New Delhi : India's dream e-project in Africa that seeks to bridge the digital divide among 53 countries of the continent moved one step closer to reality Thursday as the cabinet approved Rs.5.42 billion ($120 million) for it.
"The project will showcase India's capability in the IT sector, technology, healthcare and education," Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters while announcing the government's decision to implement the project.
"Its successful implementation is expected to enhance India's profile in the region and add a fresh dimension to India's partnership with Africa," the minister said.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is currently in Addis Ababa, is expected to launch the pilot projects of the Pan-African Network in Ethiopia that will bring the benefits of tele-education and tele-medicine to the continent.
The brainchild of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a well-known space scientist and technocrat, the Pan African Network (PAN) is expected to revolutionise communication and accelerate development throughout Africa and replenish a huge reservoir of goodwill that already exists in Africa for India.
India and the African Union (AU) signed a pact in October 2005 for setting up the landmark satellite and fibre optic network that will enable the sharing of India's expertise in the fields of healthcare and education with Africa.
The project includes setting up a VVIP network that will link the presidents of all the 53 African countries who will have ready access to their counterparts through videoconferencing and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) facilities.
The network will also help set up Internet and videoconferencing 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 to all 53 African countries. There will be two universities from India and three universities from Africa; three super-specialty hospitals from India and the other seven from Africa in the network, officials said.
Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd (TCIL) will implement the project in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The external affairs ministry will coordinate the setting up of the project.
The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both based in New Delhi, and other organisations will support the network. TCIL will manage the network, which will have 169 terminals for an initial period of three years.