The African Union’s Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, MRS ELHAM MAHMOOD AHMED IBRAHIM, told participants at a recent eLearning Africa conference that sharing infrastructure must be a top priority for African governments.
Mrs Ibrahim, who was a keynote speaker at eLearning Africa in Cairo on earlier this year, is convinced that, by sharing telecommunications infrastructure, African countries could save billions of dollars and speed up the provision of universal broadband access, which will have a major impact on education outcomes.
“A review of infrastructure-sharing experiences found that developing countries can save billions and speed broadband access by sharing infrastructure,” Mrs Ibrahim said in a pre-conference interview with eLearning Africa’s news service. “These savings can be obtained both through sharing telecom infrastructure, such as ducts, fibres and masts, as well as sharing with other utility infrastructure, such as roads, power grids, fuel pipelines and rail lines.”
Better access to education and training through improvements in communications is a crucial element of the African Union’s 2063 Vision for a ‘transformed continent’ and Mrs Ibrahim will stress the importance of improvements in infrastructure for meeting the AU’s targets.
“Policymakers widely accept that access to information and communication technology (ICT) in education can help individuals to compete in a global economy by creating a skilled workforce and facilitating social mobility.”
Many African governments have recently become convinced that poor telecommunications infrastructure, rather than a lack of ICT hardware, is the main factor preventing African countries from using new technology to create a “multiplier effect” in their education systems. The subject is likely to be one of the major themes for discussions, involving African ICT and Education ministers, at eLearning Africa’s Ministerial Round Table, which will take place on the opening day of the conference.
eLearning Africa is the largest conference and exhibition on ICT for education, training and development on the African continent. Each year, it brings together over 1200 education professionals, entrepreneurs, political leaders, thinkers and administrators for three days of discussion about the key issues affecting African education.
The focus of this year’s event will be on the African Union’s 2063 Vision and the theme of the conference is ‘Making Vision Reality’. Other keynote speakers joining Mrs Ibrahim at the opening plenary session of the conference will include HE Yasser El-Kady, Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology; Günter Nooke, Special Representative for Africa of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Professor Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Biblioteca Alexandrina; Thierry Zomahoun, President of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences; and Tarek Shawki, Head of the Presidential Council for Education and Scientific Research.
This year is the first time eLearning Africa has been held in North Africa and the event will feature a diverse programme of workshops, discussion, presentations and debates, as well as a large exhibition, presenting the latest developments in ICT for education and training.
Africa gets broadband boost
ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.
Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.
Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.
ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.
At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”
Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”
ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.
Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.
AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.
The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.
‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”
The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.
‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.
The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”