The Ghana Investment Fund for a Electronic Communication (GIFEC) is set to complete a satellite hub in Accra by July this year, to ensure telecom, internet and digital TV broadcasting services reach every part of the country with ease.
CEO of GIFEC, Kobby Acheampong, who disclosed this to Adom News Editor Sammy Dowuona, said GIFEC has already gotten approval from the Central Tender Board (CTB) for the project estimated at GHC37million.
The V-SAT hub itself will cost GHC8million but it comes with 25 rural telephony sites and 100 internet sites, which has shored up the cost.
“We had to go to the CTB for approval because the cost of the project was beyond our threshold but after convincing themselves based on the recommendation of an independent accessor of our proposal they have given us approval,” the GIFEC boss said.
Contract has already been awarded to Dizengoff Ghana to build the hub on the premises of the Kofi Annan ICT Centre of Excellence.
Kobby Acheampong noted that the wisdom in building a V-SAT hub is to change from putting up telecom masts at snail pace to providing the the enabling environment for telecom operators to find it conducive and affordable to invest in rural telephony.
He said once the hub is completed, even internet service providers and private individuals wanting to provide satellite TV services can have access to the platform at subsidized rates to provide affordable services.
Acheampong noted that ahead of the completion of the hub, MTN Ghana is currently working with GIFEC and Ericsson to build 55 telecom masts in rural unserved and underserved areas to boost rural connectivity.
The GIFEC boss commended MTN for investing as much as US$12million into such a project this year alone to boost rural telephony, adding that global technology giant Huawei Technologies has also offered to build some masts to boost rural connectivity.
“What this means is that by the time the hub will be ready there will be enough telecom towers all over the country to ensure that no one is left out of the benefits of ICT in the country,” he said.
Kobby Acheampong noted that GIFEC is also happy that MTN Ghana has committed resources to build 200 masts in rural communities over the next three years.
He expressed the hope that the other telcos will follow MTN’s example and contribute their quota to help bridge the gap of about 250 more deprived communities needing connectivity.
Meanwhile, Principal Programs Manager at GIFEC, Michael Adjei Takyi said when Ghana finally crosses over from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) system, GIFEC will distribute about 15,000 digital set top boxes to homes in rural and deprived communities for free.
This, he said, is to ensure that the poor rural dwellers who do not have money to buy expensive digital television sets can still have access to digital content on their analogue TV sets.
GIFEC is a state-owned universal fund into which private telecom operators pay one per cent each of their annual profits for the purposes providing telecoms and ICT infrastructure and connectivity to unserved and underserved areas with the view to bridging the digital divide between the haves and have nots.
Over the past ten years, GIFEC has built a meager 51 telecom masts, out of which 13 are not even being used because the telecoms operators think those masts are not strategic enough for them to make enough revenue.
But beside that, GIFEC has also built and stocked computer labs for over 190 educational institutions across the country with two years free internet connectivity; distributed over 27,000 laptops to about 700 junior high schools in the deprived areas, and supplied over 250 fishermen with fish finders that assist them to locate where mature fish are to make fishing easier.
They also train people for various government institutions in the use of ICT tools. Last year alone over 500 people were trained for the various ministries departments and agencies.
This year, GIFEC the target is to train 5000, and this will included mainly artisans and particularly drivers who need ICT to understand and master the processes at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA).
GIFEC also runs a universal emergency call line, 112, which allows phone users to call a central point to be redirected to the appropriate quarters for assistance.