Mauritius is not a cyber island yet. Here’s why.


For some reason, our political leaders are bent on using the word “cyber” whenever the get the opportunity to. Everything is cyber here: Cyber caravan, Cyber Crime or something along that line as well as a few other cyber things here and there. What does “cyber” mean anyway?

Merriam-webster says something about “the culture of computers”. It must be a joke: I hardly see any kind of “culture of computers” in Mauritius.

We are far, VERY FAR from deserving being called a cyber island yet. Why? Lots of reasons actually…

Stuck in Slow Lane, in 1st gear with a broken clutch

What’s the fastest Internet speed in Mauritius? I guess that’d be around 40Mbps that the Government has I think. For home users? That’d be around 4Mbps. That’s LAME! You don’t consider yourself cyber with speeds like that!

Cloud services? HD Streaming? Online desktop? E-working? What, you mad? None of this would work on low-megabit speeds like that. A service like Dropbox loses its attraction. Streaming? Forget it. Ask Carrotmadman about football streams! We can’t have our own BBC iPlayer because of the slowness.

The good thing is, Orange has been doubling the speed quite consistently over recent years. If this trend continues, we may get 8Mbps in what, 4 years or so? Too slow!

Another good news: Some ISP, Bharat Telecommunications Ltd, has applied for an ISP license to ICTA. Funny thing is, I can only find the license. I think I saw that in L’Express but I cannot find the original news again. They promised 10Mbps before 2012 ends or something like that. I’ll believe it when I see it.

For now, you’re stuck watching your lolcat videos on Youtube but with everything going in stop-motion. Very fun.

Education is either expensive or lacking

We have like, 5 Universities now, all of them offering a range of IT courses, most of them should just be called “Systems Engineering and Coding” instead of fancy names like “Bsc. Computer Applications”. It’s just that: we do tons of programming and very little of what remains.

Networking? Databases? Security? Mere modules in a Bsc. Show me one Bsc. course in Mauritius that focuses only on Game Development? Only on mobile technologies and development? Nah, we don’t have that kind of specialization.

We don’t need them. Or, to be more precise, our BPOs don’t need them. Maybe they’d need a few of those mobile tech guys, but Game Developers? Nope. BSc. in Security etc are not required because companies want their Sec people to have CCSPs and Microsoft Security Whatevers and Ethical Hacker something! They don’t care about your old-time BSc that still teaches how Ping of Death works. Nooo, they want you to be able to configure an IPS, not how to understand how it works!

Why’s that? Why aren’t non-programming Bsc or other university courses not in demand? We don’t have research. UoM calls itself a University but as far as I know, doesn’t do much research. Sure, we have people doing their PhDs and stuff, but most of the things they do are either just stuffed in a library somewhere, or cannot be put into practice in the country. That’s it for the demand, so there’s no supply as well.

On the other hand, there is immense demand for professional-level certificates like CCNA, CCNP, MCITP and whatever fancy acronyms you can think of. Those courses are really cool and do teach you quite a lot of practical stuff that Universities won’t teach you, or more precisely, cannot teach you because they don’t have the latest and shiny toys.

For those wanting professional certificates, they have to go to private training centres? What’s wrong? Those courses are ridiculously expensive! CCNA is a “mere” Rs. 30,000 at best. MCITP? Rs. 150,000 or so. And people DO shell out the cash to do those because it’s easy to get jobs when you got yourself a shiny new MCITP Virtualization certification (or not, employers are starting to see the tricks and do more hands-on interviews now).

Government, instead of trying to invent Cyber-names, should instead create a regulatory body for training centres. Like a Price Observatory for professional certificates. Also, we need loan schemes to be able to afford the high cost. This has to be sustainable: if you resort to this scheme, you need to get a letter from your employer to show that your newly-acquired skills would be useful to them and you will have to refund the cost of your training + interests over the next 2 years or something. There’s no point in 13-year old kids getting CCIEs when they won’t use it and just waste money. Unless you know, they’re genius 13-year-olds or something.

