Building a Digital Economy | Reboot or Catalyst?
One year later, and we are still talking about COVID-19 and its repercussions on different fronts. This isn’t going to change anytime soon as the virus altered the way businesses think and react to constantly changing customer behaviors.These profound changes have also urged the digitisation of various sectors, including traditional ones, to build resilience.
This rapid paradigm shift towards digitisation at different levels can be seen with the increasing number of e-commerce, social media usage, internet connectivity, and so many other digital metrics. However, with increasing connectivity, comes new challenges for marketers and businesses.
So, as we celebrate our 53rd Independence Day anniversary, are we still on track for Mauritius 2030 vision? What challenges should we expect in the digital landscape and how can we overcome them?
According to a recent report from Gartner, Inc, digital and IT spending is estimated to amount to $3.9 trillion in 2021. This represents an increase of 6.2% from 2020. The main drivers to this increase is mainly to ensure business continuity through remote working, online shopping, and other digital services.
The same digital transformation wave also impacted Mauritius. We’ve seen local business leaders realising the potential in investing and deploying online capacities to address the new needs of both employees and customers. Moreover this also came with conscious decisions to lay down heavy loads, streamline operations, to help organisations gain traction, even during an economic downturn.
Another driver which also steadfastly supports the digital transformation of our economy is our connectivity. Mauritius enjoys a 64% internet penetration rate; among the highest in the Indian Ocean.
However, the journey towards a digital Mauritius is still long. Various stakeholders pressured by the aftermath and paroxysm of COVID-19 will have to re-assess investment areas; starting from legislations, infrastructure, and most importantly people upskilling. Mobile apps and fancy websites won’t suffice to propel the country towards a digital and tech savvy economy; we’ll need collaborative efforts from all stakeholders.
On our path to a digital economy, there’s a need for new and updated regulations acting as both “guardians” and “encouragers”. These will also act as real catalysts to collaboration within a safe digital landscape; hence preventing critical societal change.
Digital transformation and emerging technologies often create a widening gap and disconnect between existing regulations. Furthermore, they often break the boundaries and allow cross-borders transfer of data. Hence, the need to create easily modulable and adaptive ones regulations to govern the use of digital channels.
A blatant example is the increasing powers of the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) which is raising a question of limitation of power and influence on countries. The recent case of the Australian government versus Facebook, should raise an alert for the Mauritian democracy.
Locally, we’ve seen, in recent years, a rise in fake news, racist comments, and online activism. Should we compare these trends to the Arab Spring? Definitely not. Social media has had the tendency to isolate people with big organisations bombarding users with one side of the story thus tampering the open discussions. Yet again, these should trigger
These alerts ring the alarm bell for regulations managed by fully independent bodies to create a level playing and secure digital ecosystem. The main challenge would eventually be to regulate information within a thin line between freedom of expression and censorship.
What the economic downturn of 2008 showed us is the ability for innovative organisations to come up with solutions, new services as well as products. The recent digital transformation wave saw a rise in peer-to-peer platforms which are equally tech-enabled.
From emerging technologies to FinTech, local organisations are embracing innovation for product development as well as driving revenue from new sources. Innovation is also changing business models; urging companies to adopt a sustainable, inclusive and technology driven approach.
Lately, the Government is setting the wheels for innovation into motion with the implementation of a Regulatory Sandbox Licence to help local technopreneurs test viable solutions against regulatory and legal frameworks. Regarding the FinTech industry, we’ve seen an increase in AML/CFT concerns for local enterprises, including those dealing with cryptocurrencies and digital assets. Local authorities are also supporting those enterprises spurring innovation through emerging tech like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, and Information Technology, among others.
Another much awaited initiative is the opening of the data technology park at Cote D’Or announced in Budget 2020 and grants allocated by the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council. These will offer the infrastructure and technologies to derive innovative solutions. As we transition to a cashless, connected, digitise, and intelligent Mauritius, it will be interesting to see the impact of such innovative solutions on the local population. Are we ready to fully transition? Will we have outliers?
Innovative solutions will greatly depend on the talent we have locally to reimagine and transform the way we do business. Attracting foreign talent, particularly with Premium Visa, and upskilling our people could be pillars of innovation.
Building a Digital Economy | Reboot or Catalyst?
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