Accra: The Metropolis With No Internet Connection

Yes, that title is quite alarming and may deter a lot of people from reading further. It may also send a barrage of insults my way, but you can have many seats – ____o_.

This article is definitely from a place of anger and frustration.

A place of constant disconnection from the rest of the world. A place of bewilderment at how expensive data is in Ghana. A place of shock at how such a potential mega city lacks a basic facility such as wifi hotspots. A place of utter disappointment.

I’ve been in Accra a couple of years now and I’ve witnessed its growth at different stages within different industries. I’ve seen mega infrastructural pieces arise from nothing but sheer will, dust and concrete. I’ve seen multinationals set up shop in Accra and grown their revenue base even further. I’ve seen millennials straight out of school, dive into entrepreneurship and succeed at it. I’ve seen the very best Accra has to offer and also the very worst.

With the rate of infrastructural and economical development, it’s certain that there indeed is a lot of potential for this gold coast city. Potential that can only be achieved when all parts fit together and fit well. One thing remains missing though:

Busy 4g

When is Accra going to finally achieve affordable and widespread 4G internet connection?

When we take a close look at some of the world’s most modern and developed cities, one thing remains constant; the affordability and accessibility of 4G internet. Some of these cities have free wifi hotspots in almost every corner, every cafe and in almost every store you walk into.

I can personally speak for Singapore since that’s a city I love, paid keen attention to and is definitely at the top of my bucket list for future travels. A recent study ranks Singapore atop global charts of average peak internet speed. That says a lot about their rate of development so far.

Then comes the idea of smart cities. According to Wikipedia, a smart city is an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IOT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets. I know, it sounds like some futuristic jargons, but trust me, these cities already do exist.

With Singapore once again leading the pack, Spain, and London following closely behind, these cities have rolled out some of the most unimaginable initiatives, in order to get their people living more efficiently.

Singapore (Smart City)

From creating systems and processes that effectively combat car congestion to having some of the most affordable and accessible broadband connections the world has ever seen, to smart meters and complete LED lighting, these cities are light years ahead. Singapore’s prime minister once announced plans for a 10-Gbps fiber broadband service that would enable residents to download a two-hour HD movie in 90 seconds. I’m equally as wowed.

Some may bring up the question of, how about other African cities? Nairobi and Cape Town are perfect instances of smart cities doing the damn thing. Nairobi which is home to over 3 million people won the award for most intelligent African city 3yrs in a row. Cape Town is also an amazing business environment.

Nairobi (Smart City)

Nairobi has intelligently used ICT to drive a rapid and widespread development in smart city solutions and an increased broadband availability, thereby increasing the number of active internet users by over 22%, year-on-year.

With initiatives like M-Pesa, Safaricom and an emerging African version of silicon valley aptly called Konza City (Silicon Savannah), Nairobi is well on it’s way to a fully global smart city.

Proposed konza City

Cape Town has bordered its city on four ICT pillars – digital infrastructure, digital inclusion, e-government and digital economy. One can only imagine the intelligence coming out of such a city.

As at the end of 2016, Cape town had established 72 Wifi Hotspots with a plan to install one in every ward of every province within the city. They are for sure taking steps in the right direction.

Cape Town

Other cities such as Lagos, Cairo, Addis-Ababa, Durban, Windhoek, Algiers etc. are also making giant strides in this collective dream.  

These progressive leads into a wholesomely futuristic world can only be made possible with efficient, affordable and accessible broadband connection. Simple.

And as usual, Ghana seems to be left behind.

The key to getting these things right is bordered around Policy. Policy, Policy & Effective Policies!! In 2017, 10Gb of data shouldn’t cost the ordinary man 120Ghs ($27). But one wouldn’t blame them when the federal government chooses to sell broadband frequencies at ridiculous amounts to ISP’s. These Businessmen have to make their money back somehow.

If the Federal Government is serious about metropolitan plans for Accra, they need to really look inward and sort out this terrible broadband situation which is gradually crippling businesses and discouraging potential business owners from setting up shop in Accra. If it’s taking Accra this long to get setup, one can only imagine how long it would take cities like Takoradi and Kumasi to get setup fully.

Ghana’s largest ISP’s

We also need discussions revolving around these emanating issues. We need to get people talking about these things. That brings us one step closer to the solution. Witter Bynner once said, “The biggest problem in the world could have been solved when it was small”. This totally applies here. Accra’s broadband issue is containable, for now. But something needs to be done and done fast.

The Federal Government going into a partnership with one of Accra’s finest ISP’s to setup free wifi Hotspots across town while a committee drives policy revolving around broadband prices and modem costs won’t be a bad place to start.

The Tech players in Accra need to rally around each other and get this conversation going. We need to start producing actionable results.

Accra we love you, but you need to fix up.