Introduction - Tunisia

Tunisia is located in North Africa, in the eastern part of the Maghreb; bordered to the north and east by the Mediterranean Sea, to the south by Libya and to the West by Algeria; a crossroads between Europe on the one hand and the Middle East and Africa on the other hand. The name Tunisia is derived from its historic and economic capital, Tunis, located in the northeast and known as Carthage City. Tunisia has a surface area of almost 164,000 square kilometres (64,000 sq mi), made up of 24 governorates (administrative divisions). The population as at September 2018 was estimated at 11.686 million inhabitants with a literacy rate of 81.8% (CIA World Factbook). 67 percent of the total population is between 15 and 64 years of age. Tunis, the capital city, has a population of 1.067 million (2018, World Population Review). The official language is Arabic, and French and English are also fluently spoken.

Located on the south west of the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia has a strategic location and is diversity in climate and natural environment. Its Mediterranean coasts: west - east in the north, and north - south in the east open a wide space for the movement of people and goods. Tunisia has 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) of coastline. The north and centre of the country consist particularly of fertile soil and the south of the country is composed of desert areas and fertile oases.

In Tunisia, education is given a high priority and accounts for almost 7% of GNP. Since 1991, a basic education has been compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 16. Tunisia was ranked 17th in the category of "quality of the higher educational system" and 21st in the category of "quality of primary education" in The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-9, published by The World Economic Forum.

Tunisia has a developing economy. High quality tourist facilities are widely available in large urban and major resort areas. Tunisia has close social and cultural ties and economic cooperation agreements with Europe. Tunisian exports to the European Union market have consistently grown.

Tunisia considers the development of ICT in economic and social activities, administration, health, education, renewable energy and control of natural environments to be important. Tunisia endeavours to put the best ICT infrastructures in place to support economic growth, combined with highly qualified workforce to attract national and foreign investors in ICT and related technologies.

In terms of Communications, there are three main phone companies (Tunisie Telecom, Oreedoo and Orange) and one main Internet wholesaler (Agence Tunisienne de l'Internet ). Since January 2016, the three phone companies had direct access to the international Internet backbone. Based on statistics published by the Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, the were 16.298 million mobile subscriptions as at September 2018, with teledensity (fixed and mobile) of 140.9 per 100 inhabitants. The total number of Internet subscriptions (fixed and mobile) was 9.8 million as at September 2018, with 8.059 million mobile Internet subscriptions, 765,201 mobile Internet subscriptions using a key and 977,724 fixed Internet subscriptions.

There are 13 public universities (more than 208 public Higher Education institutions, 38 public research centres) and 72 private institutions of higher education. Of these 30 have Departments focused on ICT/Engineering.

ICT Background

Tunisia has a good policy framework in place including the updated ICT Policy, eGovernment and eAdministration Strategy (2005) and National Development Strategies. Tele-centres exist in almost every town and village.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has highlighted that ICT and particularly the software industry, services and multimedia stand out as the main focus of Tunisia's ICT development strategy. The ICT sector is dynamic and is considered to be a priority sector with one of the highest growth rates (11% between 2007-2014, 7.7% between 2015 - 2016) and a 7.5% contribution to GDP. The ICT sector accounts for 20% of exports in the services sector and about 3% of total national exports. During the period 2007 - 2011 there was a growth in investment and profits derived from investments of about 6.3 billion dinars (3.03 billion Euro) compared with 430 million dinars during the period 1992-1996. This growth is as a result of better infrastructure and increased private sector involvement (5% between 1992 - 1996 to 40% between 2002 - 2006).

