September 23, 2011

Understanding Technology and Stability in Tunisia

As my airport taxi rolled into central Tunis, I was struck by the sheer volume of satellites straining towards the sky. Saucer-shaped dishes sprung every which way from buildings, roofs, and balconies like a sea of invading alien ships. Make no mistake: Tunisians are very well connected.

Granted, my attention was biased. I’m here in Tunisia with a team from Reboot to understand how information and communication technologies are impacting the nation during this unique post-revolutionary period.

With this framing, it was hard not to also notice the countless advertisements for voice, broadband, and mobile services. These began cropping up from the moment I first stepped into the country. I couldn’t help but smile on reaching passport control, where a massive screen blasted promotions of Tunisie Telecom’s latest 3G mobile apps.

These simple yet pervasive consumer items made clear the Tunisian’s commitment to the knowledge economy. The numerous signs promoting classes in web development, software engineering, and social media marketing only served to reinforce this sense.

Tunisia-ICT-Training-Web-21

A sign advertises technology training classes in downtown Tunis.

 

But many of the steps undertaken to ‘digitize’ Tunisia’s economy were pushed by the now reviled former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. With Tunisians now free to shape their own vision for the future, how might the emphasis on technology-enabled growth change? Perhaps more importantly for a stable society, how will previous investments in technology, and new ones to follow, impact job creation and the capacity of critical service providers?

These are but a few of the questions our team will work to answer over the weeks and months ahead. If you have an interest in these or similar questions, we encourage you to get in touch. Our approach recognizes and respects the vast amount of work being done in support of Tunisia’s future, by dedicated, experienced people here and abroad. We welcome research leads, discussion of methods, and other interesting queries. Just drop a note to insights AT thereboot DOT org with Tunisia in the subject line, and our team will get back with you.

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