One more significant and shining chapter in the history of India-Africa relationship was added, when the Pan-African e-Network Project was inaugurated on 26th Feb 2009 by Hon’ble Shri Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister at the TCIL Bhawan in New Delhi, amidst the presence of High Commissioners and Ambassadors of African countries.
With the commissioning of the Pan-African e-Network Project, former president Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam’s vision of connecting India with all 53 countries of the African Union with a satellite and fibre optic network for sharing India’s expertise in education and health care, has been translated into reality.
Describing the Pan-African e-Network Project as a shining example of South-South Cooperation, the External Affairs Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee said that under this project India has gifted a dedicated satellite for e-connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa to help bridge the digital divide. The Project aims to create significant linkages for tele-education and tele-medicine, making available the facilities and expertise of some of the best universities and super-specialty hospitals in India to the people of Africa.
Providing adequate educational facilities and affordable healthcare to citizens are two prominent concerns of many developing countries. Technological improvements in terms of communication infrastructure for delivering quality education and healthcare uniformly, across length and breadth of the country are a key factor in the progress of any country. Efforts in delivering education and healthcare from resourceful urban areas/developed countries to inaccessible remote/rural areas have yielded fruitful results in terms of success to the quality services in time and a cost effective manner.
Inspired by recent advances in the provision of healthcare and medical education through the use of Information and Communication Technology, noting India’s long history of assisting Africa in capacity building programmes and recognizing that Africa-India cooperation can play a major role in harnessing the benefits of globalisation for mutual advantage, the former President of India Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, during the inaugural session of the Pan-African Parliament held in Johannesburg on 16th September 2004, proposed in his address to connect all the 53 nations of the African Union by a satellite and fiber optic network that would provide effective communication for Tele-education, Tele-medicine, Internet, Videoconferencing and VoIP services and also support e-Governance, e-Commerce, infotainment, resource mapping, meteorological services etc.
As a follow up to the initiative taken by Dr. Kalam, the ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India proceeded to set up an e-Network now called Pan-African e-Network.
The Pan-African e-Network project is being funded by the Government of India with an approved budgeted cost of INR 5082 Million i.e. about US$ 117 Million. The Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India has been designated as the Nodal Ministry. TCIL has been designated as the turnkey Implementing Agency. In this capacity, TCIL’s role is to design the network, procure & install the equipment, provide O&M support for 5 years after commissioning the network in respective countries and provide consultancy to the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India on all matters related to the project. The project is to be implemented in a phased manner progressively over a period of 18 months from the date of signing of agreement between TCIL and the Ministry of External Affairs, It is tentatively planned to commission the network in 15 countries in the first 11 months, 20 countries in the next 4 months and the balance countries in the last 3 months.
The network connects the following elements:
1. A Data Centre at TCIL Bhawan, New Delhi (It acts as a Hub for all the Indian sites & Super Specialty Hospitals)
2. Tele-education set-up in 7 Universities/Educational Institutions
3. Tele-Medicine set-up in 12 Super Specialty Hospitals
1. Satellite Hub earth Station at Dakar, Senegal
2. 5 leading Regional Universities
3. 5 Regional Super Specialty Hospitals
4. 53 Learning/tele-education centers, one in each country
5. 53 Patient-end locations/tele-medicine centers, one in each country
6. 53 VVIP Communication Nodes, one in each country
All the 7 selected Indian Universities and 12 Super Specialty Hospitals will be connected (through MPLS based IP Network) to the Data Center at TCIL Bhawan, which will be further connected to the Submarine Landing Stations of the IPLC service provider.
Objective, Scope and Benefits of the Project
1. The network will provide e-Services with priority on tele-education and tele-medicine services, and VVIP connectivity (for Video-conferencing and VoIP services) among the Heads of States.
2. The basic objective of the Pan-African e-Network project is to help Africa in capacity building by way of imparting quality education to students, through the best Indian Universities/ Educational Institutions and to provide tele-medicine services by way of on-line medical consultations to the medical practitioners in the patient-end locations from Indian medical specialists in various disciplines/ specialties/ sub-specialties, such as general/internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, pathology, dermatology, Urology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, oncology, gynecology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology etc.
