Mauritius Vision 2030

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According to L’Express, in two days, the Prime Minister will announce the creation of a high-powered committee whose mission will be to propose a strategic plan entitled Vision 2030 for Mauritius.

What is this Vision 2030?

In addition to smart cities, it seems that the Prime Minister will also announce the creation of technology parks, new developments in the port area, more emphasis on ICT and financial services, the adoption of an ocean economy, more projects for tourism and the continued enhancement of the airport.

Human resources are not mentioned at all in the article. I am very curious to see what the Prime Minister will announce concerning this important aspect as we all know that the implementation of any vision require skilled people for it to be successful.

Let’s wait until Saturday and I’ll update the post accordingly.

25 Hottest Skills according to LinkedIn

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In December 2014, LinkedIn analyzed the skills and experience data in over 330 million LinkedIn member profiles to answer the question “Who’s getting hired and what are they doing?”. The above image shows the 25 Hottest Skills of 2014. Maybe a better way of looking at things would be to put these jobs in different categories to try to answer “Who’s getting hired and what field they are getting in?”:

Information Technology – Data Science

  • Statistical Analysis and Data Mining
  • Business Intelligence
  • Data Engineering and Data Warehousing
  • SAP ERP Systems

Information Technology – Infrastructure

  • Middleware and Integration Software
  • Storage Systems and Management
  • Network and Information Security
  • Mac, Linux and Unix Systems
  • Virtualization
  • Shell Scripting Languages

Information Technology – Software Development

  • Mobile Development
  • Web Architecture and Development Framework
  • Algorithm Design
  • Perl/Python/Ruby
  • Java Development

Information Technology – User Experience

  • User Interface Design
  • Computer Graphics and Animation
  • Game Development

Digital Marketing

  • SEO/SEM Marketing
  • Marketing Campaign Management
  • Digital and Online Marketing
  • Channel Marketing

Other

  • Recruiting
  • Economics
  • Integrated Circuit (IC) Design

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It is clear that Information Technology rules supreme. 72% of the jobs are IT jobs in data science, infrastructure, software development and user experience. We can even argue that all the digital marketing jobs as well as IC design are in IT increasing the proportion to 92%.

This also means that schools and universities will have to adapt to provide classes in these high-demand fields for the sake of the young people currently studying but also for the enterprises in Mauritius as well as the country as a whole.

Let’s hope they do. Signs are not very encouraging though with, for example, the University of Mauritius being still stuck in the 20th century. What do you think?

A Supercomputer for Mauritius

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(Tianhe-2, the most powerful supercomputer. China.)

For the past few months, the Mauritius Research Council has been working on the setting up of a National Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) in Mauritius. As a member of the committee, I have been thinking a lot about the importance of having supercomputing facilities in Mauritius.

Why do we need supercomputers?

  • Supercomputers are immensely powerful computers which can be used to perform simulations of various processes. For example, supercomputers are used to simulate airflow on an aircraft wing, particle movement during a nuclear blast, the interaction between molecules during a chemical reaction or the movement of bodies in space. Without supercomputers, the cost of getting these insights would be prohibitively high. Supercomputers allow us to understand very complex processes without having to actually do them thanks to simulation.
  • Supercomputers, being so powerful,  are also used to perform brute force calculations. One good example is trying to predict weather. The meteorological station has a myriad of sensors everywhere measuring temperature, wind speed, humidity, etc. and, from these millions of data points, calculations need to be done in order to know what will happen next. The difficulty, of course, is to come up with a solution quickly enough for this information to be useful to us.
  • Supercomputers allow us to learn and leverage molecular dynamics. As explained on Wikipedia, “Molecular dynamics (MD) is a computer simulation of physical movements of atoms and molecules in the context of N-body simulation. The atoms and molecules are allowed to interact for a period of time, giving a view of the motion of the atoms. In the most common version, the trajectories of atoms and molecules are determined by numerically solving the Newton’s equations of motion for a system of interacting particles, where forces between the particles and potential energy are defined by interatomic potentials or molecular mechanics force fields.” The interesting part is that, once someone knows about molecular dynamics, he/she can apply the principle in different fields.

What will we have to learn?

