What can dholl-puri teach us about ICT development?

October 1, 2015

I read this article on lexpress.mu where the Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation is mentioned to have traveled to Estonia in search of inspiration & to study how the small baltic country of a population similar to Mauritius transformed itself into an ICT developed country.

Meanwhile in another article on defimedia.info I read the interview of Sanjay Subron, who said it is because “creativity” isn’t the strong point of Mauritians that we lag to catch up with the developed countries.

It starts with our education system, which does not teach us to exploit our inner potentials but rather forces us (against our nature most of the time) to mould our thinking according to what some people have defined as essential. This indeed kills creativity because parents, teachers, school and society only want the kids to have good grades; but what to make of those good grades?

Let’s come back to the situation where the minister is trying to pick up inspiration from Estonia. The first thing that the minister should look for is whether Estonia built-up its ICT strategies based on their own culture & demographics or they too copied someone else. See, there is a catch here. Mauritian “leaders” have this tendency to copy & paste foreign templates thinking what worked elsewhere might work here. They tried with the Cyber Island concept and ended with the Cyber City being filled with call-centres and IT Support. There was recently a buzz about Smart Island but it appears to now have shadowed by the “Smart Cities” idea or maybe it is just an evolution in the writing.

ICT Development, Ebène, Mauritius

Every now and then local fellows might voice out concerns but those are never paid attention to. Why? Foreign expertise sounds more lucrative than local creativity.

Recently in an answer in the parliament the following was said:

"However, I am advised that, according to experts from Singapore Cooperation Enterprise, the minutiae are irreversible. Therefore, they cannot be converted back into fingerprints."

Our local “leaders” listened to Singoporean expertise and assume it is okay to store minutiae because it is not possible to revert them into fingerprints. Does that qualify the minutiae as being a non-biometric & non-personal data? Oops. Maybe no one asked Singaporean companies.

Now, the Supreme Court of Mauritius said the following in a court verdict:

“we grant a permanent writ of injunction prohibiting the defendants from storing, or causing to be stored, as the case may be, any fingerprints or biometric information data obtained on the basis of the provisions in the National Identity Card Act and the Data Protection Act.”

The Supreme Court of Mauritius prohibits the storage of “biometric information data”. Isn’t the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation doing it wrong?

Dholl-puri vs ICT development

To end this short essay, let’s take a basic example of every day life. Mauritians are fond of dholl-puri, right? Me too. No matter how much dholl-puri is popular in Mauritius, it might not be as popular if it is sold in the United States; just as no matter how much hot-dogs are liked in the US, they do not conquer the hearts here. Culture & demographics are important factors when considering development in a country. What works in the US, EU, Asia etc, might NOT necessarily work in Mauritius.

The key factor is doing research & development in one’s own country and apply the appropriate measures based on local habits.