Education and ICT as an Emerging Sector: Mutual Interests of India and Africa. PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 July 2011 11:04

Education and ICT as an Emerging Sector: Mutual Interests of India and Africa.

Dr. Suresh Kumar

AFRICAN REVIEW. APRIL 2011. IACCI. MUMBAI.

 

Introduction

The world is changing at a rapid pace, and the scope and impact of change have several magnitude and inferences that rise above geographic and cultural borders. The United Nations Development Programme under Human Development Report states that "to address the growing challenges of human security, a new development paradigm is needed that puts people at the centre of development, regards economic growth as a means and not an end, protects the life opportunities of future generations as well as present generations, and respects the natural systems of which all life depends." [UNDP.1994: 4]. The generation of new knowledge, the development of better technologies and the promotion of innovation are essential for achieving food security, diversifying manufactured products, reducing poverty and protecting the environment in Africa. However, the education system in the continent continues to face various challenges (UNESCO Science Report 2010). Most of the African countries provide the school education in their indigenous languages and introduced international language at high school level. As a result, Africa lacks higher education system. There is a need to adapt Africa’s higher education system to the Bachelors-Masters-doctorate triumvirate. Africa faces inadequate Infrastructure (laboratories are poorly equipped, and curriculum is inadequate), under-financed programs that are not well-aligned to industry needs and low Grades characterize the secondary and higher education system in the continent.

‘Awareness around the importance of education has becoming progressively more widespread in Africa in recent times. Strategies for education development, including the First Decade of Education for Africa (1997–2006) and the NEPAD Strategic Framework (2003–2005) have been consistently outlined. Moreover, it is increasingly evident that the western model of education cannot be easily replicated in Africa. Rather, durable and time-tested technologies must be utilized in Africa, as nearly 70% of its population resides in rural areas and are faced with lack of access to advanced technologies’ (UNESCO Opinion Article. 2011). With the objective of reinvigorating education in Africa, the Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006–2015) (Launch. 2011) has also been launched. It is here that the India-Africa collaboration in education can help increase access to quality education and alleviate the continent’s long-term hurdles to progress.

The ICT covers computers, e-mail, networking, internet, mobile phone, fax machine, radio, television, telephone, wireless loop line as its essential components. Commencing a social development awareness, globalization is a complex phenomenon expressing the union of economic, political, social, and cultural factors interacting in Africa through Information & Communication Technology (ICT) cross-geographic borders. The expansion of fixed and mobile telephone services coupled with narrow and broadband internet access through satellite linkup, which is principally aimed at enhancing information services for education and students are additional communications projects the government is pursuing vigorously.

ICT brings a global equalization of expectations, resulting from improvements in education, global communication, and transportation that persuade Human Resource Development (HRD) efforts in Africa. ICT is a subversive medium to fight against these evils. ICT through Internet brings the opportunity where the human mind is a direct productive force needs to strengthen in Africa. The potential of ICT and its practices may bring a social change and provide access to mass population. HRD in Africa feels the need of creating a platform in favor of such ICT initiatives in different educational institutes, Medical, Agriculture and Engineering College, which could make ICT relevant for the common people living in Africa.

 

Pan-Africa Network and Information Technology

ICT can play in furthering and enhancing sustainable development. Everywhere in the developing world, especially in Africa, governments are launching ambitious ICT infrastructure initiatives, radically changing their communications policy frameworks and situating ICT at the heart of their self reliance movement as a strategy. ICT has become an indispensable tool in the fight against poverty in Africa. ICT provides developing nations with an unprecedented opportunity to meet vital development goals such as poverty reduction, basic healthcare, and education, far more effectively than before. Those nations that succeed in harnessing the potential of ICT can look forward to greatly expand economic growth, dramatically improved human welfare and stronger forms of democratic governance. ICT in changing Africa should identify specific policy prescriptions undertaken by countries illustrating the application of ICT tools and strategies for income generation and human poverty eradication, enhancing economic opportunities and reducing the gap in social equity. It focuses on human development, which meets UNDP mandate in the area for development by concretely promoting human development and eradicating poverty. Human development resumes its centrality and freedom becomes the principal means and ends of development. Amartya Sen observed that it would become essential to ‘develop and support a plurality of institutions, including democratic systems, legal mechanisms, market structure, educational and health provisions, media insight and framework to reinstate freedom at the core of human development initiatives’ [Sen, A, Development As Freedom, Knopf, New York, 1999].

