After failing to get a regional broadband project off the ground due to lack of support by member countries, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and the African Union are now focusing their attention on speeding up the implementation of ICT policy harmonization in order to enhance telecom development.
The effort is expected to bring to an end monopoly policies in the telecom sector that are blamed for poor and expensive communication services in the region.
At an ICT meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, last week, the two organizations agreed to push implementation of ICT policies in order to support economic development and regional integration, especially in the east African region.
It is not clear how the two organizations will speed up implementation of policies among their member countries. But a report and work plan on how that will be achieved is being compiled by the two organizations and will be submitted to member countries' policy makers, who will be meeting for the African Union and Nepad conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next month.
Both the African Union and Nepad have for a long time failed to secure a critical mass of countries to support the roll-out of ICT projects, including Nepad's US$2 billion broadband infrastructure project.
Nepad hopes that once the implementation of ICT policy harmonization is achieved, it will become easier to get support for its broadband project from member countries.
Nepad has identified ICT as a priority and has established a task force to coordinate the implementation of ICT projects. But the organization's broadband project has failed to get moving as many countries fear that signing on to it will mean changing their monopoly regulatory policies.
"Zambia has already ended the monopoly by the incumbent operator Zamtel through the establishment of a law that gives powers to the Communications Authority of Zambia to handle all communication agreements instead of Zamtel," said Geoffrey Lungwangwa, Zambia's communications and Transport Minister.
The Nepad broadband project sets out a policy and regulatory framework for the region. Plans include the establishment of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will own, operate and manage the network.
If the harmonization of policies is accomplished, most African governments will no longer be able to protect incumbent operators from competition with private service providers. This in turn is expected to result in high quality communication services and reduce the high cost of communications, including the cost of bandwidth. The Nepad project hopes to connect all African countries to a communication network that stretches from South Africa to Rwanda. The network will operate on top of a submarine cable network system that will run along the east African coast.
Nepad also wants all countries to have equal access to the cable regardless of their distance from the cable's landing points on the east coast.
Last year, the African Union through Nepad invited all African countries to agree to the Kigali protocol in order to get the project off the ground. But fewer than 15 countries out of over 45 have signed the protocol. The Kigali protocol is the policy and regulatory framework agreement through which African countries can coordinate regulations and facilitate the construction and operation of regional broadband services. Countries are, however, shying away from signing the protocol, fearing that incumbent operators will be forced to close due to increased competition.
MOBILE phone usage in Africa has increased dramatically over the past five years, with Tanzania accounting for 5 per cent of mobile phone subscribers in the sub-Saharan region, according to a new study.
By the end of 2008, Africa had 246 million mobile subscriptions, and mobile penetration has risen from just five per cent in 2003 to well over 30 per cent today, says a report released in Johannesburg by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) last week. The ITU research shows that African countries are facing a number of challenges in increasing information communication technology (ICT) levels. These include lack of full liberalization of markets and limited availability of infrastructure, such as shortage of international Internet bandwidth.
The 76-page report says Nigeria has the highest number of subscribers (26%), followed by South Africa (19%) and Kenya (7%).
In addition to funding the development of various ICT projects in Southern Africa, India has also started pumping money into electricity generation projects to boost the region's power supply.
Due to lack of investment in renewable energy and electricity generation, several Southern African countries including Zambia, Namibia and Malawi are faced with increased power shortages affecting ICT equipment, particularly in rural areas.
To ensure the region has enough electricity, Indian Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari has signed agreements with Southern African countries including Zambia and Malawi for electric power generation and renewable energy projects.
Ansari's tour of Southern African countries last week came in the wake of India's sponsorship of a pan-African e-network project. The project aims to connect all African countries to satellite and fiber-optic networks and to provide telemedicine, tele-education and video conferencing services for all heads of state in Africa as well as for students and doctors.
Indian companies are also providing computer training programs to Botswana and South Africa. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) plans to equip schools in Africa to promote e-learning projects, but power problems stand in the way.
Many African governments have been facing a challenge raising funds to buy generators to power ICT equipment. However, Indian companies are moving in to help the situation through investments in ICT and electricity generation projects.
"The Zambian government is providing a conducive environment for Indian companies' investments," said Zambian Vice President George Kunda.
In August last year, Zambia joined more than 30 countries in Africa that will benefit from the pan-African e-network plan. The project, which was first launched in South Africa, Mauritius, Ethiopia and Ghana, will cost the Indian government more than US$125 million, although the project will likely demand $1 billion in total.
