India Launches Pan-Africa E-Network

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The event was characterised by pomp and splendour. With their arrival into the precincts of Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) in South Delhi being beamed on the screen, heads of African missions and other dignitaries had cause to be ecstatic.

The occasion: Inauguration of the second phase of the Pan-African e-Network Project. The tentacles of the project have now been spread to 12 African countries, and Zambia is among the beneficiaries. The rest are Botswana, Burundi, Cote D'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia and Uganda.

Giving the launch a litmus test from the studios of TCIL was India's External Affairs Minister Somanahalli M Krishna.

This was done through a two-hour video conferencing session with ministers of the 12 African countries during which Mr Kishna extolled relations and common ideals that India and the African continent share.

When it came to Zambia's turn, Mr Krishna reiterated India's desire to deepen relations between the two countries which date back to the southern African nation's pre-independence days.

In conversing with Communications and Transport Minister Geoffrey Lungwangwa, the Indian External Affairs Minister described the Pan-African e-Network Project as one of the finest examples of the growing partnerships between India and Zambia.

Remarked Mr Krishna: "It is a matter of great pride for India to be the driving force for such an ambitious project, which is fully financed by the Government of India and has an approved budget allocation of US$125 million."

The Pan-African e-Network is the biggest project for distance education and tele-medicine ever undertaken in Africa.

For Zambia, the project, which will propel tele-education at Mulungushi University in Kabwe, tele-medicine at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka, and the video-conference voice over the Internet protocol component at State House, dovetails well with Zambia's newly-developed ICT policy that recognises information technology as an indispensable tool for development.

In the area of tele-medicine, whose development has been motivated by advancement in medical science, bio-medical engineering and emerging ingenuities in telecommunication and information technology, affordable healthcare will be the ensuing benefit.

Operationally, tele-medicine will make possible, among other things, use of ICT between specialist doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

A platform for continuing medical education for doctors and other health providers is yet another forte inherent in tele-medicine.

And as global corners get closer and closer and thus dictating the necessity for world leaders' prompt, apt, and regular consultations and interaction on matters of common interest, the video conferencing facility will come in handy for Heads of State. This will be made possible through satellite network connectivity.

Under the Pan-African e-Network Project, India has made available facilities and expertise of some of its best universities and super-specialist hospitals in India to Africa.

The core objective of the project is also to support e-governance, e-commerce, infotainment, resource mapping and meteorological and other services African countries.

This will contribute to enhancement of governance, and promotion of effective decision-making relating to cross-cutting economic, social, environmental and other aspects of development that have a direct bearing on people's livelihood.

The project is a product of the concept seeded by India's former president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam.

His vision was to connect India with all the 53 African countries with a satellite and fibre optic network for the purpose of sharing India's expertise in education and health care.

The project is currently being implemented in 47 African countries, with actual commissioning having already been completed in 34 nations on the continent.

Statistics indicate that, so far, more than 1700 students from African countries are already on board pursuing various courses with Indian universities under the tele-education component of the project.

Regular tele-medical consultations have also started between African doctors and Indian specialists through this network with nearly 700 lectures having been delivered by highly specialised doctors from the Indian Super Speciality hospitals.

India has decided to go another mile by offering training at regional level through workshops in tele-medicine and tele-education modules.

This, it is envisaged, will facilitate better utilisation of different aspects of the Pan-African e-Network Project.

"I am confident that at the end of the day, both sides will find themselves enriched through mutual exchanges and interactions," carped Mr Krishna, as he interacted with African Heads of Missions in New Delhi who witnessed the launch, among them Zambia's Acting High Commissioner, Brigadier-General Allan Kalebuka (Rtd).