Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (right), Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, speaking at the event. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (right), Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, speaking at the event. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI

1,000 Rural telephony sites completed

The Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation has constructed over 1,000 rural telephony sites under the Ghana Rural Telephony and Digital Inclusion Project (The GRT&DIP) to expand mobile network connectivity to unconnected rural communities.

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The Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, who disclosed this in Accra on Sunday [Feb 18, 2024], said as of this month, 1,010 of the planned 2,016 sites had been constructed, with 618 of them already operational.

They were offering essential voice and data services to citizens in about 1,620 rural communities, the minister added.

Taking her turn at the Ministers’ Press Briefing at the Ministry of Information, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said people in those rural communities “can now make calls and use data services, thereby enhancing social and economic activities in these communities”.

The press briefing focused on three interventions the government had put in place to bridge the digital divide.

They are the Ghana Rural Telephony and Digital Inclusion Project, the Innovative Digital Services and Payments Platform (Ghana Gov), and the Revolutionary Nationwide E-Government Network (eGovNet).

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful disclosed that the ministry would build the remaining 1,006 sites, integrate and activate them, all for voice and data services, to ensure reliable, affordable and secure broadband infrastructure this year.

In 2020, the government secured a €155-million facility from the China EXIM Bank to start the GRT&DIP in partnership with Chinese tech giant, Huawei, and the China National Technical Import and Export Corporation (CNTIC).

The project has a local partner, Ascend Digital Solutions, for its execution.

The minister explained that 2,016 rural telephony sites were to be constructed under the project to extend mobile network coverage to approximately four million residents of selected unserved and underserved communities as part of efforts to bridge the digital divide.

The project, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said, symbolised more than just an expanded telephony coverage as it represented a significant stride towards a more connected, inclusive and digitally empowered nation.

 At the event

 At the event

That was necessary to transforming the lives of citizens in communities that were once unconnected, unserved or underserved, the minister stated.

The Communications and Digitalisation Minister added that the project had enhanced the ability of residents to communicate with one another and the rest of the world, with improved access to information and increased connectivity for businesses in those communities.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said prior to the intervention, basic healthcare delivery and education, among other critical services, presented a challenge, as health workers and teachers were reluctant to accept postings to certain communities due to the lack of connectivity.

“This situation has improved significantly due to the rural telephony project,” she said.

She indicated that the project had also facilitated remote learning, digital financial inclusion through mobile banking and mobile money, access to market information for farmers, and enabled small businesses to reach customers beyond their immediate vicinity, due to the availability of mobile Internet in those communities.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful, who described the GRT&DIP as a game-changer in enabling citizens to connect seamlessly, said: “We are determined to leave no one behind in our quest for digital transformation”.

Free call roaming

The Communications and Digitalisation Minister also disclosed that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire became the first ECOWAS countries to implement the ECOWAS free roaming initiative in June 2023.

That meant that Ghanaian subscribers visiting Cote d’Ivoire could receive calls without paying roaming fees and would be charged local rates when making calls to Ghana while in Cote d’Ivoire and vice versa.

Subscribers travelling between the two countries would also enjoy exemptions from international roaming charges, she added.

Others

Talking about the Innovative Digital Services and Payments Platform, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful disclosed that Ghana.gov had onboarded 1,507 institutions after three years of operation and facilitated the collection of GH¢210 billion to the state.

For eGovNet, she said the ministry had awarded a contract to build an e-Government Network Connectivity Infrastructure under a 10-year contract.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said as of the end of January this year, 95 per cent of the project had been completed and was expected to be fully completed by the end of February 2024.

eGovNet had connected 951 government agencies onto a modernised, robust and secure fibre optic backbone and radio/wireless infrastructure, she said, stating that “all 261 districts of Ghana have a fibre footprint which opens them up to the digital world”.

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