TIC : Femmes, logiciels libres, copyrights, …les oubliés du lég

Free software is
a real solution for the digital divide problems caused by
under-development. Free software has an
important part to play in the creation of an environment favourable
to equitable and sustainable development, and this has to happen
with the involvement of women as essential players.

early on, Mauritius began mastering information and communication
technologies (ICTs) as a special tool at the service of social
development. However no provisions were made related to free
software, much less with regard to the integration and involvement of
women and girls in the ICT domain. This absence was notable in the
national document, a Strategic Framework for the Fight Against
(Cadre Stratégique de Lutte contre la Pauvreté 
- CSLP). It broaches several themes including information
and communication technologies and the promotion of women. While it
does not mention any possible connection between these two domains,
this strategic framework meets good governance concerns and has
brought several cross-disciplinary parameters to the fore, as well as
introducing some new parameters to Mauritanian policy, such as that
of gender.

Centralising gender within development means acknowledging that gender
equality is a societal issue and not just a women's issue. It also
attests to the legitimacy of gender as a fundamental value that
should reflect developmental choices and institutional practices. In
this sense, involvement in reducing the digital divide includes the
promotion and encouragement of ICT appropriation and equal
participation by men and women in the national digital society.


TIC : Femmes, logiciels libres, copyrights, …les oubliés du lég

this to happen, it is essential to promote and strengthen the role of
free software. Among other things, it favours the production of
reliable, appropriate, inexpensive software for users in poor
countries such as Mauritania (152nd out of the 177 poorest countries
in the world)i.
Free software has a part to play in improved handling of security
issues (such as viruses, spam, hackers, data piracy on official
servers, national security and defence bodies), and in appropriately
meeting the requirements of public and local technical
and language (Arabic and other) standards.

also has a particular role to play in enhancing the spread of the
culture of freedom of expression and communication.

spite of this and the various needs-related recommendations, such as
the urgency of encouraging and funding the development of free
software in Mauritaniaii,
and despite the organisation of numerous workshops on information
technology and internet tools based on free software, nothing has
been concretely done by the authorities, the private sector, nor even
by the local Nouakchott Universityiii
towards the promotion, creation and support of such software.
Nouakchott University facilitates access to the internet, and to
online documentary resources through the various cyberdocs
, internet
cafes located within the university campus for use by students and
teachers. They can access free or paid on line resources and
materials, but have no access to messaging and other internet tools.
These cyberdocs are
set up all over the university campus, with free access for student
families (students, teachers and researchers). According to
university sources, girls only represent around 31% of users of these
online resources and free internet access although they represent 33%
of the university's 15,000 studentsiv.


ICT training in Mauritius does not correspond to the real needs
expressed by trainees and/or their organisations. In addition, no
specific measures have been taken to ensure the concrete involvement
of women in such training, which means that they represent less than
1% of the training beneficiariesv.
courses are organized by different departments and institutions of
the country (Government, donors, agencies for development, etc)
by local and foreign ICT trainers.

training on subjects such as free software would undoubtedly
facilitate the integration of young girls and boys into the labour
market through new, relevant and highly sought-after skills (such as
webmaster, computer graphics, editing, and camera).

rare Mauritanian NGOs working in this domain cannot satisfy the
training demand. However, if these NGOs had followed the example of
the private sector, within the framework of dialogue established by
the relevant ministries, training programmes would have been more
effective, and their training capacities would have been much larger.
These NGOs would have taken part in listing and redefining
requirements, and would also have contributed towards the
implementation of these training programmes. Even the ICT
pseudo-research institute is not aware of these organisations and, as
in other domains, public actions are often and especially political
and have no sustainable impact as a result. This means that the
Government has to collaborate with civil society as it has done with
the private sector in particular in the formulation and
implementation of ICT policy.

is illustrated by the NGO "Ntic et citoyenneté” (NICTs
and citizenship)'svi efforts to initiate and carry out a survey on the gender
digital divide in Mauritania, on the eve of the WSIS in 2005. Efforts
including the results validation workshopvii
failed, due to issues that are still unclear. However, a pioneer
will show gender-specific indicators in the ICT domain, which is a
first in Mauritania. The
study was a survey on the digital gender gap in Mauritania as part of a
regional study initiated in six francophone countries in West Africa
under the coordination of the network Régentic (ENDA-Senegal
with funding from IDRC, Canada). Its results were published at the
workshop cited above on 29 July 2005. The national results and the
regional synthesis are available online.

the same way, the community access centres created by relevant
have not survived because the NGOs working in the internet field were
not involved in their development and establishment. The failure of
the ICT access centre for women entrepreneurs in Mauritania is even
more regrettable because it could have been effectively and
sustainably useful for these women. Internet
cafes that started up under this project have closed because NGOs were not involved in their management. In the town of Aioun in
Hodh Elgharbi (800km from the capital), NGOs were not involved in the
management of a cyber-town (created and managed by the German
cooperation agency GTZ). So, although the cyber-town helped to break the isolation of
these NGOs and opened up some short-term opportunities, they did not feel part of the project.

