Twenty African countries are to receive dozens of female-directed community telephone and computer centres to help them develop sectors in education, health, agriculture and governance and create information societies, the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said today.
"Multipurpose Community Telecentres (MCTs) are one of the most innovative and practical ways to bring the benefits of the information society to the people of Africa," said Hamadoun I. Touré, Director of the ITU Development Bureau in Geneva.
"Not only will they create employment and provide basic information services but they establish community focal points for e-Education, e-Health and e-Governance initiatives through web-based multimedia content. They also stimulate the development and growth of local businesses, as well as ICT (information and communication technologies) skills among the local population."
Private sector partners were being invited to provide the necessary technology for the centres and "in exchange companies will get a better understanding of the potential of the ICT market in Africa and of women as active participants in its economy," ITU Project Manager Asenath Mpatwa said.
The ITU said it had already established four MCTs in Tanzania and Guinea Bissau. "These are now already providing basic training in the use of computers, and will soon supply other services such as public telephone, fax and internet connectivity as well as basic information."
Several African ministries, including those from Benin, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia, requested help in fulfilling the first phase of the December 2003 Plan of Action of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to extend ICTs globally.