Power of Idea: Connecting India and Africa via e-network
By Manish Chand
It’s a life-changing miracle, midwifed by technology and given wings by creative diplomacy.Ten years ago, a pioneering idea was born that promised to cohere technology, knowledge and innovation to transform the lives of thousands of Africans and to bring India and Africa closer in an empowering partnership of mutual resurgence. That idea has now blossomed into a full-fledged network that provides telemedicine and tele-education to Africans living thousands of miles away by linking them with top educational institutions and super-speciality hospitals in India.
Bridging Digital Divide
The evolution of the e-network telescopes the culture of close consultations and collaborations that mark the burgeoning India-Africa partnership. Brainchild of Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, India’s preeminent scientist, the idea was first proposed by the then president during his speech to the Pan-African parliament on September 16, 2004 in Johannesburg, which was attended by officials of African countries as well as the African Union. The idea struck an instant chord, with paper work being completed in a record time, leading to the signing of a pact between India and the AU for setting up the pan-Africa e-network in the summer of 2005.
Built at a cost of $125 million, the e-network is already transforming lives of ordinary Africans. Under the tele-education component of the network, more than 2000 students from Africa have been enrolled in five different top ranking universities in India in a host of disciplines like MBA, Master in Finance Control, PG Diploma in IT, M.Sc. in IT and Bachelor in Finance & Investment Analysis. Regular tele-education live sessions have elicited an enthusiastic response from African students. Tele-medical consultations have also started between the African doctors and the Indian specialists. Nearly 700 Continued Medical Education (CME) lectures have been delivered by Indian doctors from top Indian super specialty hospitals. Enthused by the African response, India has even offered training at the regional level by conducting workshops in the tele-medicine and tele-education modules for optimizing benefits of the project.
Hailed as a “shining symbol of South-South cooperation,” the project has garnered many accolades, including the prestigious Hermes Prize 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 in Paris four years ago. Blending technology with social transformation, the project shows the creative possibilities of using ICT to catalyze lasting socio-economic changes.
The African Dream
Africa is often described as resource-rich, but with more than half its billion-plus population young and restless to carve their own destiny, the continent should be more fittingly labelled as “people-rich.” It is this inexhaustible richness of the African people that India, with its proven prowess in knowledge industries and capacity building, is banking on to help fructify the African dream. The pan-Africa e-network has shown the way to think innovatively and partner Africa in its transformational journey. Let a thousand ideas bloom and connect, to create enduring networks of knowledge and innovation that shrink distances, create an inclusive global society and bring people together in quest of more fulfilling lives.