The Pan-African Network (PAN) aims to bridge the digital divide in Africa Continent and propose tele-education and telemedicine services to the member countries of the African Union (AU). President Dr. Abdul Kalam announced the willingness of Government of India to provide seamless and integrated satellite, fiber optics and wireless network connecting 53 African countries during the Pan African Parliament, Johannesburg, on 16 Sept 2004.

 

Investment Opportunities in ICT in Africa

AU accepted the Indian proposal and signed an umbrella MOU with Govt. of India through Ministry of External Affairs who acts as a Nodal Ministry. Govt. of India appointed TCIL as the turnkey implementing Agency of the project network to provide e-Service in Tele-education, Tele-medicine, and VVIP Connectivity (video-conferencing and VoIP among the Heads of African States), Africa’s Heads of State and Government and Heads of Delegation, along with the Prime Minister of India, established the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation in April 2008 to cooperate on several aspects of the healthcare sector, including:

· Exchanging information and technical knowledge on traditional systems of medicine

· Providing training to health care professionals and physicians

· Increasing access to adequate medical services and expanding telemedicine infrastructure and technology such as medical diagnostic and other services

· Enhancing cooperation in controlling HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases

· Combating the proliferation and dumping of counterfeit medicines’ (EXIM BANK.2011:41).

The second phase of this project was initiated in August 2010, wherein telemedicine consultations are regularly being conducted from super specialty hospitals in India to African countries. Furthermore, 11 Indian super-specialty hospitals have initiated regular continued medical education (CME) sessions since 22 April 2009, and to date, around 654 CME sessions have been conducted through this network.

 

1. ICT Investment Opportunities in Education Sector

Developing countries in Africa face the challenge of expanding educational opportunities to low-income groups, ethnic minorities, girls and women, low-skilled workers and people with disabilities. ICT can prove to be powerful tools for educational change and reform in African countries. They can be helpful in increasing access to and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of education at all levels. It is important for Africa’s development that more than 600,000 schools and higher education institutions across the continent are networked through complete connectivity to the internet. ‘Concerns over educational relevance and quality coexist with the imperative of expanding educational opportunities (via ICT) to those made most vulnerable by globalization—developing countries in general; low-income groups, girls and women, and low-skilled workers in particular. Global changes also put pressure on all groups to constantly acquire and apply new skills (Victoria L. Tinio. 2002:3).

ICT can help provide long-distance education through online learning. This involves the use of an information network — internet, intranet or extranet — to deliver online lectures and make all course material available online. This type of setup eliminates the need for instructors and students to be at the same physical location. Students at multiple locations can receive a lecture delivered from an instructor at another location. This also facilitates asynchronous learning, i.e., there can be a time delay between the delivery of lectures and their reception by students. ‘The Pan African e-Network is the biggest project for distance education and tele-medicine ever undertaken in Zambia. This project 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 recognizes information technology as an indispensable tool for development’ (Zambia at 46. 2011: 48).

The benefits of tele-education will provide anytime, anywhere learning, individualized learning, creative and reflective thinking, authenticated assessments, distance education operation, competitive learning, development learning, problem-solving learning and efficient use of knowledge base. In tele-education, seven studios offering post-production services in different universities are set up in India. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi, University of Delhi, New Delhi, AMITY University, Noida, University of Madras, Chennai and Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani. All these universities are specialized in the different disciplines and teachers use collaborative tools to interact live with students. The leading regional Universities selected by AU are Makerere University, Uganda, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Ghana, University of Yaounde, Cameroon, Alexandria University, Egypt and the university from Southern African region is yet to be selected. All the countries in Africa are scheduled for commissioning by March 2011to start operation of the Network by providing the Tele-education. All 53 learning centers will be used as virtual classrooms for the remote centers and may also be network-enabled for further expansion into other parts of the country.

The identification of educational programmes and medical disciplines are taken into consideration and the AU has showed interest in 5 broad areas of education such as Physical Sciences, Engineering & Technology, Computer Science and IT, Management and Business, Finance, International languages (English, French, German and Arabic).  The educational programmes offer different courses of post graduate courses for 2 years/4 semesters (Table-1), undergraduate courses for 3 years/6 semesters (Table-2), Diploma Programmes (Table-3), Certificate courses for 6months or 1 year (Table-4) and Medical Courses (Table-5) in different universities shows the real willingness of India developing capacity building in Africa.

