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Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in Africa, is spending a tenth of its gross domestic product each year on information technology (IT).

The country's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, does not see IT as a luxury but as a "crucial weapon to fight poverty", reports Michael Cross in this article in The Guardian.

Cross says Ethiopia's drive to build a national digital network underpins two clear development projects: connecting schools and connecting local government offices.

The 'Schoolnet' project attempts to address Ethiopia's lack of teachers. Schools already receive video lessons broadcast by satellite, but transmission via the Internet will give teachers at the receiving end greater control over the pre-prepared lessons, says Cross.

Meanwhile, the 'Woredanet' initiative aims to make government communications more efficient by connecting all 600 of Ethiopia's local councils (woredas) to the 11 regional capitals for the first time.

Ministers say the government network will eventually become available for use by the general public.

There is reason to be optimistic that Ethiopia's IT drive will deliver real benefits and prove sustainable, concludes Cross, but he adds that Ethiopian development will depend on a much broader package of reform.

Link to full article in The Guardian