Former President of Ghana and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama has urged the government and telecommunication companies to urgently work towards easing the internet challenges of consumers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic has led to a partial lockdown of Accra, Kasoa, Kumasi and Tema as well as the closure of schools and bans on public gatherings.
A lot of schools have tried to move classes online whilst a number of professionals have taken to working from home to ensure social distancing.
Speaking on the matter after announcing the donation of food items to some 20,000 households, Mr. Mahama argued that some relief on internet expenditure was in order.
“This has drastically increased their expenditure on internet usage to the extent to the extent that some can no longer cope. Indeed there are reports of several students being unable to complete online lectures because their data run out. Several people are also working from home.”
As a solution, Mr. Mahama urged government to assure the telcos of a free six months extension of licenses to motivate them to reduce the cost of internet.
“This value can be applied to cushion consumers during this three-month period,” he noted
He suggested that 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.”
“Furthermore, the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) should leverage its robust broadband infrastructure…to meet the increased demand for wireless and fixed broadband in these COVID-19 times.”
Mr. Mahama further reiterated calls for the removal of the 50 percent increase in the Communications Service Tax which he said: “will provide further relief for the many who are having to work or stay at home at this time.”
So far, the government has provided extra spectrum to Vodafone and MTN Ghana so as to improve data quality.
Some citizens have made calls for a reduction in data costs. But commenting on the matter in March, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN argued that reducing the cost of data to boost communication amidst the pandemic, could increase traffic that will affect internet speed.