India offers different subjects in the Medical disciplines to Africa such as: ‘General (Internal) Medicine, Radiology, Adult Cardiology, Pediatric Cardiology, Neurology, Dermatology, Endocrinology, Infectious Diseases/HIV-AIDS, Gastroenterology, Nephrology, Pathology, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Medical Oncology, Urology, Genetics, Gynecology and Ophthalmology’ and about 4000 students registered in various courses so far (TCIL. 2011). This 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. India has made available, facilities and expertise of some of its best universities and super-specialist hospitals in India to Africa.  The ‘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 specialized doctors from the Indian Super Specialty hospitals. 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, Brig. Gen. Allan Kalebuka(Zambia at 46. 2011: 49).  The project has been conferred with the ‘Hermes Prize for innovation 2010’ by the European Institute for Creative Studies and Innovation for its contribution in the field of sustainable development.

Given the key role education and health play in national development, and the fact that the two domains are determinant factors in the attainment of most, if not all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the e-network project is a timely technological intervention that will add to the prospects of Africa advancing to another level development in the century.

Eleven Indian Hospitals have been started On Line Medical Consultation and Continuing Medical Education (CME) for all African countries on regular basis from 22nd April 2009. ‘The schedule for CME sessions is circulated in advance and also made available on the project website. Nearly 1024 CME Sessions have been conducted up to September 2010. Almost 20 to 50 doctors attend the live CME Sessions of 289 online Medical consultations. The training to African students consists of different set up such as: On-the-job training during the installation, Detailed Training (covering concepts, features and facilities, and operating procedures, troubleshooting etc.) to the identified personnel at the regional centers including Nigeria. The first Workshop for the member States was conducted on 12-13 August 2009, which was attended by 63 delegates from 31 countries. The Government of India provided the Hospitality in India and the second workshop has been proposed in New Delhi in March 2011’ (Panafricanenetwork.2011). Indian Super Specialty Hospitals selected for Tele-Medicine are All India Institute of Medical Sciences (A.I.I.M.S.) Delhi, ESCORTS Heart Institute and Research Center, New Delhi, MOOLCHAND Hospital, New Delhi, FORTIS Hospital, Noida, APOLLO Hospitals, Chennai, SRI RAMCHANDRA Medical College and Hospital, Chennai, NARAYANA HRUDAYALAYA, Bangalore, HEALTH CARE GLOBAL Enterprises, Bangalore, CARE Hospitals, Hyderabad, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), Kochi, Dr. Balabhai NANAVATI Hospital, Mumbai and Sanjay Gandhi PGI Lucknow.

Similarly, Indian hospitals are connected with the African regional Super Specialty Hospitals such as: Ibadan Hospital, Nigeria, Brazzaville Hospital, Republic of Congo, Sir Seewosagur Ramgoolam National Hospital, Mauritius, and Alexandria University Hospital, Egypt.

 

Table-1 Post Graduate Courses for African Universities

 

Sr. No. Post Graduate Course University

1. MBA (HR/Marketing) (English) IGNOU

2. MBA–International Business   AMITY

3. M.Sc. in Information Technology University of Madras

4. Master of Tourism Management IGNOU

5. Master of Finance and Control AMITY

6. MBA (HR, in Marketing – French)   AMITY

Source: Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. New Delhi. 10th February 2011

 

Table-2 Under Graduate Courses for African Universities

 

Sr. No. Under Graduate Course University

1. BBA (in English) University of Madras

2. BBA (in French)   AMITY

3. B.Sc. in Information Technology AMITY

4. Bachelor of Fin & Investment Analysis   AMITY

5. Bachelor of Tourism Studies IGNOU

Source: Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. New Delhi. 10th February 2011

 

Table-3 Diploma Programmes for African Universities

 

Sr. No. Diploma Programmes University

1. French Language AMITY

2. PG Diploma in Information Technology AMITY

3. Business Management AMITY

4. Tourism Studies IGNOU

5. Early childcare and Education IGNOU

Source: Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. New Delhi. 10th February 2011

 

Table-4 Certificate Programmes for African Universities

 

Sr. No. Certificate Programmes Duration University

1. Database & Information System 1 year BITS

2. Networking & Operating System 1 year BITS

3. Electronics & Instrumentation 1 year BITS

4. English Language University of Delhi

5. Accountancy University of Delhi

6. German Language University of Madras

7. Arabic Language   University of Madras

8. Tourism Studies IGNOU

9. Nutrition & Childcare IGNOU

10. Environmental Studies IGNOU

Source: Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. New Delhi. 10th February 2011.

