Interview: Saloua Karkri-Belkeziz

What are the main aims of the Digital Morocco Plan 2020, and how will they be achieved?

SALOUA KARKRI-BELKEZIZ: The strategy is based on three main pillars. The first is the digital transformation of the national economy, through the rollout of e-governance projects aimed at reducing inequality. In a recent speech, King Mohammed VI encouraged collaboration between all government departments through the creation of a trans-ministerial gateway for administrative paperwork. The challenge now is to ensure every ministry shares its data so that citizens can access public services in a more efficient way. The technical side of this project was successfully developed by the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy. Another project planned for 2019 is the creation of a unified social register, based on the idea of an identification code for each citizen. This will provide a useful tool to better implement social policies. The second pillar is to improve Morocco’s position as a centre for outsourcing and offshoring in the region. We hope to become the first-choice location for companies based in Europe and French-speaking Africa. Lastly, the third pillar aims to strengthen Morocco’s current digital rankings to stay globally competitive. This will require upgrading infrastructure such as data centres and fibre-optic cables, modernising the legal framework and – of particular importance – training a new workforce.

How can the private sector help boost digitalisation and the growth of the ICT sector?

KARKRI-BELKEZIZ: The private sector, including startups, can help drive digitalisation in the public sector by providing skilled computer scientists. Companies can also use their expertise to improve digital literacy within government organisations. Digitalisation is spreading in the public sector, but there is still a need to raise awareness and enact change. The government now realises the positive effects of digitalisation, and this could lay the foundations for a data-driven government, allowing officials to build effective feedback loops for policy monitoring and adjustment.

It is also important to boost access to digital tools for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Some SMEs currently have no access to basic digital functions, such as reviewing stock or managing costs. The National Agency for the Promotion of SMEs must continue to finance enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for these companies, but with a new approach. Cloud solutions through data centres are more cost effective for SMEs, and they would also benefit from ERP software.

The same idea can be applied to ministries, which are now launching digital projects such as e-governance portals, electronic signature technology and geographic information systems. If ministries can coordinate their projects with the user in mind, they will be able to cut a large amount of costs.

What role do you expect the newly created Agency for Digital Development to play?

KARKRI-BELKEZIZ: The creation of this agency is a very positive signal for the sector. It covers a wide range of tasks related to digital transformation, with 14 specific projects in place, such as the citizen e-government portal. The key feature is that the agency is independent, but it brings all players involved in the digital ecosystem together to centralise efforts to expand the ICT sector. This collaboration will also lead to innovative programmes such as Smart Factory, which will allow SMEs to test digital systems before investing in their development. The programme utilises the latest technologies, such as internet of things, 3-D printing and robotics. A similar structure dedicated to start-ups, Digital City, has been established to host entrepreneurs and support their digitalisation needs. Morocco has become a significant name in the automotive and aerospace industries. By using digital solutions and technology, the kingdom can increase its value added and maintain competitiveness in a rapidly changing world.