ITU announces initiatives for rural communications

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GENEVA-The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Nortel Networks and the Acacia Initiative of the International Development Research Center of Canada signed a final agreement to implement two centers of excellence in Africa. The centers, which are being created to provide solutions to the challenges of universal access and rural connectivity in Africa, will be located in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dakar, Senegal.

“Universal access is the main concern of African policy-makers today,” said Gaston Zongo, executive director of Acacia, an initiative to empower sub-Saharan communities. “Building capacity through these centers of excellence will enable African policy- and decision-makers to adopt strategies that will allow the use of information and communications technology to deliver critical services such as education, health care and e-commerce.”

The centers will serve all countries of Africa and are part of the ITU’s Center of Excellence Program. The ITU program is an initiative to train policy-makers and regulators in developing nations the priorities and regulations conducive to private-sector investment, as well as senior corporate managers in managing telecommunications networks and services.

The three parties invested US$3.6 million overall, and Nortel plans to contribute more than US$1 million during the next three years. Nortel will also contribute to each center a GSM cellular Piconode system, which delivers basic voice services to 100 to 1,000 users.

“Rural connectivity is a major challenge because it involves installing complex telecommunications equipment to serve only small islands of subscribers in remote areas,” said Alain Biston, Nortel Networks’ vice president of wireless solutions for Middle East and Africa.

In a separate announcement, the ITU signed a memorandum of understanding with Intelsat to promote and develop universal access in rural and isolated areas. During the upcoming year, both parties will develop a cooperative program to assess the technical and financial needs of rural and isolated areas and will recommend satellite-based pilot programs to develop a communications infrastructure.

The program will develop profitable, long-term satellite-based solutions leading to self-sustaining, cost-effective telecommunications networks.

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