Economic Update

Ghana: Efforts to boost IT connectivity gain pace

Ghana | 4 Jun 2013

A government drive to make technology more accessible across Ghana by expanding the ICT infrastructure has opened the door for international investors to increase their presence.

On May 10, the local press reported that US technology giant Microsoft planned to team up with Ghana’s National Information Technology Agency (NITA) to develop the government’s IT infrastructure. NITA is a public body tasked with overseeing the implementation of national IT policy.

NITA’s director-general, William Tevie, told the Ghana News Agency that the collaboration with Microsoft would bolster efforts to install and expand intra-agency ICT systems in the public sector. The collaboration will see Microsoft supply the networking and user-interface software needed for the initiative as well as more broadly supporting NITA’s technical capacity-building efforts.

NITA is also working to extend the government’s IT network, with a goal of covering all government departments throughout the country by 2015. The second phase of the project, which is already under way, will see the number of base stations double from 30 to 60, while national data centres are to be set up in Accra and Ghana’s second city, Kumasi.

The agency has installed a fibre optic network in the ministries district of the capital and WiMAX networks in Ghana’s ten regional capitals as part of a bid to enhance information management and operational efficiency within the public sector. NITA is working with ministries and government agencies to set up e-service applications.

The government’s push to improve its own systems interfaces and management is just one facet of a broader effort to increase connectivity throughout the country. One month before Microsoft’s collaborative venture was announced, the Swedish communications technology company, Ericsson, said it was planning to invest in Ghana’s ICT infrastructure.

Ericsson is expected to target Ghana’s rural areas through its Networked Society initiative. The programme aims to stimulate small business activity, increase technological literacy and improve educational ICT tools through ancillary services, including data storage and broadband rollout. For Ghana, the programme’s focus will be on providing schools with the hardware needed, such as PCs, to get online.

It is not just American and European firms that are putting capital and resources into the West African country, however. A new ICT laboratory at the University for Development Studies (UDS), which was opened in April by Ghana’s minister for communications, Edward Omane-Boamah, was established with technology and funds from Huawei Technologies Ghana, the local subsidiary of China’s Huawei.

The Chinese technology giant has already made a million-dollar investment in ICT teaching labs at three other higher-education institutions across the country: University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast and Kwame Nkrumah University for Science and Technology.

The various piecemeal programmes to strengthen educational ICT infrastructure and public sector connectivity will be bolstered in large part by the government’s plans to roll out a national broadband policy, which will provide further opportunities for foreign investment in telecoms infrastructure. The initiative, expected to run until 2020, will focus on increasing connections among private businesses, before turning to household users.

Discussing the planned policy, Omane-Boamah voiced his confidence that improving international connectivity would support growing data volumes. Until recently, the country was served by four fibre-optic submarine cables: SAT-3, MainOne, Glo-1 and WACS. On May 10 the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable was landed in Ghana, bringing the overall submarine link capacity to 12.3 TB.

Additional international bandwidth will likely boost competition, which has already brought down broadband prices. However, these connections can only be fully harnessed if, as these various initiatives are trying to do, capital-intensive domestic backhaul networks and last-mile connections are put in place.

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