Tunisia Report

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Download this first-of-its-kind World Bank investigation into the role of technology in post-revolutionary Tunisia.

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Introduction

In January 2011, Tunisians overthrew long-time autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, setting off a chain of political upheaval around the world.

One year later, Tunisia remains a work in progress. Signs of change are evident across the country, as Tunisians work to build a new government and fulfill the promises of their revolution. Opportunities—and challenges—abound.

Critically, Tunisians must repair the deep disparity that divides their country between well-resourced coastal provinces and an underserved rural interior. This challenge affects nearly all sectors of Tunisian life, from economic development to political representation to education.

Technology played a key role in revolutionary Tunisia, tying together dispersed individuals and enabling them to express their frustrations as a powerful collective. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) will continue to influence the new Tunisian society and economy. Reboot has produced this publication as part of a larger project led by infoDev on the role of ICTs in post-conflict settings. Our team traveled across the country, learning from Tunisians about their hopes, problems, and aspirations for the future.

This site highlights opportunities and challenges in the critical sectors of politics, education, and business, and how these are affected by regional inequality and the blossoming of an online civil society. In sharing these insights, we hope to shed light on how Tunisians and the international community can best identify and respond to the country’s needs, and provide a 21st-century model for post-revolutionary states.

Landing page photo: Clock tower on Mohammed Bouazizi Square, renamed after the man whose self-immolation became a symbol of the Tunisian Revolution.
Read more about regional disparity's impact on post-revolutionary Tunisia. >>
“[It] is not easy to build anew when those before left so much destruction in all corners of the country.”
—Dr. Moncef Marzouki, President of Tunisia

Political
Participation

The collapse of the Ben Ali regime and its restrictions on political expression left a void that has been rapidly filled by a multiplicity of formal and informal interest groups. In addition to giving rise to a vast array of new political parties and media outlets, this phenomenon has also manifested a variety of grassroots gatherings. While Tunisians are initially struggling to parse the flood of new voices and information, these developments are an encouraging sign of a newly open and free political environment.

Read more about one grassroots community
on the rise in Tunisia, TEDx >>

The New Tunisian Political Spectrum

Tunisia’s political ecosystem has been quickly populated by an explosion of political parties, with platforms and ideologies as diverse as Tunisia itself. The below graphic charts the relative distribution of these parties across the political spectrum. This uncharted political environment has resulted in a corresponding demand for reliable, independent media resources to help citizens make informed political decisions.

Read more about how ordinary Tunisians are creating
new ways to engage with their government. >>
“There are many diploma holders here who had been promised that an education would give them opportunity, but they have graduated and they see none of it.”
—Military commander, Kasserine Province

Education

The Tunisian higher education system has long been held up as a model for the region. The revolution revealed that the strengths of Tunisia’s university system had been substantially overstated by the Ben Ali government. University leadership, students, and business leaders all highlight significant gaps in the quality of instruction and infrastructure that must be addressed in order for Tunisia to develop a globally competitive knowledge economy.

Read more about opportunities for improving
higher education in Tunisia >>

Distribution of Higher Education Resources

Tunisia has a strong foundational infrastructure upon which to build an improved higher education system. A critical challenge for Tunisian leaders will be to bolster the interior provinces, where economic progress is stymied by a paucity of educational resources compared to the wealthier coastal provinces.

“I want to inspire our government to support innovation at home. Right now, we entice foreign companies to bring their research centers here, but we need to develop our own companies capable of moving up the value chain.”
—Walid, 37, Carthage

Entrepreneurship

Local business growth is critical to the health of any national economy. If properly cared for, entrepreneur-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can form the backbone of the new Tunisian economy. Although there is significant untapped growth potential, particularly in the technology sector, entrepreneurs in Tunisia today face critical constraints, including elevated costs of doing business, government control of critical markets, and skill deficiencies in the workforce.

Building A Business in Tunisia

These are some common frustrations and desires expressed by entrepreneurs from various sectors of the Tunisian economy:

Pain Points

Uncompetitive business practices encouraged through the patronage systems of the previous government.

Difficulties with foreign exchanged caused by government limitations.

Bureaucratic inefficiencies within contracting and procurement processes.

Lack of secure, reliable payment touchpoints for online and mobile consumer transactions.

Requests

More opportunities for training and engagement with multinationals.

Training in product research and development.

Increased respect from international partners that leads to higher-value contracts and engagements.

More mentoring, soft skills, and applied business training.

Read the full essay on how business incubators
can help the growth of Tunisian SMEs >>
“Young people were the heart of the revolution. It is up to us to keep the government honest and accountable. We’re too young to be inside the government; it is our job to stand on the outside and throw rocks at them until they do the right thing.”
—Ben, 17, Tunis

Online Spaces

Technology has enabled previously dispersed individuals to express their collective interests to a broad audience. The ability to easily engage and share one’s passion online can turn even the most apathetic and isolated citizen into an activist. This connectedness was key to the growth of grassroots political communities during the revolution.

Read more about how the digital public square has
helped turn apathy into activism >>

Ecosystem of Online Communities

Technological and political shifts have fostered communities who draw their identities and livelihoods from the digital sphere. This graphic introduces four of these online communities and their visions for a new Tunisia. Ecosystem

Photos

Info

Inquiries:
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Reboot is a social impact consultancy that helps organizations design better ways to serve communities worldwide. Working with a diverse range of public and private sector clients, we develop solutions in the areas of global governance and development. We combine rigorous ethnographic field research with robust policy and market analyses to produce actionable strategies and design solutions. With on-the-ground experience in more than 30 countries, our team brings an informed international perspective to all our work. We use original research to articulate policy needs, design development programs, and convene public, private, and civil society stakeholders to take action on the world’s most important issues.

infoDev is a global partnership program within the World Bank Group which works at the intersection of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship to create opportunities for inclusive growth, job creation and poverty reduction. infoDev assists governments and technology-focused small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow jobs, improve capacity and skills, increase access to finance and markets, ensure the appropriate enabling policy and regulatory environment for business to flourish, and test out innovative solutions in developing country markets. We do this in partnership with other development programs, with World Bank/IFC colleagues, and with stakeholders from the public, private and civil society sectors in the developing world.