After five years, the Indian government will withdraw from the project to allow African countries to run it on their own, using their own financial and human resources.
Ansari's visit to Zambia saw the Indian government giving Zambia a $50 million loan facility to develop the 120-megawatt Itezhi Tezhi hydro power station, aimed at increasing the country's power generation capacity to power ICT projects, among others. The Itezhi Tezhi hydro power project is a joint venture between Zambia's state-owned power utility company, Zesco, and Tata Africa Holdings, an Indian company involved in ICT and electric power generation in Africa.
In Southern Africa, Tata Communications already owns a 56 percent stake in South Africa's second national operator, Neotel, and there are plans by the company to expand its communication services in many countries in Africa, especially those countries that are getting financial support from India.
"The future growth areas that Tata Africa is looking at are information technology and electricity generation," said Raman Dhawan, managing director at Tata Africa Holdings.
Considering China is making great inroads into the African ICT market through ZTE and Huawei, Dhawan noted that a possible way for India to increase its presence in Africa was for public and private companies to join hands.
To showcase its muscle and financial ability to further expand in the African telecom market, Tata has also set up a point of presence (POP) in Nairobi, Kenya, to route traffic to other African countries without passing through London.
Several initiatives to computerise public schools by government and the private sector are paving the way to electronic learning in Kenya which may not only change how students access learning materials but also boost the quality of education especially in remote areas where there are no libraries.
Current statistics from the Ministry of Education indicates that less than 2 per cent of public primary schools have access to basic computer studies and only 800 out of the 4,000 public secondary schools have computers.
However, through the Public Private Partnership programs the Ministry of Education expects to boost this number over the next three years.
Some of these initiatives includes the digitisation of school syllabus by the Kenya Institute of Education; computer donations and networking by telecommunication regulator , Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), and a partnership programme by the Clinton Global Initiative, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and USAid aimed at improving education in Kenya.
Last year the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) launched the first phase of a curriculum digitisation project that will enable both public secondary and primary schools to start offering e-learning.
The Minister for Education, Prof Sam Ongeri, says the move will harness access to technology driven practices and reduce disparities in curriculum delivery. “Curriculum review efforts will from now be geared towards modernization, including intensification of the integration of ICTs to cover all sub-sectors” said Prof Ongeri. “A number of people have been coming with foreign e-learning content for us to adopt but we have rejected all this so that we can develop our own.”
The initiative started in 2005, and KIE has been working through other partners and stakeholders. Other than developing the e-curriculum, KIE has also been involved in computer education pilot studies in 19 schools across the country.
Education Permanent Secretary, Prof Karega Mutahi, notes that the digitised content won’t replace teachers but will act as teaching aids to compliment their work. To address some of the challenges facing implementation of e-learning such as lack of electricity supply to most public schools and low ICT knowledge among the teachers, the government through the ministry of energy has prioritised provision of electricity to learning institutions through the rural electrification program and the use of solar power.
KIE has also developed an online course for orientation of primary teachers on the curriculum interpretation and implementation.
The Clinton Global initiative last year in September launched in collaboration with Kenya’s Ministry of Education, the Accelerating 21st Century Education (ACE) project aimed at improving the quality of primary and secondary education through the effective use of information and communications technology (ICT).
The various bodies are developing a best-in-class model for deploying ICT in education. Reflecting a combined commitment valued at more than $9 million, ACE will create “one-to-one e-learning” classrooms in 60 focus schools across Kenya. One-to-one e-learning, a model in which every student has access to a computer, helps foster an environment where young people can develop skills such as problem solving and critical thinking.
ACE will distribute more than 6,000 networked computers for student and teacher use and train approximately 7,000 teachers to effectively integrate ICT in the classroom.
In addition, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft will work together to establish a School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC) in Nairobi — a model that has been promoted in other countries through the Microsoft Partners in Learning programme. The centre will be dedicated to research on innovative emerging technology solutions and serve as a repository and showcase for best-known methods of teaching, learning and educational technology.
“ACE ties in with our mission to increase access to education, improve the quality of education and raise school enrolment rates for children from marginalised areas of East Africa,” said USAid Kenya Mission Director Erna Kerst. “We hope this collaboration will encourage more Kenyan children to complete school, improve teacher training practices and enhance professional development for teachers and school administrators with support from USAid.”
