Following a request by the EC and in agreement with the Tunisian "Secrétariat d'Etat à la recherche scientifique et à la technologie" (SERST), ERCIM performed an evaluation of the Tunisian research in information technologies (IT).
Tunisia has a strong and diverse scientific community based on three universities with science and technology activities, 18 national research institutes (NRIs) and a small but expanding private R&D presence including a growing number of international joint ventures. Most of the Tunisian research is carried out at the universities.
This evaluation was based on a visit to six institutions:
and on written documents provided by them. These institutions were designated by the SERST and they cover the main research laboratories in IT in Tunisia. So, although it is mainly an evaluation of a few institutions, some conclusions can also be drawn for the whole Tunisian research in IT:
a) Tunisian research in IT is rather small but generally speaking of a good quality:
b) However, in spite of recent improvements, the general context for research remains more difficult than in most European countries:
As the importance of R&D and of IT is fully recognised in Tunisia, it should be possible to alleviate most of these difficulties. As a first step, a new law on research due to be applied very soon will give more autonomy to the research laboratories and facilitate their relationship with the economic world. Beyond that, it is clear that the Tunisian potential in R&D could be better exploited. In this respect, the main recommendations are:
More generally speaking information technologies are essential to the economic development of the country. Two domains appear to be particularly convenient for an action to be undertaken by the Tunisian Government:
Setting up a special inter-ministerial task force in order to define an action plan in these fields and to follow its execution could be useful. The action of this task force could be supplemented by the establishment of an advisory working group made of experts coming from various horizons and in charge of thinking on the major societal and economic issues raised by the transition towards the information society in Tunisia.
Moreover, a wider involvement of the Tunisian teams in EU R&D activities would be most useful and full advantage should be taken from the facilities resulting from the MEDA programme. This would be facilitated by ranking Information Technologies among the Tunisian priorities in the bilateral dialogue between Tunisia and the EC which has been established in this framework.