The GSMA has announced a new partnership with Vodafone Ghana and the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) to support the deployment of innovative mobile internet connectivity solutions for unconnected rural communities.
As part of the Connected Society Innovation Fund for Rural Connectivity, the project will run for eighteen months from July 2019 to late 2020. The GSMA-led project will fund mobile network equipment vendors to deploy their innovative solutions to support mobile operator efforts in Ghana. Vodafone Ghana will be testing and deploying these innovations on their networks whilst GIFEC will provide land for site coverage. The fund will also enable tax and duty exemptions of up to thirty per cent for imported equipment to encourage reinvestment and enhance coverage extensions.
“This collaboration is a pioneering, first-of-its-kind project that aims to connect unconnected communities in rural locations and deliver a range of essential digital services,” commented Akinwale Goodluck, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA. “It could not have been achieved without the support of both Vodafone Ghana and GIFEC, particularly on providing tax exemptions and the provision of land for grantees, and will provide a foundation for innovative African companies to support operator efforts to connect the unconnected.”
In Ghana, two vendors and their partners were selected and are expected to be awarded up to £330,000 each for implementing turnkey solutions to suit challenging rural environments with low population density, difficult terrain or limited infrastructure. Each project was judged on its ability to provide solutions that are innovative, scalable and commercially sustainable. Once the sites are fully commissioned they will be integrated into Vodafone’s network as the project’s primary partner.
Commenting on the partnership, Gayheart Mensah, External Affairs Director at Vodafone Ghana said: “Connectivity for all remains an integral part of the way we operate as a business. In the spirit of leaving no one behind, we are excited to be partnering the GSMA and GIFEC to roll out this initiative. It is certainly an area of industry leadership that we are extremely proud of. This is what we mean by enabling an exciting future for all our stakeholders.”
The project focuses on specific rural areas that currently lack connectivity but have economic potential. The selection was conducted with analysis from the GSMA using its coverage mapping tool. Fund grantees will work in consortiums to deliver their solutions and provide mobile internet coverage and all mobile services from Vodafone Ghana. At the end of the project, the mobile operators will take over the maintenance and operation of the sites. The winners of the Innovation Fund will be announced this summer.
“Despite the rapid growth in mobile communication, commercially viable business models are still lacking in many remote, low income and rural communities. The challenge in reaching the unconnected in our part of the world rests crucially on affordability, literacy, relevant service as well as appropriate technology. It is observed that universal connectivity requires smart public interventions as market forces are not sufficient. As we explore this partnership to deliver connectivity for communities in the Northern and Upper West regions of Ghana, the last mile of connecting the unconnected will be achieved to create avenues for digital inclusiveness,” said Abraham Kofi Asante, CEO, GIFEC.