home  |  about us  |  articles  |  psu links  |  directory  |  publications  |  initiatives  |  feedback  |  contact us  |


Use of ICT for Tele-Education & Tele-Medicine – TCIL’s Experience By Vimal Wakhlu, CMD, TCIL

Providing adequate educational facilities and affordable healthcare to all citizens are the two major concerns of most of the developing and underdeveloped countries.

Technological advancements in the field of ICT (Information & Communication Technologies) holds  the key to realize this mammoth task.   Administrations worldwide are utilizing ICT  suitably, for providing  basic communication facilities. In addition, fulfilling the mission of providing  basic  education, and timely affordable healthcare uniformly to rural population paves the way for achieving overall development  for  any country.

The health of a nation is the product of many factors and forces that combine and interact. Economic growth, per capita income, literacy, education, age at marriage, birth rates, information on health care and nutrition, access to safe drinking water, public and private health care infrastructure, access to preventive health and medical care and the health insurance are among the contributing factors.
The advances in Medical science, biomedical engineering on one side and Information and Telecommunication Technology (ICT) on the other side are offering wide opportunities for improved health care.

Despite making huge strides in overall development, the health coverage to majority of the population, which is predominantly rural and distributed in far flung geographical locations, is a distant dream.

Providing basic minimum health care  to rural population has been one of the priorities of the Governments/ Administration all along. This mammoth is compounded further by factors like:

High cost of health care and lack of investment in health care in rural areas.

Inadequate medical facilities in rural & inaccessible areas.

Problem of retaining doctors in rural areas where they are required to serve and propagate widespread health awareness.

Retention of specialist doctors in rural areas is still a bigger challenge, as they will be professionally isolated and become obsolete. Even monetary incentives would not be of any avail.

Many efforts in delivering education and healthcare from resourceful urban areas to inaccessible remote/ rural areas have been tried using ICT infrastructure. The results are encouraging and two fold; firstly, it enables the people living in remote areas an access to quality services and secondly, it results in saving in terms of money and time.
Telemedicine is defined as, ‘The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities’.

The main objective of telemedicine is to cross the geographical barriers and provide healthcare facilities to rural and remote areas (health for all) for the benefit of population living in isolated communities. Besides this other advantages telemedicine are

Eliminates distance barriers and improve access to quality health services

In emergency and critical care situations where moving a patient may not be desirable or  feasible

Facilitate patients and rural practitioners’ access to specialist health services and support

Lessen the inconvenience and/or cost of patient transfers

Reduce unnecessary travel time for health professionals

Reduce isolation of rural practice by upgrading their knowledge through Tele-education or CME

Tele Education
Tele-Education should be understood as the development of the process of distance education based on the use of Information and Telecom technologies that make interactive flexible and accessible learning possible for any potential recipient.

In this era global advancements, many governments have declared  BASIC EDUCATION” as birth right, it is all the more essential for the administrations of the day to provide basic education to all the population irrespective of where they live. It is in this context, the concept of Distance Education is gaining importance and  technological innovations in ICT is the key for success in making the School reaching the communities in remote areas.

This is a way of empowering the struggling masses who have to struggle to earn a living from a very tender age and can not afford to have a formal education in a regular school/ college environment.

TCIL’s Experience:
Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) is a fully owned Public Sector Enterprise of Government of India functioning under Ministry of Communications & IT, Government of India.  TCIL has rich experience in the field of Communication and Information Technology which includes hi-tech field of satellite communication, optical fibre  and GSM networks, access networks under wire-line and wireless technologies, wide area networks, campus networks, local area Networks, application software design and development. TCIL offers consultancy and turnkey project execution services covering feasibility/ pre-investment studies, system design, installation, testing and commissioning, and network operation etc.

TCIL possess the expertise in carrying out Tele-Education and Tele-Medicine solutions and has an experience of carrying out the projects including:

