February 2005

News Feb 2005

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Africa Microsoft to implement technology to the education sector
Africa Microsoft, the global software developer, as part of its continued effort to bring the benefits of technology to the education sector across the region, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Uganda to promote Partners in Learning (PiL).

The agreement, which came into effect in late December and extends until mid-2009, was signed by Francis Xavier Lubanga, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education (MoE) and Sports in Uganda, and Louis Otieno, the Regional Manager for East Africa at Microsoft. Otieno has said that PiL is a valuable programme across the entire region and especially in Uganda. It provides government's support in education through the integration of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in learning and teaching.

NEPAD launches the largest ICT education project in Africa
In Pretoria, NEPAD's (New Partnership for Africa's Development) e-Schools initiative is described as the largest multi-country ICT education project attempted in Africa. The NEPAD e-Schools initiative comes after the World Economic Forum's Africa Economic Summit in 2003, and is aimed at bridging the digital divide in Africa. It will equip schools with ICT labs and the tools.

The Communications Minister, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri had remarked that in the first phase of the programme, 15 governments had selected six secondary schools, each to be included in the project. The guidelines for selection were provided by the e-Africa Commission, she added.

Slum kids to access computers
In India, the Yeshwantrao Chavan Open University will soon commence a mobile computer literacy programme, aimed at taking computer education to the doorsteps of slumchildren in the North-East suburbs of Mumbai.

The officials at the university have said that the training programme will be provided to the students from standards v to viii. The computers will be installed in five to seven mobile vans and it will take rounds between the slums such as Ghatkopar and Mulund. Qualified teachers will also be hired for the purpose.

Malaysian schools link up with UK schools to boost up ICT
Some of the best schools in Malaysia will be connected to certain schools in the United Kingdom to enable the sharing of experience, particularly in ICT.

As a start, SMK Bandar Baru Bangi which is one of the 88 smart schools in the country, will be linked with a 100-year old grammar school in Lancaster of United Kingdom. However, the link will not be limited to schools in the UK and could also be developed with other countries. This would be in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's call to strengthen relationships between educational institutions, including schools in Malaysia and France. This initiative will open a new domain of distance learning.


A new website offered to companies to fight HIV/AIDS
The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) has announced the launch of a new service on it's website, which will offer the companies easy access to resources and funding opportunities to initiate and strengthen private sector HIV/AIDS initiatives in Africa.

CCA President, Stephen Hayes has said that the U.S. corporations invested in Africa must play an integral role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS initiative taken by the CCA on the website named http://www.africacncl.org will permit their team to be more effective in assisting members to develop and implement effective HIV/AIDS business plans.

Patients to get online help from doctors
In US, Park Nicollet Health Services has announced that a small trial group of patients from the Maple Grove clinic in the Twin Cities will be able to read portions of their medical records through the new 'Patient Online' service and conduct clinical electronic visits with their physicians.

The patients will soon be able to go online to check such items as immunisation records, prescription directions and test results. They also can discuss personal health issues with their doctors via secure e-mail, including symptoms, medications, allergies and test results. The e-Visit is generally covered by insurance, and the physician will respond within two business days. The service of such nature will provide the poor people the access to good doctors.

Medical University launches 'virtual library' in India
In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, has launched a ' virtual library,' in which holdings are available in electronic storehouses. The user will be able to find the source documents very fast.

According to the Vice-Chancellor, C.V. Bhirmanandham, the objective of the library is to convert full text holdings into electronic form using the full text medical databases and set up a hardware infrastructure to effectively disseminate the full text information to all remote and nearby colleges, to the university campus and to medical colleges affiliated to universities within the state.

Use of Internet to connect malaria research centres in Africa
The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the US National Library of Medicine have committed five million Swedish Kronor (sh1.2b) to link malaria research centres in Africa on the Internet.

In Uganda, Mulago hospital has been selected for the Internet link, with other malaria research centres in Zambia, Congo, Brazzaville and Nigeria to join the electronic malaria research network in the world. The project team will move to Uganda in February to do the physical assessment. The team is being lead by the Swedish Professor Bjorn Pearson who is the pioneer of this field.

Community Radio

Anna University campus community radio celebrates its first year of operation
In India, Anna University's Educational and Multimedia Research Centre (EMRC) has celebrated the one-year completion of Anna FM, the country's only campus Community Radio.

Throughout the year, the focus was on producing and airing programmes that are normally neglected by the mainstream media. That was the only way the programmes would appeal to the grassroots-level people scattered along a 30-km radius from Anna University.


ITC's e-Choupal initiative expanding
In India, ITC has started expanding its e-Choupal initiative in most of the villages of Uttar Pradesh. The choupals, where village elders hold meetings on vital issues are popular in this part of the country.

