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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ethiopia First Beneficiary of India's Pan-Africa Network

newkerala.com -- Ethiopia is set to become the first beneficiary of India's dream project in Africa - the Pan-African e-Network Project - that aims at dispensing benefits of tele-education and tele-medicine to 53 countries of the African Union.

To make this dream real, India's Telecommunications Consultants (India) Limited (TCIL) - the executing agency of the project - Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ethiopian Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (EICTDA) to implement the pilot project for tele-education and tele-medicine.

The memorandum was signed by Debretsion G. Michael, director general, EICTDA, and Ratan Singh, project director, TCIL, in the presence of Indian envoy Gurjit Singh.

The pilot project, to be fully funded by the Indian government, will cost $ 2.1 million. "Ethiopia will be the first beneficiary of the Pan-African e-Network Project as it is the headquarters of African Union with the necessary infrastructure, and is keen for its early implementation," a press release by the Indian embassy here said.

The Addis Ababa University will be the nodal centre for tele-education, and Black Lion Hospital for tele-medicine. Initially, these nodal centres will be connected to remote centers in Adama University and Adama Medical College in Nazareth respectively. Other remote centers could be added later on.

The TCIL is executing the project in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The brainchild of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, this Pan African network aims at bridging the digital divide and accelerate development throughout Africa.

The 63.7 million project, which will be funded by the Indian external affairs ministry under its Aid-to-Africa Budget programme, is being hailed as the modern face of the India-Africa relations and cements the growing synergy in developmental projects.

The project, which is likely to become operational by 2007, includes setting up a VVIP network that will network the presidents of all the 53 African countries who will have a ready access to their counterparts through videoconferencing and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) facilities.

Shashi Tripathi, secretary (West) in India's external affairs ministry, and Bernard Zoba, the African Union's commissioner for infrastructure, signed the pact on the pan-African network in New Delhi Oct 27. The historic pact was signed in the presence of Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Rao Inderjit Singh and the African heads of missions.

"The motivation behind this project is to help Africa bridge the digital divide and to share the expertise that India has developed in this field," Tripathi had said after the signing ceremony.

The network would also help set up Internet and video conferencing services and support e-governance, e-commerce, infotainment, resource mapping and meteorological services connectivity.

The network will connect five universities, 53 learning centres, 10 super speciality hospitals and 53 remote hospitals in the African countries. While two universities will be from India and three from Africa, there will be three super specialty hospitals from India and the rest seven from Africa, official sources said.

The network, therefore, has a huge potential to transform the lives of ordinary Africans and will give a big impetus to eliminate hunger, disease and illiteracy from the continent.

Kalam, who first unveiled the idea of PAN African Network during his visit to the Pan African Parliament in South Africa in September 2004, called it "a historic day in the India-Africa relations" and prophesied that the project would become "a model for techno-economic cooperation between the two sides."

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