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18.10.2005 General News

Ghana launches Internet Exchange

By GNA
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Accra, Oct. 18, GNA - Ghana Internet Service Providers on Tuesday launched the first Internet Exchange facility to improve services for users communicating via the Internet to others within the country. The Ghana Internet Service Providers Association (GISPA) spearheaded the establishment of the Ghana Internet Exchange (GIX), which is the first of its kind in the West African Region.

The establishment of the Exchange is expected to save Ghana its share of 400 million dollars paid by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Africa annually to companies in Europe and the United States where communications via the Internet are terminated before routing them back to recipients in Africa.

Ghana becomes the 14th in Africa to own an Internet exchange coming at the heels of Botswana, which just joined the group that includes South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Mauritius, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Mr William Stucke, Chairman of Africa Internet Service Providers Association (AfrISPA), explained that prior to the establishment of the Exchange, internet connectivity and its attendant services to within Ghana had to be routed through foreign countries which charged heavily for their services.

AfrISPA is involved with giving perspective of policy formulation to the industry, encouraging industry players to come up with different ways of doing things, promoting the development of infrastructure and liberalisation of the industry.

In Ghana, AfrISPA worked with the Ghanaian counterparts, GISPA by giving capacity building Internet experts to improve on their expertise with the establishment of the Exchange and also assist in the resources for domain name administration and addressing.

Other partners in the establishment of the Exchange include the French Embassy, which provided funding, the National Communications Authority, license frequency spectrum at zero price and the Ministry of Communications for facilitating the process for the GISPA members. The current users of the facility are Internet Ghana, K-Net, Teledata, Ecobank network. The Network Computer Systems and other ISPs are expected to connect their facilities through the Exchange very soon. Among the benefits of the use of Exchange to ISPs are reduced bandwidth costs for local or Ghanaian traffic.

ISPs connected to the Exchange would also enjoy reduced transmission time because the transmission stays within the same network and thereby increases speed and reliability.

Mr. Albert Kan-Dapaah, Minister of Communications, launched the Exchange and observed that it was significant because it would enhance, promote and advance internet applications in Ghana and make it more cost effective and efficient as the end user community would benefit from it. He said the project was a manifestation of a strong vision of a highly focused team against the backdrop of challenges.

"...GIX opens a host of business opportunities while reinforcing Ghana's competitive advantages in becoming the third hub in the ECOWAS region by interconnecting ISPs and operators."

Mr Kan-Dapaah said his Ministry would on its part take advantage of the GIX to ensure that Ghana was not left behind in the knowledge economy and information society.

The Ministry is as a first step developing a robust network infrastructure by building the national fibre backbone the first of which consists of the closing of the southern fibre optic loop that covers Tema, Takoradi, Obuasi and Kumsai.

The government is also forging a support partnership to maintain the network infrastructure with Cisco System. The fibre backbone is also expected to connect all Ministries, Departments and Agencies and facilitate the Community Information Centres being established in all the 230 districts.

Mr Kan-Dapaah, however, cautioned that as the nation progressed with the development of the Internet, careful attention should be given to its security, as the issues of electronic security and data protection were indeed preconditions for the massive deployment of Internet services.

He said stakeholders should also be mindful of the governance of the Internet within the country and also on the international scene. He gave the example of the current negotiations at the World Summit for the Information Society where Internet governance had become an issue for governments, the private sector and the civil society. The Minister therefore urged Ghanaian participants in the forthcoming WSIS Tunis 2005 Phase to support Africa's quest to ensure the role of governments in decision-making with regard to all Internet public policy development issues and the reinforcement of Internet regional resource management institutions to ensure autonomy in Internet resources management among other issues.

He also urged stakeholders to make an input into the ongoing discussions on the draft composite e-legislation bill, the telecommunications bill and the revised National Communications Authority Bill.

Major Seth Tandoh, Acting Chief Executive of the National Communications Authority, said the establishment of the GIX was in line with the UN International Telecommunications Union declaration in Kigali, which encouraged the formation of such networks to reduce dependency.

He said prior to the establishment of the GIX, the cost to the Ghanaian ISPs from routing transmission to international services was passed on to the customers, but that would now be minimised. "This is a classic example of bridging the digital divide in Africa."

Mr Pierre Jacquemot, French Ambassador in Ghana, said his country was committed to improvement in technology and to assist in bridging the digital divide amongst countries.

He said France's interest in the project was also based on the fact that Information Communication Technology was priority of NEPAD. Mr Leslie Tamakloe, Director of GISPA, and the Chief Executive Officer of Internet Ghana, also enumerated the benefits of the Exchange and said it would help speed up the transmission of over a million messages generated within a day. He said the Exchange would also support and enhance e-banking, e-commerce and e-trading.

He said non-members of GISPA who connected to the Exchange would become de facto members of the Ghana Internet Exchange Providers Association, which was formed out of the GIX.

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