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Ethiopia connects to Indian schools, hospitals with new ‘e-network’


Dr. Desalew Mekonnen, a first-year medical resident at Black Lion Hospital in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, mulled over a patient’s electrocardiogram and frowned.

A consultation was in order. Desalew called upon a more experienced physician in Hyderabad, India, by Web cam as part of a new $116 million project that links Indian hospitals and universities to Ethiopian ones.

“It’s very helpful,” Desalew said Friday. “It will improve health care in Ethiopia.”

The program, paid for by the Indian government, allows doctors, students and teachers in Ethiopia to take classes and consult with Indian specialists by Web cam and e-mail.

Pranab Mukherjee, India’s foreign minister, inaugurated the program during a trip to this Horn of Africa nation, saying the two countries have strong ties. Ethiopia has 3,000 students enrolled in Indian universities, and Ethiopian universities have 450 Indian teachers, he says.

“Education and knowledge are the prime drivers of all economic and social development,” he says. “We are happy through this project to be able to strengthen our cooperation with Ethiopia in this critical field.”

Fekadu Mulugeta, a vice president at Addis Ababa University, says the program allows Ethiopia to harness India’s expertise. With a booming technology industry, India’s economy is expected to grow by 8 percent this year.

“It can help in providing education for people who may not be able to travel abroad,” Fekadu says.

Getachew Wegaw, a student at Addis Ababa University, watches live telecasts with professors in New Delhi for his masters’ in business administration.

“In this type of technology, we can ask questions, we can get answers live,” said the 30-year-old student. “Very experienced teachers are leading the course. They are sharing their experience, their knowledge with us.”

The program now involves four Ethiopian schools and hospitals. But officials said they hope it will eventually connect all 53 African nations to India by satellite and fiber optic connection.

“We are in the information age,” says Tefera Walwa, Ethiopia’s Minister of Capacity Building. “Our country cannot function in isolation of the rest of the world.”

–Associated Press

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