The Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation organized a workshop on the National Innovation Framework yesterday at the BPML Conference Hall, Cyber Tower I, Ebene. The National Innovation Framework was approved on the 7th of April by the Cabinet and consequently a collaborative work started along with the Mauritius Research Council and other stakeholders. The Executive Director did a presentation on the 2016 - 2020 plan for an “innovative” Mauritius and commended the work achieved by Nishith Desai Associates in drafting the National Innovation Strategy Plan.

The Minister of TCI, Hon. Mr Etienne Sinatambou, in the opening speech talked about issues and problems that need to be addressed. In fact, I reached the conference hall late due to looking for a proper parking space and I missed the beginning of his speech.

National Innovation Framework

As I took a seat in the second row, the Minister explained how & why he didn’t approve a tender for a job recruitment portal that would have cost taxpayers around Rs 2M. He insisted that an existing platform was commissioned earlier and that the same should be expanded and used to its full potential rather than putting money into something else to be built from ground-up.

The Minister also talked about the island-wide coverage with fiber-optics, hopefully by next year and boasted that achieving it would make Mauritius the only country in the world to be fully connected with fiber. Yes, being a small country does bring advantages and we really should capitalize on that. In the same context he mentioned that a 100Mbit/s connection should not be something far from happening.

The Minister however disagreed that internet is expensive in Mauritius. He used a pretty funny analogy, which I could not grasp at first, saying that a “chouchou” costs Rs 5 in the vegetable market while in supermarkets it would cost Rs 22. He then explained that people complaining about expensive internet do not realize that internet can be obtained freely through the municipality, the post office and other various WiFi zones.

We had a quick networking break. I met a few people while having coffee and we were back to the hall for the presentation by Dr Arjoon Suddhoo.

National Innovation Framework

He started the presentation thanking the Minister and said that the latter in his speech mentioned the word “we” approximately 312 times. I wondered whether he tallied that every time the word was mentioned. :D

Dr Suddhoo then gave brief overviews on how the rest of the world is innovating. He highlighted something very interesting when he said “each country is trying to innovate while addressing their local priorities”.

Are we addressing our priorities or we’re on a race to catch up with Singapore or South Korea? We really should ponder on that.

He took us on a flight to innovation as described by several gentlemen and took quotes from the Oslo Manual. He talked about FIRST and wished Mauritius could feature among the countries.

Dr Suddhoo emphasized on the need to increased sharing and collaboration among public institutions and open access to data.

A question & answer session followed the presentation whereby notes were taken by the Mauritius Research Council. I tossed a further discussion on the necessity of a 100Mbit/s local access and its positive impact for business.