The case for “open access” in Africa: Mauritius case study

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By Russell Southwood for APC

LONDON, United Kingdom, 26 September 2008

Mauritius, Cyber Island. Photo: KhayaL on FlickrMauritius, Cyber Island. Photo: KhayaL on FlickrAs other African countries along the SAT-3 submarine internet cable struggle with the high costs of monopolised international bandwidth, Mauritius has encouraged a lowering of prices through price-setting. But Mauritius Telecom had lowered its rates even before the government scale came into effect. The Cyber Island has seen a significant increase in its call centre and outsourcing sectors. Can Mauritius provide lessons to countries that are looking to boost their economies? This study written by Russell Southwood for APC in May, and now available for the first time in French and Portuguese, examines the relationship between international bandwidth prices in Mauritius and the impact of its Cyber Island strategy.

The case study looks at the relationship between international bandwidth prices in Mauritius and the impact of its Cyber Island strategy. Whilst other countries along the SAT-3/SAFE cable have struggled to find ways to address the high costs of monopoly international bandwidth on this cable, Mauritius has used a price determination to address the issue. Interestingly, once the process was announced, the incumbent Mauritius Telecom itself decided to lower prices ahead of the determination.

The example of Mauritius perhaps has lessons for other countries in Africa that want to find ways of changing the basis of their economies so that they can add “smart exports” alongside raw materials extraction, agriculture and tourism. Whilst is always hard to draw direct causal links between bandwidth prices and wider changes in the economy, it is clear that Mauritius’ call centre and outsourcing sectors began to get significant growth in the years when the international bandwidth prices came down.

The nature of “smart exports” – where countries use brain-power to add value to basic tasks – may change in the coming period. Although multinational companies have been driven to reduce their operating costs, they are also reflecting on the successes and failures of outsourcing. But there will also be new waves of outsourcing: for example, Lucas Films (responsible for the Star Wars movies) has set up a major new operation in Asia to do animation and specials effects. But whatever happens next, competitive international bandwidth will be essential to any country that wants to get this kind of work in the future.

Read The Case for “Open Access” in Africa: Mauritius case study

A related study is “The SAT-3/WASC cable“:en/node/6142/

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