REPORT BY THE LOCAL ORGANISING COMMITTEE
In the course of pursuing its International Development Cooperation agenda, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) facilitated training on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and NutrITion for two cohorts of African based professionals in NutrITion. A total of 52 African scholars representing 26 African countries were trained. After this training, these African scholars initiated the idea of implementing the first ever Congress on NutrITion and ICT.
Why this Congress?
- The high incidence of malnutrition in Africa.
- The low status afforded to NutrITion in many African countries.
- ICT challenges and constraints vis-à-vis NutrITion in Africa.
The vision of the organizers was that the Congress was to be a meeting place for those with an interest on the use of ICT in relation to NutrITion and in making it a reality in the African Continent.
The Objectives of the Congress
- To update nutrition professionals on recent development on ICT and e- learning in NutrITion.
- To identify and define the potential of ICT in NutrITion in Africa.
- To impart hands on basic and advanced skills.
- To launch a Continental ICT society.
- The Congress objectives were articulated in the following Congress themes, namely
- ICT welcomes you to the future.
- e-Nutrition in Africa.
- ICT in Practice.
The Congress themes were developed through the following format:
- Plenary sessions on Nutrition updates and ICT.
- Hands on experience workshops.
- Oral free communications and Poster presentations.
- Exhibitions in food, NutrITion and ICT.
- Launch of a Continental e-Society.
The first ever Congress on ICT in the Advancement of Nutrition in Africa took place in Nairobi, Kenya. The planning of the Congress itself took the best part of two years. The Congress was jointly organized by three committees namely; the Local Organizing Committee, the Scientific and Advisory Committee and the Finance Committee.
The Congress brought together 300 professionals from 38 countries in the area of Nutrition, Medicine, ICT, and other related areas, from Universities, governmental and non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
The programme included 32 plenary lectures in the morning and 22 workshops in the afternoons. Sixteen workshops consisted of hands on demonstrations of various ICT programmes and web-based applications. The workshops were duplicated twice in the afternoons so as to enable as many delegates as possible to attend workshops of their specific interest.
Additionally, 45 oral free communications and 60 poster presentations were included in the Congress. At an exhibition area, in the same location as the poster booths, various companies and organizations displayed ICT and NutrITion-related material throughout the duration of the Congress.
The Congress facilities for ICT communication were deemed as excellent by all delegates. The plenary lecture halls, as well as the workshop rooms, were well equipped with a total of 65 computers, 8 to 12 in each workshop room. Internet connection made ICT possible to demonstrate web-based programmes and materials.
Simultaneous translation in French was available during the plenary sessions as well as during the workshop sessions.
Abstracts of all keynote lectures, short communications and posters were published in advance as a supplement in the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition and appear on our website, together with additional pictorial material from the proceedings of the Congress.
The Congress was officially opened by His, then, Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya, Hon. Daniel T. arap Moi. In his speech, the President noted that the theme of the ITANA Congress was relevant and important on Africa''s well being and development; partly because of the many health and NutrITion problems. The current developments in ICT in Africa have not kept pace with the information trends worldwide. This scenario is worse in the rural areas where connectivity is still poor. The main obstacle to the slow pace is the poor infrastructure. Because ICT is so important in development, it is crucial that countries in Africa address these challenges in order for Africa to benefit from this era of developments in ICT. He urged the Ministries of Health in Africa to re-examine the role nutrition plays in society and place ICT high on governmental agenda.
A goodwill message was also sent by the wife of the UN Secretary General, Mrs. N. Annan, to the Congress delegates. In her message, Mrs. Annan urged African governments to make ICT accessible to women.
Day one of the Congress highlighted the importance of ICT and ICT based technologies and pointed out the extent to which these are relevant to developing countries. Special focus was placed on the growth of ICT in Africa, the development of web sites for a NutrITion audience, steps for web site development, ranging from planning to maintenance as well as ways of avoiding common problems, and the development of a successful interactive CD-ROM in medicine series that is currently used around the world. The concept of knowledge-based network as an enabling tool for improved knowledge management in the level of NutrITion was also highlighted.
Day two focussed on a range of approaches to assess dietary intake; knowledge on participatory assessment and experiences of various interventions related to ICT and NutrITion in Africa, and the role of women and youth as stakeholders in ICT. Focus was also placed on the role of ICT in the assessment of energy expenditure and the many and various challenges of NutrITion communication. The use of ICTs for strengthening the campaigning, advocacy and organizational capacities of human rights organizations was also highlighted.
