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[LUSAKA] Zambia and India have signed an agreement that will see India fund Zambian training centres to train researchers and the public in information and communication technology (ICT) skills.

Peter Daka, the Zambian minister of science and technology, and River Wallang, the Indian high commissioner to Zambia signed the agreement in Lusaka last week (12 September).

Daka said that Zambia needed to embrace science and technology to develop economically.

River Wallang said the Zambian government will provide buildings with basic facilities such as toilets, and India will provide US$300 million of computers and servers, as well as US$100,000 toward operating the centres.

Daka said India's international status was due to science and technology literacy, and that establishing the training centres would similarly empower Zambian researchers, science students and young people with science and technology skills.

He added that many Zambians are reluctant to take ICT courses in higher education, but that these skills are important for creating wealth.

Besides researchers and science students, the centres will also provide free computer training to ordinary Zambians who could not otherwise afford it.

The Indian government will also send a team of science and technology experts to Zambia to install the equipment and to work with their Zambian counterparts for one year.

"What India wants is for the two countries to popularise science and technology in Zambia by having more people training in communication technology," said Wallang.

This is the second agreement the Indian government has signed, aimed at helping Zambia develop its science and technology skills.

In February 2003, the Indian and Zambian governments signed a long-term economic and technical cooperation agreement covering information technology, human resource development, pharmaceuticals and energy research.