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India, Japan battle for Africa telemedicine market

Michael Malakata | Aug. 23, 2010
Part of overall clash for mobile dominance

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, 20 AUGUST 2010 - The battle for the dominance of Africa's mobile market by Asian countries has moved to tele-education, e-commerce and telemedicine programs, with Japan and India now competing for supremacy in the supply of equipment to support related programs.

While the Indian project, dubbed e-Network, is equipped to support tele-education, e-governance, e-commerce, infotainment and resource mapping, the Japanese project is focused on tele-education and e-governance.

The India-sponsored project this week was inaugurated in 12 African countries including Zambia, Malawi, Libya and Mozambique. The launch of the project comes just two months after Japan launched its XVD technology, aimed at facilitating communication between academic institutions in Africa and Japan.

India hopes the investment will help it sell more telecom gear to Africa, while Japan is trying to make inroads into Africa's ICT market before India and China step up their investment there.

The Japanese XVD Espresso HD (high definition) video-conferencing technology is aimed at encouraging communication, greater use of distance learning and improved the quality of education. The technology is also used in the provision of telemedicine and e-governance.

Zambian Minister of Communication and Transport Geoffrey Lungwangwa said the Indian project is a milestone that will benefit Zambia and other regional countries.

Lungwangwa said Zambian students will be able to access learning and receive expert information from Indian lecturers.

"The launch of the pan-African e-Network will help in developing communication in Zambia and other African States," Lungwangwa said at the launch this Monday.

The e-Network project will facilitate online consultations between medical practitioners in Africa and specialists in India.

The project also looks to develop Africa's ICT by eventually connecting all the African countries to e-Network.

The e-Network project is seen by communication experts as Africa's biggest ICT project, with online education and telemedicine programs expected to extend infrastructure development to rural areas and other underserved communities. The Indian government will spend more than US$125 million although the project is likely to demand over $1 billion.

The Indian government will also fully finance the establishment of centers for all African Union states including a learning center for telemedicine, tele-education and a private communication network for all African Union heads of state.

Indian universities will offer online access to participating countries in different courses of study selected by the African Union.

Indian High Commissioner to Zambia Ashok Kumar said the project was approved by the Indian government in 2007 and covers the cost of supply, installation, testing and commissioning of hardware and software, end-end connectivity and satellite bandwidth in all the Africa Union member countries and will run over a period of five years.

"Out of 53 African countries, 47 have already signed the agreement with Telecommunications Consultants India, which is implementing the project," Kumar said.


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