country, whose 2.8 million inhabitants are strongly imprinted by Islamic culture, is still firmly rooted in customs and social values that the “late and superficial” French colonization was hardly able to disrupt (Balans, 1979). Under these conditions, one can easily understand the slow evolution of information and communication technology in the country as it appears in the Report of the ICT Thematic Group of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (Cadre Stratégique de Réduction de la Pauvreté, 2000). As a matter of fact, it was not until 1974 that the first institutional incentive for development of computer technology appeared through the creation of a computer division at the Ministry of Finances responsible for the automated management of public spending. The first PCs appeared in the mid-eighties in some administrative departments, in particular the customs department through the SYDONIA project, designed to manage customs operations and the provision of certain statistical data (Cadre Stratégique de Réduction de la Pauvreté, 2000). In 1990, the government founded the National Data Processing Commission, a body for strategic analysis entrusted with the broad mission of designing, implementing, and monitoring the national data processing policy. The Commission also aimed to computerize some administrative departments, such as Civil Service, the Central Bank of Mauritania, or the taxation authority (Cadre Stratégique de Réduction de la Pauvreté, 2000). In general, computer use remained very scarce for a long time throughout the Mauritanian administration. In 1999, there were 446 micro-computers, seven mini-computers, and only 20 local networks of 10 machines, which correspond to a ratio of two computers for every 100 agents. Local software production is insignificant, with only two development platforms in the private sector (Cadre Stratégique de Réduction de la Pauvreté, 2000). Concerning the Internet, main indicators as of May 31, 2000 show an average rate of use of approximately 0.16% when one compares the total number of e-mail accounts in Mauritania to the total number of inhabitants. This rate is 0.46% in Nouakchott, the capital city. The rate of Internet use by telephone subscribers is 20% on average and 28.9% in Nouakchott (Cadre Stratégique de Réduction de la Pauvreté, 2000). In the field of telecommunications, it was only by the end of the 1970s that the telephone appeared in some regional capitals; as of May 2000, the urban telephone network has more than 20,000 lines (Cadre Stratégique de Réduction de la Pauvreté, 2000). Thus, in the year 2000, the ICT sector was in its preliminary stages, marked by a lack of infrastructure, equipment, and human resources. On the eve of the new millennium, the Mauritanian government was truly committed to mastering ICT, considering it an invaluable developmental tool for the integration of the country into the “communication arena” which constitutes the “information society” (Levy, 1997). The national strategy for the development of new technologies adopted in 2002 is attributable to a strong ambition to promote Mauritanian society and economy using ICT. Being definitely in keeping with an e-government perspective, the strategy advocates, among other objectives, the use of information and communication technology by the administration in to improve services rendered to users in compliance with individual rights and freedoms. As an Islamic republic, Mauritania has witnessed specific challenges to the development of new technologies. This study will examine the moral dilemma faced by Muslim countries regarding the evolution of ICT and e-government. Thus, the experiences of Mauritania will help to paint a broad picture of how these new technologies are being implemented throughout the Muslim world.

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