Tunisian software firms operate in the following fields:

- Strategic planning in communication and information systems

- Counselling in information systems and ICT: diagnosis, modelling, and re-engineering studies

- Engineering and software development

- Communication networks engineering

- Embedded systems integration

- Integration of communication or information systems (ERP, CRM, BI, Global Banking, solutions E-Business/e-Trade, Wide Area Networks of companies etc)

- Multimedia services engineering

- Data management

- Data base management or distant services application

In order to promote digital economy in Tunisia and to boost the digital transformation, in 2014 Tunisia established a strategic vision, called "Tunisie Digitale 2020", which aims to transform ICT an important enabler for socio-economic development. With a provisional budget of around 70 million Dinars for the period 2017-2020, the objective of the "Tunisie Digitale 2020" strategy is to develop a national platform offering a set of e-services (e-health, e-training, e-culture, e-tourism, e-commerce, etc.) for citizens, thus bridging social disparities. This vision also addresses job creation and sustainability through a qualitative leap in the ICT services industry in terms of added value and encouragement of innovation.

The main strategic axes of "Tunisie Digitale 2020" are:

- Ensure social inclusion and reduce the digital divide through better access to information and knowledge, the democratization of access equipment as well as broadband access and implementation of very high-speed network.

- Development of the digital culture through the widespread use of ICTs in educational curricula and the digitization of content.

- Evolve towards an e-Administration in the service of the citizen, equitable, transparent, agile and efficient.

- Ensure the reduction of unemployment and the creation of jobs in the digital and off-shoring sectors as well as the creation of national success stories.

- Supporting the creation of added value, guaranteeing the sustainability of organizations and jobs, by supporting entrepreneurship and stimulating innovation.

- Improve the competitiveness of the companies, across all sectors, by investment in ICT and positioning in the digital economy.

- Ensure Tunisia's transition to all digital through the establishment of a suitable regulatory framework, governance and security environment.

The governance of this strategic vision is assured by a strategic national council chaired by the head of government, which involves the public and private sectors as well as the civil society, and which is supported by a steering committee chaired by the Minister of Digital Economy. The planned projects are allocated to departments in their respective areas of expertise.

ICT and Telecommunication infrastructure

Tunisia has a National backbone based on fibre optical cables that covers its entire territory and has multifunction high band switches that provide telephone transfer, Internet and multimedia.

Tunisia is connected to all its neighbouring countries and has optical fibre submarine connections to Europe, Asia, the Middle East and America. International Internet bandwidth capacity has grown from 50 Gb/s in 2010 to 225 Gb/s in May 2017. The interconnections has been secured by diversifying submarine cables (SEA-ME-WE4 and KELTRA 2), by diversifying landing points (Bizerte and Kelibia in Tunisia, and Marseille, Mazara del Vallo and Palermo in Europe), and also by installing its own submarine cable, Hannibal, with a capacity of 10 Gbps expandable to 3200 Gbps.

In terms of telecoms infrastructure available for professional and personnel use, Tunisia has:

- An Internet network covering the entire country, accessible through 11 Internet service providers (6 public and 5 private).

- A network of data transmission using various technologies: LS, ADSL, MPLS, SDH, dWDM, Frame Relay, VSAT, UMTS-HSPA++.

Tunisia started to exploit 4G mobile technologies in 2014. Three telecom operators, namely Tunisie Telecom, Orange and Ooredoo have tried to cover a large part of the population. Ooredoo has 70.4% coverage, compared to 68.9% for Orange and 63.4% for Tunisie Telecom. The average coverage is therefore 67.57%. Ooredoo is also leading in terms of 3G and 2G coverage, with figures close to 100%, indicating almost total coverage of Tunisia.

ATI (Agence Tunisienne de l'Internet - Tunisian Internet Agency), which operates under the Tunisian Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, was founded in March 1996 to promote Internet services in Tunisia. ATI is the wholesale provider of Internet services. It provides Internet access & services to various ISPs, and its roles include:

- The functions of a National Internet Exchange Point (national IXP) for the interconnection of ISPs to one another and the rest of the Internet; also provide Internet mail gateways service management for exchanging messages among themselves and with the rest of the internet

- Co-Management of the national domain ".tn" with the regulator

- Management of IP Addressing in Tunisia

- Promotion and Development of the Internet