Where are the startups??

90% of University IT graduates join a BPO less than 6 months after completing their studies. That’s not an official fact, just my personal observation. Most of my IT-related friends are currently in BPOs. As far as I know, none of them started their own company. That is, none of them created a startup.

Worse is, a few of them are really good at what they do, and their undergrad dissertation, with a bit of polishing could be a viable commercial product. But no, they just join BPOs like herded sheep. I understand them: Rs. 23,000 for fresh graduate is a lot of money.

The downside is that without Startups, our local IT industry is stifled. We don’t have big name players here because they don’t have anything to invest in here: they just shift out their boring work and maintenance to be done here by undergrad grunts. Not fun, but at least it brings money.

That and a boatload of call-centres. I remember the beginnings of Ebene Cyber City… I used to call it Call Centre City. Because that’s what it was filled with. That and Government bodies.

In my opinion, call centres are not IT. Yes, they use IT. Yes, they employ IT people. No, they don’t contribute anything new to the IT sector in general. They are just services, some of them existing only to annoy people into buying crap.

I do wish there were more startups. The market in Mauritius is small but that doesn’t mean you can’t sell your services to international folks. There are a good number of success stories with local companies mainly working with foreign ones, so there is hope for startups, only if people are willing to take the risk. Yes, startups do fail. A lot of them do. A few of them turn into giants like Google.

The void called Online Services

Try buying a cinema ticket online. Or try ordering a few computer parts or electronics stuff to be delivered to your doorstep. Ok, forget buying. You got a call from some number on your mobile but don’t know who that is. You want to do a reverse phone lookup. Or, you want to do a normal phone lookup, why not?

Tried any of those? Of course not! Why? Because the services are NOT available! You can’t do anything online! No services, no checking up bus time-tables, no booking a taxi, barely any online shopping, nothing! Cyber-island? More like, mall-island! You’re supposed to do all your shopping in big-ass malls that sell expensive junk. Yes, funny.

Why don’t we have any of those anyway? No one’s investing in them, that’s why! Secondly, but more importantly, we don’t have a local payment systems. Banks are more interested in getting you to shift your money from under your mattress to their vaults, that’s it. They’re not interested in investing a ton of cash in creating a local payment system!

And they’re wrong. They’d have made a ton of cash in return. People would have signed up for paid services just to get access to this payment service. They’d pay for security. They’d pay for convenience. They’d pay for being lazy. I’d pay for being lazy!

Who wouldn’t want to book their Harry Potter ticket online instead of standing like a pole in a long queue at Star Cinemas? Or check at what time and where they can get a bus to Quatre Cocos or wherever? Those services would be popular. If only they existed.

Oh, and it’d also help with that “culture of computers” thing. When someone’s told that they can avoid standing for 2 hours in a queue by using this computer-thing-service, they’d want to learn how to do that. They’d want to learn what else they can do. They’d develop a culture of computers. We’d become a Cyber Island! Yay!

We also need a more developed web-space. For now, we only have lots of Mauritian blogs but if that were to change with say, Chapeau La Paille having their webpage, Rose-Hill transport having theirs (instead of a crappy old un-updated website), we’d be better off.

Missing the cool stuff

Finally, I come to the point that grieves me most. I can’t find the computer parts I want! I can’t find that shiny gadget I want. Or if I can, it’s just too expensive!

I should probably do a comparison between Mauritian and Malaysian prices when it comes to computer parts. Just for the lulz, although I know their market is much bigger than ours. It’d be fun, probably.

I mean, really, how many good computer shops are there in Mauritius? I can name like, 5.

The main problem is not that parts are missing, but that there is no competition, or not enough competition. And not enough market. And not enough culture of computers.

Monopolies. Ah, monopolies. Am looking at you, Orange. You too, 5 computer shops. You are seriously ruining the fun. Not much to say here. It’s just that we’re stuck with drooling over parts online, parts that we cannot find in Mauritius. Too bad.

