Former President John Dramani Mahama has appealed to the government to employ strategies that will enable telecommunication service providers to reduce their rates during the restriction period.
He urged the government to consider voice and Internet services as an essential commodity and ensure that it was provided at a cheaper rate to consumers who had been forced to stay at home as part of measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
That, he said, would be relief to lot of people who had resorted to the Internet to conduct businesses and the many workers who were working from home.
He said the gesture would also help to reduce the cost burden on students who are studying via the Internet due to the closure of schools.
The former President made the intervention when he announced a support package for 20,000 households within the partial lockdown areas in Accra, Kumasi and Kasoa at his office in Accra yesterday.
The package included food items and other household items needed for survival during this period when most business activities have come to a standstill.
The items would be distributed through the various traditional councils in the affected areas, faith-based organisations and organisations working with people with disabilities.
Throwing more light on the packages that the government could offer the telecommunications firms, Mr Mahama said the government could offer a free six-month extension of licences of telecommunications whose licences were about to expire so that the value could be applied to cushion consumers during the three-month period.
“Additionally, the Telcos can also be compensated with funds from the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC), which already has the mandate to ensure universal access to telecommunication,” he added.
Mr Mahama also asked the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) to leverage its robust broadband infrastructure – 4G cell sites and optic fibre cables, to meet the increased demand for wireless and fixed broadband during the COVID-19 times.
“The removal of the 50 per cent increase in the Communication Service Tax (CST) will provide further relief for the many who are having to work or stay at home at this time.
Mr Mahama said the packages would be distributed to households without any parochial considerations.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the inequalities in the society with thousands of people struggling to survive.
He said many bread winners were in dire need due to either a shut down of their work places or had been asked by their employers to stay at home.
Mr Mahama said there should not be any public gatherings or large crowds at palaces for the items but be delivered to the beneficiaries in their homes.
He said to avoid confusion in the distribution of relief items, the government must also adopt this method and involve the traditional authorities in such distributions to ensure fairness.