The Mexican government has adopted an ambitious plan to reduce the digital divide that exists in the country through the development of a national system called e-Mexico, that will allow the greatest possible part of the population to have access to ICTs (http://www.e-mexico.gob.mx). The purpose of this initiative is to enable citizens to communicate among themselves, with their government and with the rest of the world.
The e-Mexico national system has as its main target to offer access to a series of contents and applications in the matter of education, health, commerce, tourism, government services and other community services, in order to contribute to quality of life as well as offering more opportunities to companies and promoting faster and more equitable development for all regions and communities, especially the most needy areas.
The e-Mexico national system will provide sufficient telecommunications bandwidth to small communities to allow simultaneous Internet access for a minimum number of computer terminals in each community, as well as additional telephone lines so as to provide higher quality telecommunication services at lower prices. In the first phase of this project, 2400 communities will be covered, to which in a second phase 10,000 points of presence will be added.
Although the Federal Government is providing leadership and substantial economic support for the project, e-Mexico is a grid of distribution and information in which ministries, schools, libraries, researchers and individuals as well as private operators are participating. It is intended as an integrating project of technological and operator convergence, linking existing public and private networks to generate synergy and advantages to benefit society.
Telecommunications, postal services and information technology are a key sector of the Moroccan economy and are considered of vital importance for the achievement of the government's main growth, job creation and disparity-reduction targets. Major institutional reforms have been carried out in this area.
The Secretariat of State for Postal Services and Information and Communication Technology is the government agency that has been assigned the mission of bringing Morocco into the information age, promoting the development of a competitive and dynamic telecom industry in order to ready Morocco for the challenges of the 21st century, and making postal services more competitive by improving their management methods and bringing them up to the highest international standards. For this purpose, the Secretariat plans to:
Ensure access to telecom, postal and IT services for Moroccan businesses in order to improve their competitiveness. The Secretariat considers it critically important that optimal conditions of timing, quality and price be met in satisfying business demand for such services. The range of available services must also be wide enough to meet the expressed demand.
Ensure access to modern means of communication and information for the disadvantaged and inhabitants of remote areas. For this purpose, the Secretariat is working with other appropriate government agencies to define objectives with respect to land-use planning and universal telecom and postal service, with a view to guaranteeing sufficient coverage of needs at a reasonable cost to the general public and to operators. It is working to put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure that providers of postal and telecom services can carry out their public service mission effectively and in a manner that is responsive to public needs.
Promote modernization and efficiency in the government administration and particularly in public institutions that provide social services in the fields of education and health care, by expanding their access to information technology and developing their capacity to use IT effectively.
Improve the overall performance of postal services and increase their financial self-sufficiency by developing all segments of the postal market (new, higher-quality services, long-term improvement of the quality of all services) and enhancing productivity.
Gradually liberalize the postal market, streamline regulations and offer the private sector opportunities for greater participation.
Grant postal operator BAM sufficient financial and commercial independence to make it a modern, dynamic business operating in an increasingly competitive environment.
Promote the development of postal financial services in order to give a larger segment of the population access to financial services (savings, credit and insurance products), particularly in the country's most remote rural areas; to mobilize savings and use them to stimulate private investment and the development of financial markets; and to diversify the postal operator's sources of revenue at a time of growing liberalization of postal services, redefinition of the State monopoly in the area, and transformation of BAM's legal status.
Support the emergence of new economic activities in Morocco based on IT development and use.
The legislative and institutional framework for postal services, telecommunications and information technology has been overhauled. The changes include:
Morocco's signing of to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Basic Telecommunications, of which it was one of the main architects;
The enactment of Act 24/96 in August 1997, allowing competition in all segments of the telecommunications market and the privatization of the historic carrier. The Act provided for the separation of postal and telecom operations through the creation of a public postal institution (BAM) and an independent telecommunications company (IAM). It also established a telecommunications regulatory agency (ANRT) reporting to the Prime Minister.