Day three highlighted the use of Profiles as a process for NutrITion policy analysis and advocacy, which uses a spreadsheet model to estimate the functional consequences of malnutrition; developments in the field of modern information technologies and the opportunities such technologies offer to academic trainers worldwide; the Global NutrITion programme, which provides a basis for strong networks among academic trainers through the use of ICT; the role ICT plays in the entire research process from research design, sample selection, data collection and analysis, reporting and dissemination of research findings, as well as web-based challenges and opportunities.
A total of 22 hands-on workshops were held in the afternoon of the three day Congress. According to the evaluation reports, the workshops were clear, pertinent and well presented. All the workshops were useful to the participants, who confirmed the mastering of new techniques and skills in ICT. Many participants indicated an urgent need for further training/information in ICT. The overall impressions of the workshops were that they were very stimulating and equally informative.
The Congress received both print and electronic media publicity throughout the duration of the Congress. However, the press highlight of the Congress was during the official opening during which the Congress received extensive coverage on the national television network.
In order for the Congress organizers to get feedback on the organization, scientific programme content and general outcome of the Congress, all delegates were asked to complete an assessment questionnaire. According to the participants’ evaluation, the Congress was successfully implemented, was well organized, informative and very timely in terms of emerging needs in the Continent. The Congress programme was rated as excellent and was presented in a time disciplined format, which added significantly to its success. According to the participants the Congress provided them most with the following:
- Current information on NutrITion and ICT
- Improvement in attitudes towards ICT
- Improvement of knowledge in ICT and NutrITion
The Chairpersons of the sessions were commended for being knowledgeable of the subject area, understanding, enthusiastic, being strict on time and well prepared to manage the sessions.
All the participants did indicate that this type of Congress should be continued in the future. A majority of the participants did say that they would recommend ICT for learning purposes to their colleagues.
Many participants described the Congress was an “eye opener” regarding the opportunity ICT offered for networking and for updating one’s knowledge with recent developments in NutrItion.
At a separate symposium during the Congress "ITANA: e-Society" was formally inaugurated as an non-profit, scientific organization with a mandate to continue to work on ICT and NutrITion in Africa. During this meeting, the delegates duly elected the new ITANA Council comprising of Prof Demetre Labadarios (President, South Africa), Ms Fatima Ouattara (Vice-President, Mali), Dr Delana Adelekan (Secretary, Nigeria), Prof Prisca Tuitoek (Treasurer, Kenya), Dr Judith Waudo (Member, Kenya) Dr Chrissie Chawanje (Member, Malawi) Ms Mofor C. Teugwa (Member, Cameroon), and Dr Ridha Mokni (Member, Tunisia). The ITANA:e-Society Council has already drafted a strategy for ICT in NutrITion in the longer term illustrating the commitment and type of activities that the e-Society will engage in. This involved the drafting of a Constitution for defining the mandate of the e-Society.
Partners and Sponsors
Financial support from a number of international and local agencies and organizations made the ITANA Congress possible. Major sponsors included the Swedish International Development Co-operation (SIDA), the German Technical Co-operation Agency (GTZ), the Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CTA), the Canadian Technical Co-operation Agency (CIDA) the Nestle Foundation and the MicroNutrient Initiative (MI). Other sponsors included ILSI South Africa, Roche Fine Chemicals, South Africa, Nestle Nutrition Institute Africa, Nestle Foods, Kenya, Ministry of Economic Planning, Kenya, Telkom, Kenya, Access, Kenya, Kenya Wine Agencies, Kenya Diary Board, Monsanto Central Africa, Centres for Diarrhoal Diseases (CDC), USA, Hellen Keller International, Microsoft, Kenya. Several local and international universities sponsored the Congress with technical equipment and through their staff involved in the organization. The ITANA organization is grateful to all sponsors, who made the successful implementation of the Congress possible.
The Congress evaluation forms completed by Partners and Sponsors, or their representatives, indicated that the Congress and its very well designed scientific programme will undoubtedly stimulate and initiate future ICT activities within the Continent of Africa in general, and in the NutrITion sector in particular. The ITANA 2002 represented a great milestone in the development of the role of ICT in NutrITion activities in the Universities as well as the community at large.
* Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
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