India Monday launched the second phase of pan-Africa e-network, adding 12 more countries to the New Delhi-aided long distance education and tele-medicine programme.
Speaking to senior ministers of 12 African countries via videoconference, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna underlined the importance India attaches to developing multi-faceted and enduring partnership with the African continent.
The tele-interaction lasted for nearly two hours and cut across the African continent covering countries ranging from Egypt in the north to Botswana in the south.
Other countries that formally joined the network included Burundi, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Eritrea, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia and Uganda.
Eleven countries included in the first phase of the project launched last year were Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Seychelles.
"The pan-African e-Network project is one of the finest examples of the growing partnership between India and Africa," Krishna said after the launch of the e-network in front of African ambassadors.
"I understand that this is the biggest project of distance education and tele-medicine ever undertaken in Africa," he said.
The video-interaction was organized by Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL), which is also implementing the $125-million project.
A brainchild of India's former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the e-network seeks to bridge the digital divide across the 53-nation African continent and seeks to provide tele-medicine and tele-education through a fibre-optic network.
India has signed agreement with 47 countries in Africa, but the infrastructure has been completed in 34 of them.
The project won the prestigious Hermes Prize recently for innovation in the field of sustainable development. The prize was announced May 25 in Paris by the European Institute of Creative Strategies and Innovation, a think tank.
The seven Indian educational institutions associated with the project are Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Amity University, University of Madras, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, University of Delhi and Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur.
Under the project, tele-medicine patient-end locations have been set up in 11 Indian super specialty hospitals. These have been connected to 33 patient-end hospitals in Africa. Regular tele-medicine consultations have already started in some of the countries.