Ghana Lags Behind In Internet Connectivity
Ghana has been overtaken by Nigeria as the leading provider of internet service in West Africa according to a Ghana Internet Service Providers Association (GISPA)/USAID Communications Policy and Research/Advocacy Report.
According to the report, Senegal is also ahead of Ghana as regards internet connectivity.
The report carried out from January 2006 and completed in March this year indicates that though the country’s growth rate is close to that of Senegal, it is 50 percent behind Nigeria.
Despite being the first country to issue Internet Service Providers (ISPs) licence in the West Africa sub region, the report states that the recent development in the country needs to be viewed with concern since it is an indication of the existence of constraints to access to communications services in Ghana.
According to the survey, the constraints are due to lack of consistent and sustained effort in the implementation of the national information and communication technology (ICT) strategy arising from impediments especially to the ICT policy framework and regulatory environment.
Others include the relatively high cost of access to and low quality of communication services.
With regard to the policy framework, the unclear role for private sector regarding information technology (IT) policy implementation, government involvement in private sector activities such as ownership in Ghana Telecom and no ICT policy unit at the Ministry of Communication were some of the major hindrances.
On regulatory environment, the consistent changing of ministers, long delays in appointing the Board and Director General of the National Communications Authority (NCA) though the law states that the board should appoint the management, were some of the factors hindering the growth of the sector.
Non-transparent frequency management and lack of effective dispute resolution were some of GISPA’s regulatory challenges.
ICT laws such as the National Communications Authority Bill, the Electronic Communications Bill and the National IT Agency Bill that are to strengthen regulatory framework are in the draft form since 2005, the report added.
Ghana presently boasts of 360,000 fixed lines compared to Egypt’s 10.8 million and South Africa’s 4.7 million, which the report says limits capacity for relatively cheaper DSL broadband internet connectivity.
Also, only about 28 ISPs out of over 100 licensed are currently operating in the country.
The report suggests that separate departments for IT, ICT and telecom at the Ministry of Communications should be established to deal with peculiar issues.
Subsequently, government should in earnest privatize GT since it will not have enough funds to invest in the company.
The report also called for the elimination of regulatory challenges to facilitate increased investment by ISPs as well as promote private sector competition for the provision of international and local bandwidth.