Tunisia’s minister of communication stated recently that he expects Tunisia’s Internet subscriber-base to significantly grow within the next few years to 600,000 subscribers, reported the Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal magazine. This is an ambitious figure considering Tunisian Internet subscribers are presently estimated at merely 100,000.
Internet use in Tunisia has certainly been on the rise in the past few years, beginning in 1996 with only 111 subscribers and growing up to 15,000 subscribers by June 1999. Internet user population is in fact almost three times as high, considering each subscription often serves several users.
Nonetheless, these figures are considered relatively poor for a middle-income country such as Tunisia, with over 9 million inhabitants and a fairly good phone system.
A government action plan, initiated in 1997, is working to put Tunisia on the right track to Internet connectivity. As part of the program, all educational institutions were linked to the Internet, and several public Internet centers (Publinets) were launched to ensure Internet penetration throughout Tunisia’s various regions and social layers. A national fund was also set up to help develop Tunisian websites.
The Tunisian government has also been working to improve Internet infrastructure and make Internet access more affordable. In May 1998 rates charged for Internet access and phone use were dropped by over 50 percent, and then again, by 30 percent, in March 1999. Customs duties on imported computer equipment were reduced as well.
Today Tunisia prides itself with the region's most detailed Internet legislation, having extended its press laws to cover the Internet. The country’s official agencies show a well-established presence on the WWW, and Tunisian TV and radio are broadcast online.
The role of the national Internet operator in played by the Tunisian Agency for Internet (ATI), established in April 1996 as a public company with Tunisie Telecom owning 51 percent of its shares and private investors owning the rest.
The ATI leases Internet access to private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as 3S Global Net and PlaNet Tunisie that in turn offer the service to the public. All Internet communications go through the ATI, which maintains the county’s only international connectivity via Sprint and Telecom Italia. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )