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  • African initiative to boost science communication

A new initiative was launched today (30 September) in Entebbe, Uganda, to help promote the communication of science and technology in Africa.

Known as SciDev.Net Africa, the initiative will link individuals and institutions to create a sub-Saharan regional network of SciDev.Net

SciDev.Net Africa seeks to expand the coverage of SciDev.Net’s sub-Saharan regional gateway, to improve the dissemination of SciDev.Net material in Africa, and to play a key role in achieving capacity building in science and technology communication.

The launch of the initiative took place on the opening day of a four-day workshop organised by SciDev.Net in Entebbe, Uganda on the topic ‘Science Communication for Sustainable Development’.

"A basic capacity in science and technology communication is the best way of ensuring that decisions are adequately ‘informed’, and this must therefore be a central component in any local or national strategy to promote sustainable development," said Professor Mondo Kagonyera, minister for general duties in the office of the Prime Minister of Uganda, who officially launched the network.

"It is my hope that this workshop will, in particular, be an opportunity to explore the role that science and technology communication can play in promoting sustainable development."

The workshop has brought together almost 60 scientists, journalists and editors, information officers, and policy researchers from 10 sub-Saharan African nations. Delegates will attend a series of talks on the central role of science communication in promoting sustainable development, participate in group discussions that explore how this role can be achieved more effectively, and engage in practical training exercises.

One of the tasks of SciDev.Net Africa will be to put into effect decisions about concrete steps recommended at the workshop.

Donald Kennedy, editor of the journal Science and one of the trustees of SciDev.Net, says: "It is a special pleasure — for a biologist who has both taught and done field-work in Africa — to applaud the development of a regional SciDev.Net network on humanity’s home continent".

Three other trustees of SciDev.Net are from African countries: Fred Binka, of the University of Ghana; Lydia Makhubu, vice-chancellor of the University of Swaziland; and Mohamed Hassan, director of the Third World Academy of Sciences.

Although SciDev.Net’s main activity is to run a free-access website dedicated to reporting and commenting on the potential contribution of science and technology to meeting the needs of developing countries, it is also committed to increasing capacity in science communication in the developing world through workshops and other activities.

The organisation plans to launch a similar network in Latin America in May 2003 and in South Asia later next year.

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