Ok forget that. We also lack specialized services. The craze is for smartphones lately and those things EAT data. Try finding a big data package from one of our… two operators. None exists. Sure, you can get a 1GB a month for a huge price but there’s no all-rounder packages to be had. Like, I’d like 200 mins of calls, 100Mb of data and say, 300 SMS for around Rs. 300. Nope, can’t have. Market too small. Need. More. Profits! PROOOFITS!

I’ll just stop here. If you’ve read all text above, you’d now know why I think Mauritius is no cyber island yet. I also offered a few suggestions about what I think could improve the situation. There is hope! All is left in the hands of our leaders, companies and corporates to decide if we could really earn that title afterwards. The future is not bright, is it?

Categories: IT, Mauritius
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  • I compared 2 prices of the same laptop.
    Well, unfortunately the laptop does NOT exist in Mauritius.

    Some specification before going into more details.
    It’s a i7 second generation processor with turbo boost up to 3.10, having a 4GB memory, 2GB dedicated GT 525 Nvidia graphic card, 500GB Sata hard disk with advanced wireless and bluetooth and dvd writer.

    xxx USA, Australia has the laptop priced at 1,100 dollar. Here it is another story. The laptop isn’t available here. They will bring it. And it MIGHT cost at least 2 and a half times more than the price abroad. Seriously?

  • Kamal

    Definitely agree with you πŸ™‚

    Just a quick note though, Education in Mauritius @ University level is not really that good in IT. For certifications like MCITP, CCNA etc ? What i think is that you’ve got do it as it’s not vendor neutral and Universities won’t include such modules in their courses. Bsc nowadays don’t have much value compared to professional certificates because they are not updated properly with the latest in the industry…

    Now for IT Security in Mauritius, who cares about them ? no one i would assume. Had a call from a bank last year looking to implement ISO27001, they thought it would be only around Rs20,000 to implement the standard and later said they don’t need it. So in terms of security, no one really cares about them.

    Anyway… We won’t be a cyber island any time soon. You are right spot on with this article.


  • It may seem not so obvious but one of the reasons why “cybertechnology” hasn’t caught on is because Mauritians aren’t quite tech-savvy (ok, n00bs!). Many still struggle to operate an ATM, now to ask them to use QR codes…

    & I think if some of the online services aren’t there, then it’s a great thing – an opportunity for us to build them (startups!). πŸ™‚
    Here’s an example. The other day, I was stranded at a bus stop & I wanted to know the bus schedules. So I googled ‘NTA bus routes’ cos I knew the pdfs were there. Instead I found a great website – – which gave me the information I needed straightaway.
    Later, I saw that this website had been built by a foreign student… Why couldn’t we have done that? πŸ™‚

  • Great analysis of the current situation. I miss my super fast internet cable connection back in Belgium. I hate the slow and expensive internet connection here which prevents me from enjoying video streaming. We live in cyber-hope…

  • InF

    @Kamal: I don’t want BSc’s or whatever to include CCNA/MCITP or vender-specific content in their course. It’s just that what they teach is not immediately applicable in industry. They even teach outdated crap that no one uses.

    What would be nice is teaching some good application stuff that you can put into practice. Like game programming. Or computer animation. Or music production. Or secure application consultancy. Things like that.

    @Carrot: Good finding! That site will certainly be useful. Can’t understand why we didn’t do that locally though, as you said. I bet if we had more services like that, and people start using them, it’d really boost the IT culture here.

    @Mike: Haha streaming is an impossible feat in Mauritius. I was trying to use Dropbox and it was so slow in Mru, I basically gave up.

    Thanks for all your comments people! πŸ™‚

  • Kamal

    @INF – That’s what i actually meant, they can’t include include professional certificates in BSCs or MSCs etc… But still they have to get the modules updated with the latest technology in the Industry. For Example, i know someone who creates web apps just after finishing his Uni, but has no clue about securing it.

