India’s Pan-African network gets top prize for innovation

Friday, August 13, 2010

NEW DELHI - In a growing global recognition of India’s people-focused diplomacy in Africa, its signature Pan-African e-network project, that seeks to empower the resource-rich continent through tele-medicine and tele-education, has won a top international prize for innovation.

The award for contribution in the field of sustainable development was announced by the European Institute of Creative Strategies and Innovation, a think tank that promotes strategies for innovation and renewal in Europe and worldwide, at meeting held on May 25 in Paris.

The Hermes Prize for Innovation 2010 contains a certificate and a statue of Hermes, the messenger of gods in Greek mythology.

The citation describes the e-network as the most ambitious programme of distance education and tele-medicine in Africa even undertaken and hails it as “the first example of a large Project South-South development support”.

A brainchild of India’s then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the e-network seeks to bridge the digital divide across the 53-nation African continent and seeks to provide tele-medicine and tele-education through a fibre-optic network.

The project is being shepherded and implemented by the state-run Telecommunications of India Limited (TCIL).

It also includes setting up a “VVIP” network between offices of the heads of state or government across Africa. Thirty VVIP nodes have been set up in African countries for video-conferencing among the heads of states.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will inaugurate the second phase of the Pan-African e-Network Project Monday which will bring another 12 African countries into the ambit of the project. The first phase of the Project, covering 11 countries, was inaugurated by Krishna Feb 26 last year.

The countries that will formally join the network Aug 16 are Botswana, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia and Uganda. “For the first time, we will have to countries from North Africa who will be part of the program,” said an official.

The eleven countries in the first batch were Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Seychelles.

So far, India has signed agreement with 47 countries in Africa, but the infrastructure has been completed in thirty-four of them.

The seven Indian educational institutions associated with the project are Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore, Amity University, University of Madras, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, University of Delhi and IIT Kanpur.

Under the Project, telemedicine patient end locations have already been set up in 11 Indian Super Specialty Hospitals. These have been connected to 33 Patient-End Hospitals in African countries. Regular tele-medicine consultations have already started in some of the African countries.

Tele-education teaching centres have also been set-up five Indian universities and 34 Learning Centers (LCs) have been set up in African countries.

Tele-education learning centres have also been set-up in three Regional Leading University Centres in Africa: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana; Makerere University, Uganda; and Yaounde University, Cameroon).

More than 1,700 African students have already registered with Indian universities.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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