However, ITC has been able to penetrate into villages bringing V-SAT, computers, public address system and solar power givng away the traditional Choupals visible earlier. In less than a year, ITC has set up 1,546 e-Choupals in as many villages in Uttar Pradesh. An official spokesperson of the company has said that ITC has been using e-Choupals to market its entire product range, including Ashirwad flour, salt, candies, urea, DAP fertilisers and also other products. The e-Choupals also serve the purpose of procurement of raw material, including wheat, which the company procures directly from farmers and sells back to them in finished form. Till now, ITC has covered 44 districts of Uttar Pradesh.

ICT initiatives for farmers in Uganda
The Information Communication Technology for African Rural Development (ICTARD), an NGO working with Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) has launched a pilot project which will merge ICT into the agricultural sector.

Helen Karamagi, the Manager of ICTARD, has remarked that the mission of this project is to use ICT to improve agricultural production and welfare of the farmers through the provision of agricultural production and market related information.

Farmers to become e-Farmers
In India, the Chennai-based M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) is planning to set up a 'village-level knowledge centre' at Vallikunnu, in Malappuram district of Tamil Nadu. Their aim is to strengthen the agrarian community with information on latest developments and farm techniques employed in other parts of the world.

The proposed centre will work as a catalyst to MSSRF's ambitious drive, aimed at creating a chain of agri-based 'information villages' across the state. It will provide latest and useful information to the local farmers in order to improve their living conditions.

The New Indian Express

NAFED to provide an electronic platform for farmers and consumers
In India, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed among Financial Technologies India Ltd (FTIL), Multi-Commodity Exchange (MCX) and National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) with the State Bank of India in order to set up country's first National Spot Exchange for Agriculture Produce (NSEAP) for connecting all Agriculture Produce Marketing Cooperatives (APMC) and other physical market players on an electronic platform.

NSEAP will connect all APMCs by creating an electronic bridge between the consumers and producers across the country. However, electronic linkages have to be created between buyers and sellers for better efficiency in procurement along with essential infrastructure support to settle transactions.


8th National e-Governance Conference focuses on e-Governance action plan
In the Indian state of Orissa, at the 8th National Conference on e-Governance 2005, the Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Dayanidhi Maran, has said that it is necessary to identify success stories in the domain of e-Governance and use them as a basis for rapid implementation in other states or at other locations in the same state.

He also said that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government has drawn up a national e-Governance action plan to ensure that, all the people from rural areas will have an access to all economic benefits within the country and outside. The Minister is hoping that the IT kiosks in villages, which numbered about 8,000 at present, will reach 1 lakh mark within 2-3 years, if they leverage e-Governance appropriately. The Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik has remarked that, it was unfortunate that the e-Governance projects were confined to select departments in some states only. The success rate of e-Governance projects was pegged at a mere 15 per cent and called for augmentation of the success rates, he added. According to him, with the use of ICT tools, the government can provide services to common man in his own locality ensuring efficiency and reliability at an affordable cost.

The Union government of India has set a target of one lakh village information and communication kiosks by the end of current Plan period (2006-07).

The department has already taken opinions from some of the states like Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which have e-Governance applications in the rural areas. According to the official, the kiosks will be set up on a public-private participation basis and will be driven by district level administration, with the help from the state and central governments.

ECA goes for ICT programme to improve the lives of poor in Africa
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has for several years implemented an ICT advisory programme aimed at helping African countries provide ICT services to enrich the lives of poor people in Africa.

This programme, known as National Information Communication Infrastructure (NICI) seeks to help countries to create an enabling environment for ICT-enabled projects that will bring health services, education, income generation and access to markets closer to the poor.

EC agrees to videograph polling stations
In India, the Election Commission (EC) has directed the Chief Electoral Officers of Haryana, Bihar and Jharkhand to videograph the proceedings inside polling booths within a week of the Supreme Court's suggestion. At the same time the EC has also clarified that the secrecy of the vote should not be violated.

The EC circular has ordered that one Central Paramilitary Force personnel to be posted at the polling station entrance so that he gets an unrestricted view of the polling procedure inside the booths without violating secrecy.


Reliance Infocomm to empower rural telephony
In India, Reliance Infocomm is now on a board to cover around 400,000 villages and 5,700 towns to provide services to 650 million people by the end of December 2005.

Reliance Infocomm COO, Kamal Nanavaty has remarked that the company is targeting to double its user base to 20 million by March, 2006. The company's 80,000 km of terabit optic fibre cable network forms the backbone of its countrywide expansion, which will facilitate unlimited and uninterrupted voice, data and video applications. This expansion is involving 8,500 BTS (Base Transceiver Station) towers, and will also cover 91 percent of the country's national highways and 85 percent of the rail routes.

NOW adds a new cutting-edge to mobile phones in Sudan
The town of Rumbek in Southern Sudan is getting used to a sound that was never heard before

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