 

The Pan Africa Network offers the opportunities to the educational institutions of India and Indian investors to work in ICT in Africa in various fields (Table-5) such as:

Table-5 Major ICT Projects executed in Africa

 

 

Country Project Name Value (In Million USD)

ALGERIA Supply and Installation of OPGW 22.0

Construction of Power transmission lines 10.4

Supply and Installation of  Lashed cable 05.5

Architectural consultancy for 4 cyber park buildings for MPTC 0.83

BENIN Local cable Network for Porto-Novo, Abomey & Bohicon 09.5

BOTSWANA Outside Plant of Telephone Exchanges (12 works) 13

COMOROS Expansion of Telephone system at M‘beni and Foumbouni 1.3

ETHIOPIA SDH Microwave 03.4

Construction of outside plant network for Nifas silk area, Diredawa, Nazreth   09.7

Supply & supervision of Digital UHF system 02.7

Supply of Solar systems for rural exchanges 1.37

Supply of VSAT antenna systems 0.65

GHANA Expansion of outside plant network 26.3

Dansoman outside plant 11.7

Copper Access Network 45.7

Copper Access Network 08.5

LIBYA Feasibility study for Tripoli exchange cable network for National Telecom Co. Libya 1981

Survey and Design for upgradation of Tripoli Network- GPTC in 2003

MADAGASCAR Modernization of telecom network at Antananarivo and Toamasina 09.0

MALAWI Outside plant (funded by African Development Bank) 19

MAURITIUS Local cable Network, Outside plant, OFC, connection of new customers, (25 works) 85

Communication cabling  infrastructure for Ebene Cyber City 0.85

Consultancy for Crime Tracking System for Police MR 1.3 Million

MOZAMBIQUE Local cable Network (funded by AfDB) 2.42

NIGER Modernization and extension of Cable Network 2.9

NIGERIA Outside Plant in Lagos, Ikoyi and Abuja (2 works) 16.5

Abuja – Enuga OFC link 2.4

SUDAN Feasibility study and design for Sudan Electronic City 0.24

SWAZILAND Supply and commissioning of integrated billing system for telecom business 2.54

Integrated Billing Mediation & customer care system 3.76

TANZANIA Dodoma-Mwanza external line plant project (funded by African Development Bank) 11.29

TOGO Extension of Telecom network  ( 2 civil works) 3.4

ZIMBABWE Matebaleland Digitalization project (external plant, switching, Transmission and Line management system) 46.35

Source: Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. 10th February 2011. New Delhi.

 

2. ICT Investment Opportunities in Agriculture Sector

ICT can play a prominent role in the development of Africa’s agriculture sector. The concept of e-agriculture can be implemented by networking and connecting all villages across the continent through the establishment of internet kiosks. This can prove to be an effective source of up-to-date marketing and agricultural information for African farmers. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing livelihood to approximately 75 per cent of the population.  ICT connects the African group of farmers having small holding of land in one group and introduce the considerable scope for diversification and expansion of their income through accelerated food crop production and increase of non-traditional exports.  ICT connects the African farmers to the market to handle the farmer’s technological infrastructure such as packaging, storage and transportation. Intensified irrigation and additional value added processing are marketable areas for investments. ICT provides the opportunities exist in production and export of products such as cut-flowers, French beans, pineapples, mangoes and other fruits, cereals, leather and leather products, canned beef, and honey farm machinery and other products.

