Interview: Mouatassem Boudiaf
Why did the government see the need to create a digital economy department?
MOUATASSEM BOUDIAF: The digital economy department has been created partially to tackle the much-needed modernisation of Algeria’s financial system. The creation of the digital economy department shows the government’s commitment to this sector, which will play a clear role in diversifying Algeria’s economy. A big part of the drive from this department will centre on information systems and developing electronic payment methods.
Information in the financial system comes from the fiscal administration as well as accounting and budget management. Information from two additional sources – the Land Office and Customs Agency – will also be integrated into the centralised system. Together, these components constitute the heart of public finance, and we are seeking to unite them in one centralised information system so as to improve information sharing and the overall quality of data. It is important to note that since this information is organised according to World Customs Organisation guidelines, Customs information cannot and will not be fully centralised; however, it will be fully interoperable.
What are the factors that will allow for the emergence of Algeria’s digital economy?
BOUDIAF: We see the development of the digital economy as constituted by three elements: technology, technical competency and the legal framework. The technological aspect has been advancing quickly to catch up with global standards. As such, we have seen the development of the 3G and 4G mobile networks, as well as the overall improvement of network and IT infrastructure connections with Europe and Africa. However, there is still a deficiency with respect to data centres, and as a consequence companies have to look for internal solutions.
Human capital is a decisive factor in the development of the digital economy. Luckily, today Algeria possesses competent engineers, lawyers and other persons in fields relevant to the digital economy. However, we are lacking in multi-disciplinary individuals who can confidently move between different aspects of the digital economy. We also need to continue to push for greater training at younger ages to ensure that our human capital can keep pace with the ever-changing nature of the digital economy.
With respect to the legal framework, we need to make sure that people, ideas and intellectual property are respected. It is also a key concern of ours that personal initiative to participate and positively contribute to the digital economy in Algeria is encouraged. To that end, we need to help with the creation and commercialisation of digital content, since this is an area where Algeria can create wealth and jobs domestically and look to sell content internationally.
What are the strategies for the development of electronic payment and e-commerce?
BOUDIAF: The e-commerce law is set to be presented to Parliament and the Senate, and finalised during 2017. The passage of the e-commerce law will be a catalyst for the creation of new companies and jobs in this sector – encompassing everything from logistics to services and web portals. In October 2016 we also launched electronic payment for large companies such as utilities providers and national airlines.
We currently have 4000 points of sale (POS) that are entirely modern and have all of the functionality one could hope for. We are expecting to have a total of 10,000 POS operational by the end of 2017. Today we only observe roughly 10,000 transactions per year, and my goal is to reach 1bn transactions per year by 2020.
As these elements take hold and become normal, we expect the digital economy will be a strong force against the informal economy. Merely by creating a system of incentives for consumers and vendors, we will see a greater appetite to use electronic payments.
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