Rural Africa telecom projects under way

Eastern and Southern African countries have started implementing telecommunications projects aimed at connecting rural areas to cities, as well as international networks, in order to accelerate the growth of ICT.

The projects are designed to spearhead the development of e-health, e-learning and e-commerce in rural areas.

Projects in Zambia and Kenya will have far-reaching consequences. For example, instead of doctors and nurses from rural areas going to cities for education, courses can be delivered online.

Remote hospitals in Africa have not been attractive to doctors and nurses because opportunities for career development are limited. The business community has not been investing in rural areas because of their distance to markets. But with online courses and e-commerce now available, remote hospitals may be more attractive to doctors and nurses, and it is hoped that the business community will invest in rural areas, which can now sell products online.

The major contribution to the health sector will be the ability to deliver health services to remote rural areas through online consultation. With computers and Internet connectivity, a doctor can take a photo, scan it and send it to a doctor in a referral hospital for expert opinion.

The Communications Authority of Zambia (CAZ), the country's telecom sector regulator, on April 17 signed an agreement for a rural telecommunication fund. The Kenyan government has already launched a project that will connect nine provinces.