World Telecommunications & Information Society Day 2016

May 19, 2016

The World Telecommunications and Information Society Day (WTISD) is celebrated on the 17th of May. Every year the National Computer Board organizes a seminar on the occasion and there are presentations around a theme proposed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

This year the Mauritius Research Council and the National Computer Board organized a joint event (17th and 18th May) at the Paul Octave Wiehe Auditorium. On the first day, which was an event planned under the Mauritius Research Council’s calendar of activities, the topic of discussion was «Internet of Things». The Director of the MRC, Dr Arjoon Sudhoo opened the ceremony and invited the Hon. Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation, Mr Etienne Sinatambou, for the keynote address. In his speech the Minister spoke about how some eleven years ago ICT was being taught on the blackboard in schools. He proudly expressed the current state of ICT in Mauritius and the pace at which it is evolving. Meanwhile, he also mentioned that at times we might be missing a couple of things, as in the morning radio programmes it makes him sad to hear that people still have to resort to making complaints via radio for things to progress. He shared his intention that his Ministry would be working to find ways to address complaints electronically. While mentioning other projects he would like his Ministry to get involve in, he did not miss the opportunity to speak about «nano technology».

Several presenters spoke about Internet of Things during the day. I particularly liked the «drone demo» of Mike Lebon.

Internet of Things

While it was my turn to present, many had already spoken about IoT technicalities. Since morning I edited my slides and made sure not to repeat something that has been spoken about already. My presentation was scheduled right after lunch. I started by showing a tweet of Sun Ramgolam, a fellow developer, who got stuck in heavy traffic at 11h00 in Port Louis.

I then continued by asking «what problem are we trying to solve?». The next few minutes were more a discussion on the problems that could be solved with IoT while other «infrastructure» related issues remain un-resolved. When it comes to IoT and sending huge amount of data to the cloud, we might have to re-think whether or not is it appropriate to send that data outside our «jurisdiction». I tossed the subject of «local hosting» and mentioned that we’ve (folks from the Mauritius Internet Users) been talking about that since Developers Conference 2015. Applications on a local cloud will significantly benefit from low latency.

I also talked about «vendor lock-in» and how being IoT consumers (rather than producers) in the context of Smart Cities might make us spend more in the long run.

Mark Isreal, Cloud Transformation Officer of Microsoft West East and Central Africa, spoke about… how much Microsoft loves Linux. :D Wooohooooo! Well, he talked about the Microsoft Cloud, Azure and yes many Linux instances are running there. Oh, wait, Azure loves Linux, we all know it.

Mark Israel, IoT event, Mauritius

I spent a great time on the first day, learning stuffs and meeting people. S. Moonesamy was around, I also met Gavin Sathan, Lecturer at the University of Mauritius, Ajmal Dookhan, Sun, Nirvan and several others.

On the second day of the event, the Vice President of the Republic addressed the keynote speech. He was welcomed by the Hon. Minister of TCI, Mr Etienne Sinatambou. After a coffee break and networking with folks, a quick chat with the Minister, we were back to the auditorium for the presentations.

Mr Vivekanand Lochun, Senior ICT Adviser to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development talked about ICT enablers in the years 198588.

Dr. Amal Bholah spoke about his experience and struggles to bridge the gap between his medical background and the technological know-how needed for his «health assistant» project.

Anibal Martinez from La Plage incubator talked on the transformation of ICT and the flexible nature of working from almost anywhere on the planet. He also spoke about the potential of local talents and how incubators could help.

I was back on stage, along with Mr Beegun, Chief Operation Officer, Barclays Bank Mauritius, and Mr Vikenand Lochun who chaired the panel for further discussions on «ICT entrepreneurship for social impact». Oh, I forgot to mention, that’s the theme tossed by ITU for WTISD 2016. The discussions took an interesting turn as the panel members were asked for comments on the need for Smart Cities. I did not hide my concerns about Smart Cities while the remaining part of the country might be left neglected. Mauritius could benefit a lot from its small size. Many cities in the world are even bigger than our country. Would it be difficult to develop the country as a whole? Having good infrastructure everywhere, a decent public transport and proper internet connectivity around the island? Mauritius can be one «big» Smart City if the decision makers think of the development of what exists already rather than building «new» places.

The second day was all fun as well. Met a lot of people and had great discussions. I however had un-finished conversations with a few folks and didn’t see them afterward. Nevertheless, I am sure we can catch up later and why not by email. :-)