While Africa still has very real infrastructure development challenges, the continent continues to embrace the digital economy as a platform for growth and new opportunities. This is evident in the milestone reached by Ghana’s oldest ISP, AfricaOnline.
“It’s been a privilege to watch this business grow into a formidable player within the Ghanaian economy. As we celebrate 20 years as an Internet and related connectivity services provider, we recognise the pivotal role AfricaOnline has played in Ghanaian business and look forward to its progress as it evolves its service offering based on changing technology, customer demands and the developing digital economy,” says Mathew Welthagen, CEO, Gondwana International Networks, parent-company to AfricaOnline.
In September 2017, Ghana’s Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, announced plans to transform Ghana’s economy from container-focused to a digitally driven marketplace, relying heavily on ICT infrastructure. The reference to Ghana’s container state reflects on multiple containers at every Ghanaian border providing access to low-cost foreign goods at the expense of local industry.
The change in approach is significant and far reaching. Access to broadband connectivity is often quoted as a key foundation for boosting the digital economy. Various industry reports including those backed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), GSM Association among others indicates that for every 10% increase in broadband penetration, the underlying GDP impact can be as much as 1.38% increase in low/middle income countries. Additionally, for every 1% increase in broadband connectivity, economies can generate 5% increase in job creation. Broadband access also has a positive impact on improving employee productivity.
“While the change in approach and priorities is commended, the actual GDP impact is only felt after increasing productivity through organisational structural and process changes as business becomes more IT-focused,” says Welthagen. “Transactional-based sectors such as financial services or labour-intensive sectors such as hospitality, often see the most benefit from a productivity perspective. The ITU says that economic growth via broadband adoption is however not automatic and believes that supporting Public Policy is also critical. Therefore, the Government’s emphasis on building a digital economy is essential and well received by all.”
Ghana has already implemented many transactional service requirements to boost business efficiencies, including paperless transactions at its entry ports. With unrivaled coverage at the main Accra port via its wireless high site, AfricaOnline offers a full suite of connectivity services. It has wireless networks in the capital Accra as well as the major towns of Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale, as well as access to metro fibre networks in Accra and now in Kumasi.
An often-unconsidered aspect of a new digital economy is the quest for widening internet coverage, and with coverage gaps in terrestrial networks, satellite services are making something of a commercial comeback, thanks to High Throughput Satellite (HTS) services and increasing demand for connectivity in even the remotest areas. Through Gondwana International Networks, AfricaOnline offers its Jola VSAT service on the first Jupiter Hub in Africa, which launched in Q4 2016, in a strategic partnership with Intelsat’s wide-beam IS-28 Ku-Band service.
Beyond connectivity, AfricaOnline is often part of a company’s IT strategy with its end-to-end managed servers for email, firewall, security and data storage, all of which have become more crucial in a world of ransomware threats. Ubiquitous coverage demands now mean Wi-Fi is a commonly expected service in public places, high-foot traffic areas and temporary events.
“We will continue to invest in the country’s digital economy thereby continuing our journey together into the ever-changing world of telecommunications, Internet of Things, cloud services and look forward to the next 20 years with our customers and partners,” says Welthagen.