•    Ethiopia Pilot Project: In November 2006, TCIL has successfully commissioned an MEA-funded project for offering Tele-education and Tele-medicine services in Ethiopia. Tele-education services for the project were provided from IGNOU, New Delhi . Two Universities- Addis Ababa University and Harmaya University were a part of this project . 34 students from  have completed a 5 semester MBA programme from IGNOU using this network.
Tele-Medicine services from CARE Hospitals Hyderabad. Two Hospitals, Nikempte Hospital and Black Lion Hospital were involved from the Ethiopian side.  The CME programmes conducted on this Network have been a huge success. Doctors from different parts of Ethiopia used to attend the weekly CME sessions and the CME room would normally be overflowing with doctors, some of them also being specialists.
•    Pan-Africa e-Network Project:
The Pan-Africa e-Network Project, estimated at USD 116 Million, envisages setting up an e-network connecting Indian institutions with 53 African Union member countries of the Africa, through satellite & fibre optic links, to share India’s expertise in the fields of Education & Medical Services with the member countries of African Union. It is an initiative of Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. TCIL has been designated as Implementing Agency for this prestigious project. The network is designed to have 169 VSAT terminals, with three (3) VSAT terminals in each country to provide Tele-Education, Tele-Medicine and Heads of the State (VVIP) connectivity with a Satellite Hub Earth Station in Senegal.
The project was a major challenge as  TCIL had to start from a scratch. A plot of land was handed over to TCIL in Dakar Senegal. TCIL constructed a building at the site in record time and an earth station was established at the location which became functional since March 2008. This earth station is linked to the Data Centre in New Delhi through an IPLC ( International Private Leased Circuit ) on the Submarine cable upto Chennai landing station and from there on the  MPLS link .
The Satellite used in this case is RASCOM which is Africa’s own satellite. This has become operational since July 2008.
 The Tele-Education services are to be  provided from seven (7) reputed universities in India including IIT Kanpur, Delhi University, University of Madras, IGNOU, Amity University, BITS Pilani etc. and five (5) leading regional universities in Africa. Actual Tele-education services have started on the network with Amity University in India registering more than 500 students on the network for various under graduate and post graduate programmes. 

The Tele-Medicine program for specialist healthcare services to the African countries will be provided through Twelve (12) Super Specialty Hospitals in India  including AIIMS, Apollo Chennai, Fortis Noida, Escorts New Delhi etc.and five (5) Super Specialty Hospitals in Africa. The CME sessions and Tele-consultations have been going on this network for more than a year now.
This network is expected to contribute significantly towards capacity building in Africa. More than 10,000 students are expected to benefit from  this at various levels. Besides this , it is also expected to train a large no . of doctors through the CME sessions.

The Network has been successfully commissioned by TCIL and was inaugurated by H.E. Pranab Mukherjee, on 26th February 2009.

SAARC Tele-Medicine Network:
TCIL is implementing a Tele-Medicine Network for providing Tele-Medicine and CME (Continuing Medical Education) services to the identified hospitals in SAARC countries from PGI Chandigarh and SGPGIMS Lucknow.  The Network is functioning in Bhutan and Afghanistan. The works are in progress to extend these services in remaining five SAARC nations, viz. Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Maldives. Besides this , a Tele-education network is also on the anvil linking the seven SAARC Nations to IGNOU New Delhi.

ASEAN e-Network Project:
TCIL has  designed a network for providing Tele-Education and Tele-Medicine services to CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) from reputed Universities and Super Specialty Hospitals in India under ASEAN e-Network project. A workshop was  conducted in New Delhi in March this year where the delegates from ASEAN countries have actively participated and exchanged their views and ideas pertaining to this project.  The project proposal is in its final stage and the Network is likely to be implemented very soon.

ASEAN e-Network Project:
TCIL has  designed a network for providing Tele-Education and Tele-Medicine services to CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) from reputed Universities and Super Specialty Hospitals in India under ASEAN e-Network project. A workshop was  conducted in New Delhi in March this year where the delegates from ASEAN countries have actively participated and exchanged their views and ideas pertaining to this project.  The project proposal is in its final stage and the Network is likely to be implemented very soon.

The Scope of the project consists of establishment of Tele-Education Studio, Data Centre, 10 remote virtual classrooms, Virtual University Portal and providing connectivity using  WiMax network. The work also includes Site preparation, Training, Operational Support Services and Comprehensive Warranty for three years. The main application is providing Synchronous & Asynchronous Learning and Virtual Conference.

The proposed Tele-education based interactive teaching and learning Virtual University system is to provide a synchronized multi-media delivery and enable a collaborative environment for sharing the knowledge and to provide virtual classrooms in a multi class/ multi-studio environment with seamless two-way interaction between teachers and students. 

TCIL is actively being considered by several agencies in India and many countries in Africa for implementation of similar solutions for providing Tele-Education and Tele-Medicine services in their respective countries. For us in TCIL this e-Networking has become a new passion.

All articles in this website are copyrighted and any infringement will be dealt with strict legal action.
   RNI No. WBENG/2008/27737
|   Copyright @ Shilpa Bichitra   |   All Rights Reserved   |   Designed by: DigiPalette   |
Editor: Gouri Shankar Das