The ACE project focuses on 40 secondary schools and 20 primary schools across Kenya. It will deploy 6,000 student personal computers (PCs), 120 teacher laptops, 60 servers and the supporting wireless infrastructure to establish two e-learning classrooms in each school.
The project will also train 2,000 teachers at the schools, as well as 5,000 pre-service teachers at teacher training colleges in Kenya. In addition, ACE will offer education leadership forums to help lead teachers at the participating schools define a strategy for creating 21st-century learning environments.
Training will be provided through the Intel Teach Program and the Microsoft Partners in Learning programme, which offer proven ways to integrate technology into the curriculum for enhanced classroom learning. To promote a sustainable implementation of ICT in education, two instructors and one network administrator at each of the 60 schools will receive networking and IT training through the Cisco Networking Academy. The Networking Academy collaborates with educational institutions, governments and community-based organizations to provide students around the world with foundation ICT skills along with career skills such as problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking for increased access to career and economic opportunities.
“Collaboration among public and private-sector organizations can significantly enhance the quality of education for students around the world and strengthen the communities where they live,” said Tae Yoo, senior vice president, Corporate Affairs, Cisco.
ACE is closely aligned to the goals of the Ministry of Education, which recently digitized its national curriculum. The project will provide digital content for the revamped curriculum, with an initial focus on maths and science subjects for primary grades 4 to 6 and for the first two years of secondary education.
As part of this effort, Intel and the Ministry will collaborate in developing localized content for the Intel skoool Learning and Teaching Technology, an interactive Internet resource for learning maths and science. Microsoft is also working with the ministry to develop a new education portal where teachers can access e-mail and online educational content.
“By mobilizing our combined resources, we can help Kenya’s Ministry of Education put the implementation of its National ICT Strategy for Education on the fast track,” said Lila Ibrahim, general manager of the Emerging Markets Platform Group at Intel. “We believe that public-private collaborations like the ACE project are the most powerful means to invest in 21st-century learning and at the same time can help to stimulate the local economy.”
To encourage the sharing of knowledge related to tested best uses of technology in education, all of the key practices and methods learned from ACE will be captured in a School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC) that Cisco, Intel and Microsoft want to establish in Nairobi.
Like STICs in other countries, the Kenya centre will serve as a hub where education leaders and teachers from the region can access the latest information on technology solutions that are proven to enhance innovative teaching and learning, thus improving the skills needed by students to thrive in the 21st-century.
Centre visitors will also be able to view research on innovative educational technology solutions, witness technology demos, participate in training, and learn from best-practice models and outcomes. “Providing technology access and IT skills to students is a cornerstone for future innovation, economic growth and individual opportunity in the competitive global marketplace,” said Linda Zecher, corporate vice president of Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft.
Benefits of technology
To demonstrate the benefits of technology in the classroom, the STIC will feature 20 Intel-powered classmate PCs, networked via Cisco Wireless Technology, and the latest software offerings from Microsoft, including the new Windows 7 operating system.
The classmate PC is an affordable, full-featured, compact and rugged student laptop designed to promote interactive and collaborative learning among students and teachers. The STIC will also feature other technology products that are well-suited to teaching and learning.
Over the course of three years, the ACE project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 39,000 students and 7,000 teachers through improved educational infrastructure and training. The Ministry of Education estimates than an additional 300,000 people will benefit indirectly from the STIC and other aspects of knowledge sharing.
From: Business Daily Africa.
Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Yola, Professor Bashir Usman, has charged Nigerian professionals to keep themselves abreast of current global trends to remain relevant in the country's developmental efforts.
Speaking yesterday, while opening a two weeks special computer training for 20 members of Adamawa State Correspondents Chapel, organised by the university. Usman said the media industry, like most knowledge-based industries, needed constant training and retraining to enable them perform their duties effectively.
He said with the current globalisation drive, there is an urgent need to train Nigerian professionals in the emergent field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), so that they can be competitive internationally.I CT, he said, is at the core of the duties of a modern journalist, with the conversion of both printing and broadcast equipment from the analoque to digital technology, adding that any journalist who refuses to acquire competence in ICT skills has no business being in the profession.
Usman said the university is equipped with modern state of the art computing and other ICT equipment, and is ready to provide any kind of training required to media practitioners within two weeks,The 100 capacity computer laboratory facility was equipped for the university by the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).