An African Exploration to India Searching for ICT Solutions for Development

Filed under: March 2010 |

March-2010

Arun Varma

Vice President
IL&FS Educational Technology Services Ltd.
arun.varma@ilfsets.com 

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) revolution is, perhaps, happening only in certain pockets of the world. However, its impact has been widely felt and that throws up more opportunities as well as challenges. Paul Barera knows that Rwanda, as a nation, is still smarting under the trauma of a civil war, and has a lot to catch up with. As the government in the country is busy putting the society back on a path to recovery, he also realises that the civil society also has to work along with the government for ushering in prosperity for the citizens. Barera was convinced about the role that technology can play in bridging the gap of development. And he had been on the look out for learning ever since. He wanted solutions for strengthening the Rwanda Telecentre Network.

Bob Lyazi, who worked for the government of Uganda also had similar concerns. He wanted to see technical and administrative challenges that would play hurdle in implementing socially beneficial schemes using ICT platforms. Bob wanted to strengthen the fundamental policy framework for ICT. What Dean Mulozi wanted to understand was how the ways and means of telecentre movement can be  turned from the pilot  level to a social movement level in his native place Zambia. How  does  one decide  on the technology? How can they be viable? What  should be the role of the government? Dean searched for solutions to all. Though little did they know about each other, all the three had one thing in common – they were on the look out for suitable solutions that could be replicated in their own respective countries. There are many more such people from many different regions, who have identical problems and are on the look out for the right solutions.

The Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an institution supported by the European Union, was quick to respond to these general sentiments. With its mandate on the development of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific countries, CTA decided to look for apt  models that can be replicated. After several rounds of discussions, CTA zeroed in on the National e-Governance Plan of India, under which the mammoth Common Services Centres (CSCs) are being rolled out. Thus, seeds were sown for an African study visit to India.


Senior officials from the Indian government, industry, media and Civil Society Organisations in India interacted with the delegates from the African countries to maximize this opportunity and also enable them  to understand the success story and replicate it in their respective countries.


However, things were not going to be easy. Koda Traore, the program coordinator at CTA had a difficult time. First, CTA’s senior officials questioned the wisdom of choosing India as the model. “Asia or South Asia do not form part of CTA mandate,” they reasoned. Koda, however, was quick to point out that no where in the world would one find such a massive scheme, where success rides on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) and hence, on a larger stakeholdership.

On November 29, 2009 a delegation from African nations arrived at Kozhikode, Kerala to begin the learning. CTA carried out a process of identifying the most suitable representatives from the region with significant ICT presence. The countries, thus represented in the India study visit included, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’ voire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Supported by the CTA, the ground-breaking initiative with an appropriate theme, “Social and Economic Development using Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)”, was meant to enhance participants’ knowledge on how India harnessed ICTs to promote its overall growth. The collaborators from the Indian side included Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited (IL&FS), Kerala State IT Mission (KSITM) and SREI-Sahaj Corporate.

The delegation visited Kozhikode  in Kerala to learn about the e-literacy campaigns run through Akshaya Centres. In Karnataka, the delegation interacted with the functionaries of Bangalore One and Nemmadi projects. The first-hand knowledge on PPP was shared  at Kolkata with the SREI-Sahaj CSCs.

And finally, in New Delhi, the delegation had the opportunity to experience how India addresses the diversity of challenges and positively enhances its economic growth using ICTs. Senior officials from the Indian government, industry, media and Civil Society Organisations in India interacted with the delegates from the African countries to maximize this opportunity and also enable them  to understand the success story and replicate it in their respective countries.

CTA, while structuring the visit, had laid focus on areas, such as ICT application in areas  of governance, agriculture, public health, education and rural empowerment. Moreover, the delegation was given an exposure to the concept of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that is being used as a key factor for long-term sustainability of the telecentre movement in India. The visit ended on December  08, 2009.  Sam Mills Authentic Jersey

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