State of

liberalisation of the ICT sector in 1999, the creation of a specific
technology department and the subsequent adoption of a national ICT
strategy, the establishment of a national basic services access
agency (covering telecommunications, ICT, water, electricity)
followed by the creation of a national regulatory authority (Autorité
Nationale de Régulation
– ARE)
and more recently the Higher Authority for the Press, Radio and
Television (Haute Autorité de la
Presse et de l’Audiovisuel
- HAPA),
give the impression of a solid institutional and legal framework,
which is not always the case, as such institutions are often exploited by the government.

addition, the numerous Mauritian male bloggers and rare female
bloggers (of which there are about two to four and who almost always
prefer to stay anonymous)x
are in the process of carving out a place for themselves on the
internet and of contributing, in socially aware media, towards
citizen participation, management of public welfare, the culture of
transparency, denunciation, pressure and solidarity and also towards
all freedoms.

hosting offers more opportunities, confidentiality and security than
domestic hosting, which is fairly selective (internet domain
management is still under the monopoly of the government) and is
often monitored and can therefore be censored. In Mauritania it has already happened and the latest
example is the censorship of the news website Taqadoumy, which opposed the last takeover in
Mauritania against a democratically elected President, was simply

Mauritania, most internet servers are
administered by open source productsxi
and most internet cafes use free software for management purposes.
Such free software is often downloaded from the internet, copied from
colleagues or brought back from regional and international workshops,
and allows work to be carried out in domains such as office
automation, internet, multimedia, authoring, utilities. Pirated
software overcomes obstacles faced in buying software, such as the cost and the unreliable distribution of software. Due to these obstacles individuals, institutions and private
companies, and even public institutions, use pirated software and there is no
relevant legislation/ national jurisdiction to control this
phenomenon, even if ARE and HAPA are attempting to fill the gap. This needs and legislative gap could have been a boon for women, if they
were able to take advantage of of it, but the few women involved in this field of activity don’t necessarily have sufficient commitment to building the open source movement.

an indisputable source of information on everything related to the
Mauritanian woman, has been victim to the cost of plagiarism of its
internet site on several occasions. Journalists, bloggers and
researchers, among others, often dip into their resources to
illustrate the work that they are publishing, without citing the source. The managers of this website have made requests that authors cite them as a source, but have been ignored. There is little information on relevant Mauritanian
laws that could protect the material.

the National ICT Strategy, a open source development was not explicitly mentioned, which limits initiatives in this
domain and encourages the exodus or brain drain of predominantly
male graduates. Female graduates are rarely seen to have connections with creation
or innovation in this field. Moreover,
women only make up 8.7% of ICT professionals throughout the countryxiii.
Some of them have distinguished themselves, but they are few in
number, though they exist. Two
prominent female internet technology specialists in Mauritania were trained
abroad and are now in senior decision-making positions. Fatimétou Mint Abdelmalekxiv
is the Mayor of a residential district in the capital, and has
distinguished herself through her management of this commune, and by
the strength of her personality in the domain of citizen policies, a
domain that was greatly monopolised by men at that time. Fatimétou Mint Mohamed Saleckxv,
who holds a doctorate in mathematics applied to information
technology, was the first head of the ministerial department for new
technology in Mauritania, a post she held for several years.


summary, it has to be acknowledged that, in Mauritania, nothing is
concretely envisaged with regard to the appropriation of free
software and its promotion as a tool for development and access to
knowledge, as well as sovereignty and independence. The
anarchy of the liberalisation of the internet has not
been accompanied by additional copyright protection.

statistics drawn from the website: 

”Vues d’ensemble des TIC et du Commerce Electronique en
Mauritanie et points d’actions suggérés”
(“Overview of ICTs and E-business in Mauritania and recommended
action points"), SEMINAR-WORKSHOP 19-27 October, NOUAKCHOTT,

only university in Mauritania (www.univ-nkc.mr)
with fewer than 15,000 students in 2009

Statistics from the Nouakchott University library (2008/2009)

v Data
collected from the personnel in charge of training at the C.A.I.:
one of the main ICT training providers in Mauritania.

vi Data
collected from the NGO, “Ntic et citoyenneté” (“NICTs
and citizenship”) : www.maurifemme.mr/Ong/NTIC.html

vii “Etude
sur la Fracture Numérique de Genre en Afrique francophone ,
données et indicateurs : Rapport National de la
Mauritanie” (“Study on the Gender Digital Divide in
French-Speaking Africa, data and indicators : Mauritania
National Report”), July 2005

viii “ Sur
la fracture
numérique de genre en Afrique
francophone” (“On the gender digital divide in French-speaking
Africa “) :

x Data
collected from the NGO, “Ntic et citoyenneté” (“NICTs
and citizenship”) : www.maurifemme.mr/Ong/NTIC.html

xi “Historique
de l’état des lieux de l’Internet en Mauritanie”,
(“Background to the State of Play of the Internet in Mauritius”),
Zakaria OULD AMAR, PhD, ADAGE Associate Director, Advisory and

: www.maurifemme.mr,
the first website on the Mauritian woman in all her diversity, and
the first website initiated and entirely developed by a Mauritanian
woman, online since 2001.

xiii Data
collected from the NGO, “Ntic et citoyenneté” (“NICTs
and citizenship”) : www.maurifemme.mr/Ong/NTIC.html

xiv Fatimétou
Mint Abdelmaleck, Mayor of Tevragh Zeina (Mauritania)

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