  • A supercomputer is, in essence, a computer with thousands if not millions of processors instead of the few we have in our normal computers. In order to use the capabilities of a supercomputer to the full, it is important that software applications be written to work concurrently. This means that, when run on a parallel computer such as a supercomputer, the software can distribute work over the myriad of processors instead of running on one processor only. From a technical perspective, this is difficult to achieve. For instance, when using C or C++, this can be done by leveraging the Open MPI library. When developing in Java, one can use the Concurrency Utilities. Software developers will have to learn how to use these powerful features and this is harder than it looks because it requires a change in mindset: thinking parallel instead of sequential is hard. Interestingly, when I was a lecturer at the University of Mauritius, I taught Concurrency and Parallelism to final year students so I may have a few things to contribute at this level.
  • A supercomputer is, in essence, a massive cluster running Linux. As everyone knows by now, Linux has eaten the world. And this is especially true for supercomputers where Linux powers 97% of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. For example, the most powerful supercomputer in the world, Tianhe-2, runs Kylin Linux. The next one, Titan, runs Cray Linux. The third one, Sequoia BlueGene/Q, also runs Linux. And so on and so forth. This means that the setting up of a supercomputer in Mauritius will require the expertise of a number of Linux system administrators who are comfortable with clustering and parallelism. Interestingly, at Knowledge Seven, we provide the best Linux courses in Mauritius.
  • Finally, our researchers will have to think out of the box. Simple problems with their simple solutions do not require the use of supercomputers. In order to fully utilise the immense power of supercomputers, we will have to start thinking about solving the big problems. This will require researchers to move out of their respective silos and work together. Naturally, this is because big problems are generally multi-disciplinary. This change in mindset will take some time as we, in Mauritius, love our respective silos and their associated benefits…

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Is there a risk?

Yes, as frequently in Mauritius, we tend to focus on the hardware and software and forget that the most important component is peopleware. If our decision makers, our researchers, our developers and our sysadmins do not know how to leverage a supercomputer, then it is useless to have one in the country, gathering dust and quickly becoming obsolete while costing millions.

To prevent this kind of situation, the Mauritius Research Council is organising an Awareness Workshop on High Performance Computing (HPC) in Mauritius from 26 to 28 August 2015 where those who might benefit from supercomputing will be able to talk with those who offer supercomputing solutions. I understand that invitations to participate in the workshop will be sent shortly. On Thursday 27 August from 11:15 – 12:15, I will moderate a session for various organisations who will be able to come and explain what problems they are trying to solve and how they intend to leverage supercomputing facilities in the future.

Education is confusing

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Today, Christina and I had an interesting conversation with a young man who has just finished studying Computer Science for the past three years.

We were a bit surprised when he mentioned that, even though he is now a degree holder and is looking for a job, he does not want to work in IT. In fact, he told us that he does not like Computer Science a lot.

Naturally we asked him why he chose to study Computer Science given that he had other areas of interest and his answer was revealing: “No one helped me choose and I chose badly!”

A lack of guidance

The professional world is becoming more and more complex. New jobs and career possibilities are being created on a daily basis. Unfortunately, young people are not being advised properly:

  • Some parents decide for their children without asking them what they are passionate about. I feel that some of the lawyers, doctors, accountants, and, now, finance people and computer scientists are not very happy in their profession. Of course, they might be getting a nice enough salary but nothing beats doing something which you like.
  • The career guidance service, which exists in principle in secondary schools, is outdated. As I wrote above, new jobs and career possibilities are being created on a daily basis. It is difficult to keep abreast of those changes. I can imagine that some of the career guidance officers (who have mostly never worked in the private sector) are quite at a loss when having to explain to young people the career prospects in, for example, statistical analysis, digital marketing, game design or artificial intelligence.

Education can be confusing

Education comes from a Latin word which means “going outside” metaphorically, in the sense that education should be about discovering new and interesting things every day.

Unfortunately, in Mauritius, education mostly means staying inside and getting a degree. My point is that a lot of young people go through years and years of schooling without ever uncovering what they really like and/or what they are very good at. Of course, this becomes problematic when they have to choose subjects at Form IV, Form VI and at university.

Mauritius is a small country and we cannot afford to have unhappy and unproductive lawyers, doctors, accountants, finance people and computer scientists instead of happy and productive statistical analysts, digital marketers, game designers and AI specialists (for example).

This needs to change. What do you think?

The Importance of Managing Money

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ra·tion·al : based on or in accordance with reason or logic

It is public knowledge that quite a lot of Mauritian families are in debt, 75% of them it would seem (but I can’t find an official online source for that percentage).