3. The network will be implemented in all the countries, which sign the country agreement with TCIL within one year of establishment of Satellite Hub Earth Station.
4. Tele-education service will be provided by the Indian Universities to the participating countries in the educational programmes (Post-graduate, Under-graduate, Certificate and Diploma Courses) selected by African Union. Over a period of 5 years, 10,000 students of Africa will be imparted education in the agreed courses.
5. Tele-medicine services will be provided by the Indian Super Specialty Hospitals to the participating countries. It is planned to provide on-line medical consultation @ one hour per country per day over 5-year period. In addition, off-line medical advice will be given @ 5 patients per day per country.
6. The project also covers Continuing Medical Education (CME) to practicing doctors and the paramedical staff with a view to updating and enhancing their knowledge and skills.
7. During the implementation of the project, TCIL will organize training programmes at the regional centers in Africa to familiarize their Telecom. IT and Paramedical staff who are required to operate the equipments/network on day-to-day basis. The training will cover the concepts, system/architecture and operating procedures in respect of the network elements installed in the African countries.
8. Tele-education set up in Indian universities shall be equipped with post-production facilities. The Data Centre in TCIL Bhawan, Delhi shall have a web portal comprising universal tele-education delivery system software which will incorporate e-learning, content management and digital library solutions for each university as an integrated package. Teacher will be able to interact with the selected students in a sequence and also simultaneously collaborate with them using the collaborative tools; return IP link will provide audio, video and data connectivity to the university studio and enable students to have a live interaction. Remote location will easily become a teacher to all the connected users seamlessly using the return link. All the seven studios shall be controlled and managed by the Central Hub for management, scheduling, broadcasting, review learning process etc. All the 53 learning centers in Africa will act as virtual classrooms and also can be network-enabled for further expansion.
9. The network is designed to have 169 terminals and a central hub to deliver the services mentioned above. The proposed network utilizes state-of-the-art technology and can be integrated with the latest technologies. The network is scalable to support different applications catering to increased number of users.
10. Five regional leading universities and five regional super specialty hospitals in Africa also will provide tele-education and tele-medicine services respectively in the respective region or all the countries of Africa, decided by AU.
11. The complete local infrastructure in each individual participating country, viz. building, power, water, air-conditioning, furniture, flooring, fire alarm, security etc., for the equipment rooms shall be responsibility of the participating country and the cost of utilities and consumables shall also be borne by the participating countries.
12. Infrastructure viz, building, power, air-conditioning, furniture, water, fire-protection system required for the equipment at the identified Universities and Super Specialty hospitals of India, shall be the responsibility of the participating universities and super specialty hospitals and cost of the same shall be borne by them.
13. Manpower required for use and day-to-day handling/operation on the equipments installed in each African country, Indian Universities and super specialty hospitals shall be arranged by the respective African country and the respective Indian Universities and super specialty hospitals at their cost.
Key Benefits of Tele-Medicine Solution
• Tele-Medicine is the use of electronic Information and Communications Technologies to provide and support health care irrespective of the distance between the doctor and the patient.
• The advances in medical science, bio-medical engineering together with telecommunications and Information Technology (ICT) have led to the development of Tele-Medicine solution. This has contributed to providing affordable healthcare facilities to the rural population.
• Adoption of Tele-Medicine technology is one of the best options to deliver healthcare to rural population.
• Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) between specialist doctors and patients ensures improved healthcare facilities.
• The overall costs for providing treatment through Tele-Medicine Solution are less than the cost by conventional method.
• The Continuing Medical Education (CME) System offers a suitable platform to the practicing doctors to seek guidance and to be abreast of the latest developments from experts in their respective fields.
Key Benefits of Tele-Education Solution
• Electronic Virtual classroom
• Planned learning
• Just in time learning
• Anytime/Anywhere learning
• More individualized learning
• Creative and reflective thinking
• Authenticated assessments
• Distance education operation
• Competitive learning
• Development learning
• Problem-solving learning
• Efficient use of knowledge base