Govt’s parting gift to Kalam: OK to funds for his pan-African e-network

Two weeks before President A P J Abdul Kalam leaves Rashtrapati Bhavan, the UPA Cabinet is set to give him a parting gift by clearing the $100-million funding for his brainchild: an ambitious pan-African E-Network Project, designed to help bridge the digital divide in Africa.

Kalam announced the project in September 2004 while addressing the inaugural session of the Pan African Parliament in Johannesburg. The project will use Indian expertise in IT, education and healthcare, to deliver affordable distance education and telemedical services in 53 countries across the continent via a network of satellite, fibre optics and wireless.

A dozen universities (seven from India and five from Africa), 17 super-specialty hospitals (12 from India, five from Africa), 53 tele-medicine centres and 53 tele-education centres in Africa will be connected. Work on several fronts is on: the Indira Gandhi National Open University has launched its MBA program in Ethiopia; specialists from CARE Hospital, Hyderabad, are providing one-hour live tele-consultation to doctors in Addis Ababa in cardiology and radiology since November 2006. About 22 countries are already connected.

The Cabinet is also likely to clear Rs 2,500 crore as India's contribution to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project.

The project, to come up at Cadarache in southern France, seeks to demonstrate nuclear fusion as a feasible, clean and limitless alternative to dwindling fossil fuel reserves.

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