By Francis Kokutse
Accra: Sierra Leone has become the latest African country to benefit from India’s assistance to improve its information and communication technology (ICT) sector with an offer to establish a training centre in the West African nation.
“The Indian government would finance the construction and establishment of an Indian Africa Information and Communication Technology centre in Sierra Leone in order to boost the country’s efforts to expand the sector,” Deputy Indian High Commissioner to Ghana Ajaneesh Kumar told IANS in Accra.
Ghana has already benefited from the establishment of a similar centre in Accra that is training personnel in the ICT sector.
Officials of the Accra centre told IANS that it has helped provide a leverage for the country to attract Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) opportunities in the country.
In addition to the centre, Sierra Leone will also get more assistance under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) with 50 slots during the 2012-13 financial year.
There has been a steady increase in the number of slots for the country since 2010 when only 25 was provided. Last year, the figure jumped to 45.
Fully funded by the Indian government, ITEC, started in 1964, now provides opportunities for 158 countries around the globe to benefit from various forms of training in India.
Though the programme has benefited many countries, the growth of the ICT sector demands that more and more people be trained in order to meet the growing demands of the sector.
Sierra Leone, with a population of about six million, has been hit hard by the lack of personnel in the ICT sector.
Information and Communication Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said the country was working to “encourage private sector participation so as to pull up the GDP contribution of the sector from 10 percent to 15 percent by next year”.
The country is also working with its development partners for a “one laptop per child” policy.
The minister said the government was working to establish a faculty of telecommunication sciences in one of the universities in the country, in anticipation of the landing of the submarine fibre that would require qualified people to ensure that the ICT sector gets the full benefit of the connectivity.
He praised India for its continued assistance to Africa.
India’s assistance to African countries under India’s Pan-African e-Network, was launched in 2009.
This project is intended to equip and support e-governance, e-commerce, infotainment, resource mapping and meteorological and other services across the African continent.
So far 47 countries have joined the project, out of which 34 have since been implemented and the remaining would be progressively completed towards the end of this year.
When it becomes operational, the Pan-African e-Network project would assist in capacity-building through imparting quality education to 10,000 students in Africa over a five-year period in various disciplines from some of the best Indian universities and educational institutions.
Willian Boateng, an IT specialist in Accra, said: “This would help fill the yawning gap of IT professionals that are needed in Africa if the continent is expected to catch up with developments in other parts of the world.”
Currently, the teaching of IT in schools across the continent is very minimal and it is affecting the quality of professionals produced at the tertiary institutions who have to compete with others around the globe.
“What the Indian government is doing is to share its knowledge with the rest of Africa and must be seen as a growing trend in cooperation among countries in the South,” Boateng said.