According to me, this is partly because people are not taught the basics of finance when they are kids and, when they become adults, they sometimes become irrational in their behaviour and in their relationship with money. For instance, a lot of us buy things that we don’t need. There is fad at this moment in Mauritius to get an iPhone 6, a Samsung Galaxy S6 or a LG G4 at Rs 30,000 no matter whether we need such a powerful device (and can use it properly) or not. And, as you have surely noticed, Ébène is the cathedral of expensive clothes, shoes, cars and other gimmicks that don’t contribute one iota to our happiness levels but which cost a lot of money.

Fortunately, today, I overheard some people talking:

  1. One was explaining the mechanism of loans to his friends. He was telling them how compound interests worked. How it was rational to settle a loan early (if possible of course) so as not to pay a lot of interest. And, interestingly, he also mentioned that he had asked his bank to reduce his credit card limit in order for him to spend less every month.
  2. Crossing the road, I heard another guy having a phone conversation with a friend or a family member. He was explaining how irrational it was to buy something by contracting a debt. He was explaining that if he only had Rs 2500 and he had to buy something (hopefully useful) at Rs 5000, he would wait another month to have the Rs 5000 instead of buying through higher purchase (because of the very high interest rates).

I was amazed. My first impression that people lacked financial judgement was clearly wrong. Apparently, some of us are very rational as far as money is concerned. And these people are willing to share their knowledge with others.

This is a very good thing for the future of the Mauritian society.

What do you think?

A Smarter Mauritius

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The talk of the town in Mauritius at this moment (apart from the various scandals) is the concept of the Smart City, which is nicely explained by this infographics available on the Board of Investment website. A Smart City and, by extension, a Smart Mauritius, has to have:

  • A Smart Environment where people can practice Smart Living (in other words, respect nature and live with less stress)
  • Smart Mobility (use the car only when needed and maximise public transportation and bicycles like in most occidental cities)
  • Smart Citizens who have been educated through Smart Education
  • A Smart Government (which is not only preoccupied with the next elections but rather the development and advancement of the country as a whole)
  • Smart Businesses (which can develop new products and enter new markets by innovating)
  • Smart Infrastructure (which can sustain and satisfy future demands)
  • and Smart Utility (so that the country does not suffer from brownouts or droughts in the future)

Naturally, it is not smart to believe that we can transform our country into a Smart Country just by bringing in some consultants and praying that building some morcellements and roads will suffice. The key to making Mauritius a Smart Mauritius is the population of the country.

Our education system needs to be drastically changed so that anyone who finishes schools (at any level: primary, secondary or tertiary) is a Smart Person:

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A Smart Person as shown above (courtesy of an infographics by the Huffington Post) is:

  • Intelligent
  • Brilliant
  • Knowledgeable
  • Intellectual
  • Competent
  • Innovative
  • Confident
  • Professional
  • and a bit Arrogant too (or is that Self-Belief?)

Personally, I am sure that our education system can be revamped to produce such Smart People provided we better use (in the good sense of the phrase) Smart Lecturers, Smart Teachers and Smart Educators, foreigners or not. In my opinion, there are a number of excellent educators in the country but we need to supplement them with excellent educators from abroad (like Singapore did in fact a decade ago).

Students need to be Smart Students too. They need to focus more on Knowledge, Skills and the Joy of Learning instead of going to tuition, passing exams and obtaining a certificate.

Focusing on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is also mandatory. The Smart World is a technological world and a country like Mauritius cannot afford not to have Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths professionals of sufficient caliber.

[Thanks to Sachin to bring art and culture to my attention: Developing the artistic talents and culture of the population, especially young people, is mandatory too. Like all humanists, I really think that everyone has the capacity to do wonderful things provided (1) she discovers and develops her talent and (2) she is given the possibility / opportunity to contribute, disrupt and bring much-needed changes.]

Is that too much to ask? What do you think?

About

Hello.

My name is Avinash Meetoo and I live in Mauritius. When I was a kid, I was a computer geek and, when I grew up, I found it natural to study Computer Science (or, more precisely, Informatics.) After eight years of teaching at university level and despising what research has become, I decided to quit academic life and create my own company, Knowledge Seven, a Linux, Mobile and Web Agency in Mauritius.

I am a fan of Linux and Open Source Software and I founded the Linux User Group of Mauritius in 2000. My laptop runs Fedora Linux and it rocks. I also like Apple computers and I have a MacBook and an iMac. I love my Google Nexus 4 and my Nexus 7, beautiful Android devices.

I like to browse, blog, tweet and program. I also listen to music a lot and I compose too (I’ve released two albums…) I also like photography.

I am married to Christina and we have two kids: Anya and Kyan.