Pambazuka reports that the European Union(EU) has set aside a total sum of 9.1 billion Euros for funding of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based research in Africa through the EuroAfrica-ICT Strategic Partnership.
The partnership, which is part of the Seventh EU Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7), is a project that would last till 2010 and is driven by activities of the European Commission, Directorate General of Information Society and Media and is aimed at exploring the potential for a deeper and broader Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation on ICT between EU and the sub-Saharan Africa region.
A look at the EuroAfrica-ICT Strategic Partnership site indicates that this project is being implemented by a consortium led by Sigma Consultants, specialized – through its Orionis division – in support services devoted to S&T international cooperation in the ICT field. This consortium includes two key African institutes specializing in the ICT field, the Meraka Institute of the CSIR (South Africa) and the Panos Institute West Africa (Senegal) through its CIPACO initiative. They are now facilitating contacts between European and sub-Saharan African organizations interested in the development of cooperation projects in the ICT field. You can register online if you are interested in taking part in this program.
- It is good to see that the Senegalese and the South Africans are involved. But I am of the view that the implementation consortium should have included institutes from at least three more countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in order to ensure fairness. Sub-Saharan Africa is a huge region with diverse ICT needs. Our interests cannot be fairly represented by the two institutes. Some top ICT researchers and academicians from across the continent should also be included in the consortium in order to represent the interests of their countries and regions. My fear is that at the end of the day, the poorest countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa, which, in my view, are supposed to be the major beneficiaries of this initiative, will be left empty handed. This will create a digital divide within a digital divide (digital divide 2.0)!
- My second observation relates to the timing of the project. Why should the project last till 2010? Are there any plans beyond 2010? Why is the life of this project coinciding with the FIFA World Cup which will be hosted by South Africa, one of the two African key players in the implementation consortium, in 2010?Unless the European Union gives us a proper explanation, the timing of the project creates an impression that the EU is interested in Africa just because of the FIFA World Cup. After that, this EuroAfrica-ICT initiative will no longer be useful because the EU will have accomplished their goal:(