GHANA TELECOM LOOKS TO E-COMMERCE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY TO KICK-START RURAL COMMUNICATIONS

Telecoms

A model communication centre developed for rural and peri-urban communities, called eCARE is seen by Ghana Telecom as a way of revolutionising communication in rural areas. eCARE is an acronym for e-commerce and renewable energy. The project seeks to increase access to ICT powered by renewable energy in rural and peri-urban areas of Ghana. eCARE is a community phone project by Ghana Telecom since February 2005.

The eCARE project is a joint effort of the United Nations foundations, (UNF), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), ARB Apex Bank, Kumasi Institute for Technology and Environment (KITE), Telenor Management Partner, (TMP) and Ghana Telecom, (GT).Sadly, these rural communication centres will only be available in areas where GT has ONEtouch GSM coverage. In April to October 2004, a pre-feasibility study sponsored by UNF and TMP implemented by KITE, GT and UNEP was carried out.

GT's CEO Oystein Bjorge, noted that even though communication could be a vehicle for development in the rural areas, it is not effective there unless relevant to the communities served, thus the need to embrace UNF's eCARE idea."Communication is not a game but a vehicle to bring development. Therefore services by entrepreneurs must be relevant to communities".

According to the project Manager, Anita Skagnaes, local Ghanaian entrepreneurs will be identified, screened and recruited to operate the rural business centres offering ICT service and valued added services enabled by renewable energy.

"The eCARE project will offer streamlined support package to qualified rural entrepreneurs, training, pre-produced eCARE centre, follow up financial support, bulk airtime at affordable prices and discounted equipments with service agreement through project", she stated.

She said rural participants will be required to certify under the eCARE training programme, provide equity and suitable location for placement of eCARE, provide equity and suitable location for placement of eCARE centre, offer rural telephony and other approved services at reasonable rates, as well as cover all operating expenses and amortization.

Currently, the first eCARE demonstration centre is completed while a pilot project is scheduled to start at the end of May with the establishment of three eCARE Rural Business Centres at Nkurakan, Sege and Sogakope in the Accra, Eastern and Volta Regions respectively.

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