The last day of the visit to India by a high-level Africa delegation concluded in New Delhi on December 8, 2009. The delegation not only acquired a first hand knowledge about ICT initiatives put in place by various provincial governments by visiting CSCs in the Indian provinces of Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal, but also had an opportunity to interact with a wide range of policy makers, civil society leaders and officials of public and private enterprises, including those who spearhead the telecentre movement in the country.
The last day of the visit also marked the end of a two-day Africa-India Dialogue. On the second day of the dialogue, the delegates could listen mainly to representatives of civil society movement in India who talked in general about ICT and development, rather than telecentres per se.
P Rajendran, Chief Operating Officer of NIIT, an Indian firm offering IT education in 40 countries all over the world including Nigeria and Botswana, talked of India’s experience of using technology for creating new jobs. He also narrated the measures taken by his company to bridge the digital divide by offering effective education to children from underprivileged sections of the society. Such NIIT learning stations located in more than 10 countries have imparted computer skills to 300,000 children so far.
Addressing the gathering, the UN’s Asia and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology, (APCTT), Dr K R Ramanathan listed a number of initiatives undertaken by APCTT to transfer technologies to help small and medium enterprises to adopt ICT. However, he felt that developing nations have a weak IT infrastructure and lack of skills and this will come in the way of these countries exploiting the potential that ICT offers. This is a matter of serious concern. Dr. Ramanathan said his organisation would be happy to assist African nations by sharing its experiences in applying ICT for strengthening the technology transfer and innovation management.
Sajan Venniyoor, a community radio expert from India, recounted the history of community radio in India. He said though there is a potential for having 4000 community radio stations in the country, there are only 50 stations in operation. This is because, he said, the Indian government doesn’t want to encourage the community radio movement. They don’t like FM stations that ‘talk’, though they don’t mind the ones that “sing” (stations that air film songs 24X7). Costing a mere 10,000 to 12,000 US dollars, community radio is an effective medium for communication in rural areas, Mr. Venniyoor said.
Anand Kumar, Coordinator for UN Solution Exchange, who addressed the delegates, said the exchange was created with the idea of tapping tacit knowledge of practitioners in a wide range of areas like social development, poverty alleviation and water. The UN Solution Exchange moderates discussions groups in 13 broad areas and currently have 18,000 members, of which nearly 20 per cent are from India.