MERGERS, ACQUISITIONS AND FINANCIAL RESULTS

ICT sector is boosting Tunisia’s economy

Results scored by the information and communication technologies sector in the first half of 2008 revealed a great dynamics at both quantitative and qualitative levels, as part of the implementation of orientations meant to further develop and modernise this sector to help step up its contribution to boost investments.

Among the major quantitative indicators recorded in the first half of 2008 there is notably:

The number of subscribers to the mobile telephony network posted a remarkable increase. It reached 8 million 120 thousand subscribers by the end of June 2008, compared with 7 million 80 thousand users for the same period of 2004, i.e. a 15-pct rise. Telephone density reached 80 users per 100 inhabitants.

An improvement in the quality of mobile telephone services was recorded which helped reduce congestion and saturation of traffic in rush periods, thanks to the programmes and measures decided to attenuate congestion in a noticeable manner, bringing it down to 2% compared with 16% in the previous year.

The mobile telephone SMS traffic rose by 30% in the first six months of the current year (80 million SMS) compared with 61 million SMS in the previous year.

In the Internet area:

The number of subscribers to the ADSL (broadband Internet connection) network doubled, reaching over 153,000 users by late June 2008 compared with 76,000 users for the same period of 2007.

To June 2008, 27% of ADSL users benefited from an internet connection speed of over 512 Kb versus only 12% in the previous year and 22,000 ADSL subscribers had a connection speed higher to 1MB/s compared with 4500 users in the same period of 2007.

The Internet services were enriched this year by the launching of WIMAX-based services. The number of companies connected to this network reached 700 by 2008.

Besides, the number of subscribers to the satellite data transmission network (VSAT) posted an increase, reaching 420 users notably among companies exporting software and computer systems and call centres.

The number of Internet users reached 2 million 68 thousands up from 1,618,000 in the same period of 2007, i.e. a rise of 28%.

Besides, the country's connection to the international Internet network was doubled in 2008, reaching 5.1 GBit/s compared with 2.4GB/s in the same period of 2007.

The creation of web sites also posted a noticeable rise, reaching nearly 18% in the first half of 2008. Hence, the number of web sites rose from 5,270 late June 2007 to 6,200 in the same period of 2008.

Efforts have been stepped up to further boost investment and job creation in information and communication technologies-based activities.

In this respect, the creation of call centres witnessed a remarkable development, including notably centres dedicated to foreign markets. The number of centres increased by 44% and so did the volume of jobs which rose by 54%.

The number of call centres reached 175 by late June 2008, providing nearly 15,400 jobs especially for higher graduates compared with 122 centres and 10,000 jobs in the same period of the previous year.

The creation of these centres is no longer limited to the area of Greater Tunis and coastal cities but also extended to the country's inland cities.

In the field of computer systems' securitisation advisory services, the number of private experts rose considerably, reaching 160 by late June 2008 compared with 103 in the same period in 2007, i.e. an increase of 55%.

With regard to electronic certification, the number of users of electronic signature certificates has more than doubled, with 2,461 certificates by late June 2008 compared with 1,154 for the same period of 2007.

Moreover, the year 2008 witnessed the launch of the programme of the connection of industrial zones and administrative and economic services' zones. This programme will allow nearly 1400 companies to connect to the modern telecommunications networks and benefit, according to their needs, from broadband connection ranging from 2 MB/s to 1 GB/s.

The achievement of this project has reached an advanced stage, namely 60 % by late June 2008. It is expected to be completed by the end of the current year.

Moreover and in order to provide broadband connection to higher education institutions, the relevant project consisting in connecting 300 university institutions in various regions of the country has reached a furtherance rate of 90%.

With regard to electronic transactions, the service of postal cheques via Internet witnessed a noticeable rise.

Hence, the number of companies which subscribed to this service reached 4452 by late June 2008 compared to 2620 in the same period of 2007, i.e. a rise of 70%

Moreover, electronic payment operations by the Universal e-Dinar card reached 180,000 operations in June 2008, up from 158,000 operations in the same period of 2007, i.e. a rise of 14%

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