Similarly, the agricultural sector in Mauritius is being re-engineered to cater for the arising needs of the global food security crisis with an increased diversification of agricultural production backed by modern techniques and technologies.  ICT is one tool of investment in this sector providing training in advanced agricultural technology including precision farming, hydroponics cultivation, green and organic farming among others.  Furthermore, the transformation of the sugar industry in sugarcane clusters present opportunities for the production of high value-added sugar, by products and energy. Along with it, Mauritius has an exclusive economic zone of 1.9 million sq. km and is set to emerge as a leading seafood hub with seafood export accounting for 16.1% of total exports in 2009.  ICT in Mauritius offers the opportunity for sustainable fish farming activities in its lagoon.  ICT connects the local companies involving in fish transshipment, seafood processing activities and ancillary services with the World market.

 

3. ICT Investment Opportunities in Governance Training

African countries are diverse in terms of culture, language, geography and economic status. In several of the continent’s countries, the percentage of the population living below minimal social-economic standards is large. However, the effective implementation of economic development programs aimed at economically weaker sections of society continues to be a challenge. The ICT experiment testing is already done in this direction to strengthen connectivity of all African countries. It is the time to share the rich experience of Indian governance and provide training to African counterpart (officials and bureaucrats) dealing the issues of poverty eradication, communal harmony and way of living under the flag of unity in diversity, independent election commission, independent judiciary and experience of parliamentary democracy . Along with it, India may share its office entrepreneurship with Africa and start training through pan Africa network. This is the good opportunity for the private sectors or the training centers investors of India to share their knowledge with Africa through ICT.

Along with it, 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. 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.

 

4. ICT Investment Opportunities in Tele Market

There is broad variation in mobile penetration among African countries due to differences in the economic development, competition and liberalization of their telecom sectors. However, mobile penetration is expected to improve significantly in the near future, largely due to mobile services becoming more affordable, liberalization in the sector and the issuing of new licenses. These factors are critical for the economic development of Africa and are expected to boost the GDP and per capita income of African countries. Mobile services in Africa are also expected to become more affordable with improvements in network infrastructure, increased competition, the innovative practices of several operators in terms of airtime, and the emergence of low-cost mobile handsets. Mobile networks in the continent have also begun to play an increasingly prominent role in internet service provision, following the launch of 3G services in a number of markets, creating a new revenue stream in an environment that faces the challenge of low average revenue per user (ARPU).

Expansion of the network to other locations by adding more VSAT terminals, as well as broadband and wireless connectivity, is expected to be implemented through additional elements and bandwidth. The selected Indian Universities are working for providing Tele-Education services.

Indian IT companies have also helped modernize banks in Africa, which were earlier largely legacy-driven. The deployment of core banking technologies in African banks has increased their efficiency. In addition, Indian IT players export their hardware products to the country. These companies are also investing in developing the skills and capabilities of IT professionals in Africa. Indian IT companies are increasingly making contributions to African economies through the deployment of ICT based services.

‘ICT/Business Process Outsourcing joins the most exiting and fastest growing sector and a new frontier in Business Process Outsourcing taking advantage of abundant highly educated and skilled human resources in the region. The government of Kenya has made ICT a priority in its economic recovery strategy initiatives. With the incentives and benefits that Kenya has to offer, the following areas can be invested such as the ICT Enabled Services, Call Centers for both inbound and outbound calls, Wide range of Business Process Outsourcing activities, Disaster recovery, Software development, Education and Training,  ICT Habitats and Development of Broadband infrastructure’ (Eye on Africa. 2010: 14-15).

 

Conclusion

ICT transfer through skill development in various fields assists the African youth in getting employment in the formal sector where Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is directed, and that will change the home environment and helping in poverty reduction. An understanding of the relationship between capability and human development is critical to making technology transfers applicable to poverty reduction. A certain capability to absorb, select and adapt technologies to local settings and to develop new technologies through local innovation must be present for effective technology transfer across all levels from teaching institutes to household & national level in Africa. At the household level this means a thorough knowledge of information systems and integrated social networks as well as local knowledge in their respective language through Pan Africa network. At the national level, this involves a national framework that considers innovative systems accommodating a range of institutions and policies. The key focus should be on integrating national technology policies and innovation systems with poverty reduction strategies. Participatory technology development has shown to be effective as a means of choosing the most appropriate technology. Enabling access to new technologies consists of making more productive technologies available through technology transfer and providing an environment, which includes institutional and financial support to the marginalized people. The vital factor is not just bringing new technologies to the door step of the people but addressing their organizational, management and marketing skills, opening new channels of information and knowledge and making credit and markets more accessible.

References

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