India launches phase-II of African e-network project

Monday, August 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - From talking about Ugandan students in India to thanking African nations for the hospitality extended to Indian ships, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Monday gave a personal touch to his two-hour video-conference with ministers of 12 nations from that continent.

While inaugurating the second phase of a long distance education and tele-medicine programme — Pan-African e-network — from a studio in South Delhi, Krishna began his interaction from Egypt in the north to Botswana in the south.

The countries that formally joined the network Monday are Egypt, Botswana, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Eritrea, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Uganda and Zambia.

Speaking to each of the 12 ministers sitting thousands of kilometres across the Indian Ocean, as African envoys watched on in the Indian capital, Krishna underlined the importance India attached to developing multi-faceted and enduring partnership with the African continent.

“The Pan-African e-Network project is one of the finest examples of the growing partnership between India and Africa,” Krishna said after the launch.

“I understand that this is the biggest project of distance education and tele-medicine ever undertaken in Africa,” he said.

The video-interaction was organized at the headquarters of Telecommunications of India Limited (TCIL), which is also implementing the $125 million project.

Botswana’s Minister of Education and Skills Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi told Krishna that her country was looking towards more collaboration with India, describing it as a “centre of excellence”, especially in information technology.

Demonstrating the long Indian presence in Africa, an Eritrean minister pointed out that he was “a product of Indian teachers”.

Speaking to his Ugandan counterpart, Krishna noted that there were a large number of students studying in India.

He also specifically thanked Djibouti in north Africa for its facilities for Indian naval ships, who regular visit the strategically placed port on the Horn of Africa.

Egyptian Minister for Communication and Information Technology Tarek Mohamed Kamel expressed happiness that the Alexandria University will be the hub for e-learning for the network in north Africa.

“I hope to inaugurate the centre at Alexandria University when you visit Egypt in mid-September,” he told Krishna.

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.

India has signed agreement with 47 countries in Africa, but the infrastructure has been completed in 34 of them.

The project won the prestigious Hermes Prize recently for innovation in the field of sustainable development.

The prize 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 a meeting held May 25 in Paris.

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.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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