The National Information Technology Agency (NITA) and the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications are pushing state institutions and telecommunication service providers that deploy their own fibre installations to consolidate these installations to fast-track national connectivity to accelerate economic development.
They however warned that the consolidation efforts would amount to little or no success if measures are not put in place to stem increasing fiber cuts.
According to them, the ‘new normal’, is one of the greatest hopes for developing countries and it is believed that COVID-19 has given real meaning to the world being a global village; therefore, no matter where you find yourself, telecommunication has made sure that there are common opportunities for all, making developed and developing nations have the same opportunity to deliver on duties and get equal remuneration based on job delivery.
For them, if the nation puts together a good plan and consolidates its fiber infrastructure, people living in rural areas would be open to the same opportunities as those in urban zones.
A research conducted by the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), shows that connectivity across the country can be better with the consolidation of fiber installations by various state institutions and telecommunication companies.
The Electricity Company of Ghana, Ghana National Gas Company, Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCO) and National Security are among the many state institutions with fiber installation across the country. These installations are acting in silos and serving the peculiar needs of the state bodies but can provide more efficiency and better serve rural communities and the nation in general if there is some consolidation to ensure reliable and fast data.
According to NITA, if this is left unaddressed, the yawning gap between the under-connected and the hyper-digitalized communities will widen further and existing inequalities will be exacerbated. These are the reasons it is calling for support for the formulation of new policies and regulations that will help create a fairer distribution of gains from the ongoing process of digital transformation.
NITA acknowledges that, it would not be easy and would require some state bodies to relax their stands and some consensus building to achieve this aim.
Director General of NITA, Richard Okyere-Fosu, in an interview with the B&FT, said that the time for fiber consolidation is now. “My point is that why can’t we consolidate this for the bigger good? Even if National Security has a link and you do not want anyone else to have it, there is Police and Military, we can add all of them onto one network for the security agencies and then they would be one network for the security agency.
We are in a country where digitalization has become the go to thing so today there is a e- passport, e-land registration and other e initiatives, all these would face a serious challenge if you do not have the information super highway which is the connectivity that we need. So, we need to really look at the consolidation.”
He is also worried about the persistent issues of fiber cuts as well, stating that “it would amount to nothing if we consolidate and still have issues of fiber cuts. Fiber cuts must be elevated to a national security issue and the Ministers of Finance and Communications have taken some bold steps at addressing it and are in talks with the Minister for National Security.”
The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications said the move for fiber consolidation has been in the offing for a long while but in as much as it would be good news for the industry, its efficiency would be better felt when strict guidelines and clear enforcement mechanisms are attached to its establishment.
Head of Research and Communications at the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Derek Laryea told the B&FT that: “It is not all about consolidating the fiber; you can consolidate the data (fiber) and the engineers will not respect it or will not use it or leverage the data. I think what is critical beyond consolidation is the enforcement.”
He believes that some strong consultation is needed between the key stakeholders to ensure that everyone is aligned to the final objective. For him, some parameters and communication structures are needed among stakeholders to ensure the fiber is not damaged as is currently happening, because, the rippling effect on the operation of several state institutions would be dire.
“This is where our concerns come from. The enforcement is the greater concern because from the chamber level, working through the National Engineering Coordinating Team we are able to do a lot of collaboration. If I have a road project, which is one of the main causes of fiber cuts, I need to inform everyone so that measures are put in place to mitigate its effect.”
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has said that his administration, since assuming office in 2017, has leveraged technology to help reform and improve Ghana’s institutional and regulatory processes towards the creation of a digital economy.
According to him, the digital economy that has been established, as a result, “is supporting sustained economic growth, and improving the wellbeing of our citizens.” As he prepares to kick start his next administration, the issue of fiber consolidation would have to be paramount on his agenda as it will be the game changer in providing equal economic opportunity to all.