    You said “what they teach is not immediately applicable in industry”, i would change that to most of what they teach is already outdated and not applicable at all. But anyway, the fault lies a bit with the private industry, they just don’t want to update their services as well, so you will have to keep studying old stuff. I know many firms still running Windows 2000 on their servers… So…

    I agree with you for Gaming Developments, Animation etc as it has been really popular in the last few years but here they just don’t bother getting such stuff at professional level.

    But i will still maintain, you can’t do much with just a BSC or MSC, you will need to specialize in a specific field, be it Network Security, Gaming Development etc with vendor specific certifications… But one be careful as the Job Market here in Mauritius is not really that great too.

  • Kamal

    @Tushal – It depends with whom you are dealing as the market here for top of the range Laptops is not good enough for companies to get a good stock, so when they order one, they will charge you a lot for it… Try online shopping!

  • Arjoon

    Total agreement with you. Buying online, this takes forever to receive our goods. Well, immigration is my only solution

  • Julio

    Education is expensive?
    Man, you always get what you pay for. Right?

  • Allow me to play devil’s advocate, for I understand the frustrations expressed in this blog post.

    When I visited Egypt a few years back, I would never have guessed that young people would take on the government. The Stars Centre was packed with young people at Starbucks, McDonalds and so on. The only time I felt uneasy was when a police officer wielding a gun demanded that I delete all the photos I had stored on my camera. So all seemed well on the surface, but one can’t see youth unemployment and to me it was only ever visible in statistical data.

    Mauritius potentially faced a similar issue with youth unemployment, although I very much doubt it would have led to same consequences as in Egypt. Many students leave school at 18, all literate and all unwilling to work in the sugar cane fields. So past and present governments have made job creation for this age group a priority, hence the growth in the number of call centres on the island. In this respect, the Cyber-Island project has been successful and for a government keeping the majority in work is an election winner.

  • InF

    @Julio: Education is certainly worth the expense. The prices for professional certificates can be high, because the rewards you get after completing them is generally very high as well.

    What I want is for Government to introduce price regulation so the prices can be as low as possible. Doesn’t mean I want CCNA to be priced at Rs. 100. I just don’t want training centres to charge Rs. 55,000 when others can charge Rs. 21,000 for basically the same thing.

    @Stephen: Oh.. awkward moment with the policeman…

    Government certainly is doing a number of things for youth employment. No complaints there. Call centres do hire tons of people anyway.

    It’d be good if we get quality employment up too. Call centres, let’s face it, are just people using phones. It does not bring innovation to the IT sector. A few startups here and there, with a few bright ideas to market and we may see our very own Mauritian Microsoft someday, who knows.

    But if bright graduates are merely herded into call centres and BPO code-factories, instead of turning their potential to research and innovation, the future is a bit bleak…

  • That’s a great post!

    I’ve been writing about some of the things you mention for a few years now. You’re right about Mauritius needing more entrepreneurs instead of BPO employees. This is the best way to increase wealth in the country. It’s a pity the Government does not seem to care about providing quality education and, consequently, universities here are abysmal. Let’s hope people can learn by themselves using the resources available online…

    What’s missing in Mauritius is a 10-year vision and plan.

  • InF

    Mr. Meetoo, welcome! This is your first comment I believe.

    Indeed, Mauritius needs a 10-year vision and plan, especially for education and IT development. In fact, there is a (long) document describing the long-term strategy of Government for IT. I haven’t read it personally, but I can safely assume much of it remains to be done.

    The one thing I am fairly sure is getting done is bringing basic computing education to the masses. For that, Government needs congratulations. IC3 and computing at primary school level are fantastic introductions.

  • UZz

    Its time to Shop everythings online now in mauritius.. i recomend you this awesome website.. there is a General Retailer online Store in mauritius who had been launched officially in mauritius on 1st december 2010. Its easy to find everythings you want to buy online on Fast Delivery – 24/7 Toll Free Customer Care, Live Chat Support and email support. Delivery in less than 24hours. Impressive Online Shopping in Mauritius. Pay by credit card, Internet banking , cheque and more interesting is dat you can pay CASH ON DELIVERY too.. 24.7 Helpline toll free.. cool.. 100% Mauritians..

