Putting Mali online

Interview with Hamed Salif Camara, Managing Director of Information and Communication Technologies Agency

 

I N T E R V I E W

 

Leading Edge (LE): What is the situation of the information and communication technologies (ICTs) sector and of the digital economy in Mali?

Hamed Salif Camara (HSC): The digital economy already represents 9% of GDP and the sector is undergoing expansion. In particular, we have developed mobile money, which has stimulated the economy. People don’t need to have a bank account; all they need is a telephone number to be able to carry out transactions — and this clearly stimulates the economy and creates wealth.

HSC: AGETIC’s overall mission is to modernise the Malian government. We are in charge of training state officials in ICT careers, developing business applications for all government departments, and implementing robust infrastructure at a state level.

LE: What are these infrastructure projects and what stage are you at with the fibre-optic network?

HSC: Mali is very large and it’s hard to cover the entire territory, but we have started large projects. Private operators have laid fibre-optic cables in certain parts of the country and the state has also participated. Over time, we foresee that all information systems will be interoperable. Telecom operators must be able to use the state network and vice versa.

LE: To implement Mali’s digital strategy, it’s necessary to raise awareness and educate the population in the use of ICTs. Is AGETIC involved in this?

HSC: Yes, because one of our main responsibilities is to connect the country’s communes. Mali has 703 communes, and budgets today are inadequate, but we are still managing to make progress in our plan to connect the territory. Our goal is for all Malians to have access to the internet, technologies, different information systems and the services offered by the government. It is therefore essential to increase awareness among, and educate, the population. For the most recent commune elections, the entire voter registry was available online. People were able to check their polling station online before going there. Eventually, we envision online voting. In Africa, there are often disputes during elections. We can put an end to these by establishing a secure information system that ensures reliable results.

LE: You are in charge of the .ml domain and of creating the government intranet. What challenges need to be overcome in order to offer content specific to Malians and Africans?

HSC: It’s important for content to be developed so that a number of services can be absorbed. We are encouraging the use of the .ml domain name, in particular for state agencies. We are developing websites for state services, which we host and secure. It’s also important to train agents, so that they can present the data that we are providing. Additionally, we have to communicate with the public in order to encourage people to use the different services we are offering. We want to ensure a digital transition via the Mali Digital Plan 2020 — and we need citizens on our side to make this plan a success, because the modernisation of Mali will take place by ensuring all citizens are able to connect.

LE: Do you think that ICTs could play a key role in encouraging the economic development of Mali?

HSC: ICTs create jobs and wealth more than any other sector. The most developed and modern countries are precisely those that have encouraged the growth and expansion of ICTs. This government is relying on these technologies to encourage the growth of the economy and boost youth employment.