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29.07.2004 Regional News

Establish Rural Communication Agencies - Expert

By GNA

From Yaa Oforiwah Acquah

Abuja, July 28, GNA - A communication's consultant in Nigeria said on Wednesday African countries should be encouraged to establish Rural Communications Development Agencies to promote Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education.

Such agencies should be given the key responsibility of extending ICT infrastructure to primary, secondary and tertiary institutions particularly those in the rural areas to facilitate learning. The consultant, Mr Ogbonna Cletus Iromantu of the NSL Consultancy, said the agencies could also co-ordinate the distribution of ICT facilities and computers, whether new or used donated by corporate bodies.

Mr Iromantu said they should be funded primarily from the proceeds of licence fees and annual operation levies charged and collected from private telecommunication operators from Internet service providers and the mobile service operators, mostly the GSM operators.

He said licence fees of those service providers in many African countries ran into tens of millions of dollars while the annual operating levies ranged from two to three per cent of the operators annual turnover, the levies would therefore be one good way of contributing to the national agenda of promoting ICT in education.

Mr Iromantu was presenting a paper on 'Integration of ICT in Education' - The status, Issues, Challenges and Infrastructure at the two-day Technical Session of the Ministerial Conference on the Integration of ICT in Education for West Africa, organised by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).

Representatives of the donor communities, Education Ministers and Experts from 21 African countries including Ghana are attending the conference, which opened on Wednesday.

Mr Iromantu said the local governments in the different African countries should be mandated to establish at least, one information and cyber centre in their areas of administration for use by schools in their communities on agreed schedules similar to the trade centres to offer computer and Internet services and telephone communication facilities to pupils and students.

He said every country needed an ICT Master plan to integrate sectoral requirements including education into ICT infrastructure development and asked delegates to strongly recommend that each West African country should carry out an ICT survey based on specific guidelines to obtain relevant planning data that to facilitate the development of a national ICT policy.

Local manufacturers of low cost computers should be encouraged through tariff incentives, duty reductions and encouragement through patronage particularly by government ministries, agencies and corporate bodies, he said, adding, similar investment in solar power and biogas energy supply should be encouraged to alleviate the problem of operating ICT in rural areas.

Mr Iromantu called for a research to be carried out in the development and integration of ICT into school curricula and said technology transfer should start from the schools, at least at the tertiary level through the involvement of students in actual practical project implementation.

Among other initiatives, he said, students should be engaged in the design, construction and installation of ICT projects not as cheap labour but to achieve effective technology transfer and cost reduction to maximise the benefits of such projects.

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