    Have a look friends…
    Cheers Guys

  • InF

    Interesting. I didn’t know that site existed.

    Anybody used TCL Online Store before? A review would be welcome!

  • guest

    Yep, it’s all about having the “cyber” culture, and culture short also. It will not be very fun, but very funny … Student loans … frankly the rs 30,000, I understand may not be affordable to all purses, but these are the “entry level” prices in the international market … Successful start ups, even the call centres and BPOs are setup here as well as overseas by graduates or students of the 1500 best universities in the world, culture, and education need to be dramatically scaled up for this.

  • Roy Mathur

    I agree with just about everything you say and only a couple of hours ago, I would have probably written a similar post (though a little less well researched than your own). I moan about this stuff all the time to anyone who will listen.

    We need start-ups yes, but most people haven’t got en sous to rub together here, so we need money, expertise and a climate conducive to nerdly endeavors. We need something like YCombinator ( here in Mauritius, preferable in Cyber City. When I spoke to the government representative of the ICT/NCB Incubator scheme ( at InfoTech 2011, everything seemed upside down. They offer some biz training, no angel investment and expect you to pay THEM!

    I’m sure Mauritius could could totally pwn other countries technologically speaking, its just a matter of the right kind of encouragement, i.e. MONEY, training (like hard-core programming skills, NOT school certificates) and the right environment (e.g. a 24/7 hour high tech geek campus in Cyber City and regular transport to and from this nerdvana.

    That’s my deux sous.

    By the way, if you are a Mauritian games coder (or any other kind of tech nerd, blogger whatever…), please get in touch. I’d like to interview you for the Independent Daily.

  • Inf

    I had forgotten about YCombinator. It’d be good to have such a company in Mauritius, i.e. a Startup Launcher, but I don’t think there are that many startups forming in Mauritius at the moment. Also, you need investors and money and I don’t think you’ll find many investors in Mauritius to put money in startups just yet.

    But you are correct. Mauritius should stop trying to copy others e.g. Singapore etc, and come up with our own solutions. Who knows, maybe we can come up with something better than them. We have knowledgeable people and we only need the will to try instead of copy.

    We might even sell our skills to other countries someday. Mauritius as a true services hub. Not bad.

  • manz r li bientot (mo croire ek esperer) tou moricien pou lever ek developer dans tou les sense du terme.

  • rudessdt

    we realise its just another of the thousands political jokes! and they speak that work with so much weight as you pointed out.

  • u did not mention about buying online, the kind of pressure u get at customs of why you bought such n such products.

  • man when will vodafone, o2 or 3 networks take is bullshit as its name and service..cant even have a proper bill pay contract in this island :((

  • Yusuf Boodhun

    Two years later, the points mentioned above are still valid.

  • Chris

    I kind of agree with all you stated above. Its disheartening, cos before coming to Mauritius, with all I dug from my internet search, I actually thought that this nation would be just as described on blogs, YouTube vids, Q&A sites, and all that! But its actually the opposite of all I thought.

    However, most of these problems exist in other African nations and other parts of the world, but in Mauritius, it surprises me that big players like EMTEL and Orange cannot have an effect on the IT sector. I felt bad when I got to know that the BPOs are what represents more than half the IT sector in Mauritius. Seriously, what do the undergrads do at the university and what do these universities impact in students?

    Where is that will to do and get things done? Basically, its lacking among most Mauritians, as I get to meet and discuss with them almost every day. They all want a comfortable life, a good job, “a girlfriend”, live with parents, no much hassle and stress, jobs that do not stress the brain, … and all those comfortable shit!

    They hardly challenge themselves! Even in school, I study with Mauritians. If you’re the type that likes to go extra mile, they see you as a student who just want to show off or is maybe proud or they just create a false image about such person. Its disheartening! I don’t know how they’re groomed from high school but as a student coming into the university with such mindset is just wrong!