The enactment of 15 decrees and executory orders under Act 24/96. With respect to interconnection, an executory decree established general principles for interconnection, a dispute settlement mechanism, required elements of interconnection contracts, and general technical and pricing principles for interconnection services. Other executory decrees regulate leased lines and introduce a list of value-added services that may be provided following a simple declaration to the regulator.
The adoption of an "information technology development plan", which was finalized and made public.
The "on-line government" initiative, aimed at linking all departments and their staff, was announced by the Government Council on October 28 and should be fully operational by the end of 2001.
The "e-commerce initiative" was launched with the drafting of regulatory texts on electronic data exchange and electronic signatures, and approval for three Moroccan companies to provide e-commerce services on national platforms.
At the same time, significant progress has already been made toward full liberalization of telecommunications and opening up the industry to the private sector, including:
The granting of a second licence for mobile telephone services using GSM technology to a consortium led by Telefonica of Spain and Portugal Telecom, in August 1999;
The granting of two licences to operate GMPCS networks for the provision of digital paging and localization services, as well as telephony, fax and data transmission, in the first half of 2000;
The granting of three licences for VSAT telecommunications networks, in March 2000.
The approval of more than 1,800 Internet service providers (ISPs) and Internet cafés, many of which are subsidiaries of EU-based operators.
The decision by the Moroccan government in January 2000 to fully liberalize the telecom industry by 2002.
With respect to postal services, authorization for four private firms to offer attractive products that meet market demand for fast, reliable international delivery of documents and parcels.
Considerable effort has already been made toward achieving the objectives listed above. With respect to telecommunications, the number of telephone lines increased from 260,000 at the end of 1987 to 1.5 million in 1999. The average waiting time for installation of a line has been cut from 80 months to 1.4 months (including rural areas). The transmission network's capacity has increased from almost 4,000 to 466,000 circuits, using primarily fibre optic technology. The use of SDH fibre-optic technology and the near total digitization of transmission and switching systems have substantially improved network reliability and now support an expanded range of services including videotex, ISDN, Internet and high-speed links. The number of automated rural communes has increased from 65 to 1,058, or 82% of the 1,297 rural communes. The number of payphones increased from 484 at the end of 1987 to 36,000 at the end of 1999, 83% of which are managed by private operators.
As of January 2001, there were over 2.7 million subscribers to NMT-450 and GSM-900 cellular systems, which cover the main roads and the administrative centres of all the prefectures and provinces of the Kingdom. The near-total digitization of transmission and switching systems, and the development of new networks, have noticeably improved service quality and reliability.
The Internet, introduced in November 1995, is spreading slowly but surely. There are now over 1,800 ISPs and Internet cafés, with over 200,000 subscribers to Internet service and steady growth in the Internet café market.
There has been explosive growth in computers since 1991 as a result of lower prices and lower import duties, which were cut from 42.5% to 17.5% on January 1, 1996. Moroccans own an estimated 200,000 personal computers, for a penetration rate of 0.7%. Annual sales vary between 40,000 and 50,000 units.
The number of computer firms is estimated at over 800; they employ an estimated total of 4,000 people and have annual sales of about 3 billion dirhams (DH).
Initiatives to improve the management of postal services are also in progress. The creation of Barid Al-Maghrib (BAM) in 1998 established a platform for sustainable improvement in order to enhance the effectiveness of postal services. BAM has produced a corporate strategy and investment plan for the 1999-2003 period. A study is being conducted to recommend appropriate business structures and systems to support efficient implementation of the strategic options.
New products have appeared and new partnerships have been established to offer more and higher-quality financial services. The expanded network of points of sale, consisting of 2,400 retail locations, offers partners (banks and insurance companies) an attractive opportunity to reach new regions and new customers who are not being served at present.
Management of postal cheques and of the national savings bank has been computerized, delivering steady improvements in service. New IT-based fund transfer services have been introduced, including electronic money orders and access to the Eurogiro network for foreign transfers. New domestic express mail services have been launched (Poste rapide nationale, Rapid'j and Rapid'H). Pilot cyber-mail sites have been installed at post offices and universities. For the second year in a row, BAM reported healthy earnings (approximately 92.7 million DH in 1999, compared with 55 million DH in 1998).