Morocco targets wider ICT use


Morocco recently adopted a national digital strategy aimed at expanding the use of information and communications technology (ICT) by the public, the government and businesses by 2013.

In the presence of King Mohammed VI, the government and banking institutions agreed on Saturday (October 10th) to allocate 5.2 billion dirhams for the "Maroc Numeric 2013" initiative.

"One aim of the strategy is to bring the government closer to the public and businesses," Trade and Industry Minister Ahmed Reda Chami said at the signing ceremony in Rabat.

"The government will ensure that the services offered in Morocco are the same as those offered internationally," Chami added.

Businesses have hailed the initiative, which targets adding 27 million dirhams to Morocco's GDP. "The strategy is based on a high-quality plan that will create jobs and help small and medium-sized businesses modernise," the president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Companies, Mohamed Horani, told Magharebia.

Central to the strategy are efforts to ensure that one in three Moroccan families, rather than the present one in 10, will have a high-speed Internet connection by 2013.

The new strategy also prioritises giving young people Internet access. To this end, some 400 computer centres will be built in low-income districts and remote areas.

"One hundred centres will be set up in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sport, and the other 300 will be set up with the help of other partners including the national postage company, Poste du Maroc," the head of the National Telecommunications Regulation Agency, Azeddine El Montassir Billah, told Magharebia.

"All youth clubs will provide Internet access so that young people can get online free of charge," Minister of Youth and Sport Moncef Belkhyat said at the signing ceremony, adding that more than 80,000 engineering students at technical schools "will be given laptops with Internet access".

Economic development is a key goal of the strategy. According to government forecasts, "Maroc Numeric 2013" will create 26,000 jobs.

In this regard, efforts will be made to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to use ICT by granting subsidies of nearly 60% for purchases of sector-specific IT solutions. The new efforts are in accordance with the government's ongoing support for innovation in the field through a national fund for ICT development. The fund, with an initial allocation of 100 million dirhams, was created last fall in partnership with the Association of Information Technology Professionals.

"Technology is of fundamental importance in modernising and developing the national economy and also making it more attractive," Minister of Economy and Finance Salaheddine Mezouar said during Saturday's signing ceremony.

While many Moroccans welcomed the new strategy, some are tempering their enthusiasm with calls for a greater volume of Internet content.

"There are few Moroccan websites, and Internet users need easy access to local information from Moroccan sources," Hafid Karimi, told Magharebia. "I hope the strategy will also deal with this aspect. The development of the e-government strategy will go some of the way towards achieving this goal. The private sector also needs to be given encouragement."