    Also, looking at this issue: “lack money and investors”, there’s this popular saying, “where there is a will, there is always a way!” That’s why when people say, money and investors are big issues affecting startups in Mauritius, I’d tell them, you still don’t know what it means to have the WILL! cos the moment you do, you’ll know that money is just not an issue. The WILL is the issue! The PASSION, the DRIVE, the LOVE!

    There’s barely no technology in Mauritius! Yet about 5000 students graduate from Computer Science and IT related fields. I’m not a Mauritian, in my country, its not perfect! but I think a really small nation like this one (even my homecity is about 25 times bigger in population), should be far better in technology than my homecity!

    I am designing some programs or say startup that may likely change the course of IT and its perception in Mauritius!

    Sometimes I do think, dont people in this country want to be remembered or recognised in this life for some great, something nice?! Like say, “it was so, so and so that changed the course of IT and its perception in Mauritius”, “so and so have built a technological empire in Mauritius, in Africa”, “so and so research and media labs have been created by …..” these and lots more are great achievements, that any knowledgeable individual can achieve! You don’t need to a genius, although you may need some of them working for you! You don’t want dumb asses screwing up your dream!

    Even the media is fucking asleep! But I know, just like you and me, there also a lot of people out there looking for these changes… the YOUTHS are the future of this country! Don’t expect your mother, your father, your guardian, politicians, the Minister for IT and Communications, your ageing professor, or older people to be the ones affecting and effecting these needed changes! Mauritians need to know this! The YOUTHS should inspire and make these changes! That’s how its done!

    The last time I checked, almost 70% of all inventions, innovations and great ideas were from youths! Everything we enjoy today in this world are products of someone’s youth age! Why don’t you make a good, unforgettable, remarkable and life changing use of your youth?!

    Instead of looking for a girlfriend, sticking with family, dad, mum, grannies, and others under the same roof, I’d better stay somewhere else, fix my head on a 20-hour study and research just for a better world! My parents are doing all they can, I should do more!

    My dad always told me, “never you settle for a salary”! Salaries are bullshit shoved in your face! Its just an advanced slavery! where you actually get to dress nice, get paid, receive raise, and promotion… its highly sugar coated… but its still slavery! He always said: “The day you begin to think you’re okay under my roof, the day you begin to think life should be easy and comfortable (forget what tech is trying to do, life can never be easy and comfortable, even for the world richest), the day you begin to take the back row letting others be the ones doing, the very day you begin to have doubts in even the tiniest possibility of you being great, that’s the same day you begin a slave!”

    I can take a hundred pages typing as much as I could and would, but the key things, like I mentioned earlier are: WILL, PASSION, DRIVE, LOVE, Ability to take responsibilities to better life!

    After you’ve got these, I bet you you’ll only need money and people to help execute!

    Thank you!

  • Inf

    Nice, long thoughtful comment, Chris. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I’ll comment on a few points.

    Most University students in Mauritius are streamed into programming fields because that’s what the BPO sector needs and wants. The Govt is doing its best to produce programmers. There are even specialized courses for that now. Just churning out programmers. IT is vast. It’d be good to have more diversity in qualifications.

    Kids here do like the ease of life you mention, living with parents etc. That’s why I think, you don’t see many startups. Same reason why the youths are not active in politics or media. Too much work. Too much trouble.

    I wished Mauritius became more technology driven – computerizing everything so everyone is immersed in tech everyday, everywhere. For e.g., buying stuff online, ordering your tickets through mobile phones, and various eServices. It’s there, but not developing fast enough which is very sad. Slowly, we’re getting more things. The challenge is getting the masses to use these services. For e.g., eFiling tax forms is very popular now. More services should be implemented like that.

    I hope I was able to provide some answers to you.

  • Hi,
    Anyone here ? i’m Mauritian and will start a startup , i need your opinion as i’m in the i.t industry !