Launch of US$12 million project for ICTs in West African universities
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, signed an agreement on 11 February to launch a US$12 million project to boost the information and communication technology capacity of West African universities, notably by creating a regional virtual library network.
The agreement was signed with Soumaïla Cissé, President of the Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), which is providing the funds.
The project is part of a wide-ranging cooperation plan initiated in 2006 by UNESCO and the UEMOA. It aims to develop the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to support an ongoing reform of higher education in the UEMOA member states (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Togo).
“Higher education is a vital force for development. Funding this project shows the commitment of your organization to reforming and modernizing higher education by creating centres of excellence,” said Irina Bokova. “The new technologies are the most effective method to reach this goal, by creating virtual libraries accessible to all, accelerating exchange between professors and students and stimulating research.”
“With the expert assistance of UNESCO, this project will empower teachers, students and researchers,” said Soumaïla Cissé. “We are indeed conscious that education is the key to the future, because emerging countries are founded on the quality of human resources. The virtual library we are creating will serve our young people both as roots and as wings!”
The three-year project will install ICT infrastructure, both material and virtual, in higher education institutions. The campuses of eight universities, one in each UEMOA country, will be equipped with fibre optic equipment and at least 200 computers with high-speed connection. In addition to a regional virtual library network to which universities will be linked, the project will set up a cyber institute giving professors on-line access to training courses. A central data base for calculating students’ course credits in all state universities will be established, to help harmonize academic standards and facilitate student mobility.
The project will be implemented by UNESCO’s cluster office in Bamako (Mali).