US Ambassador to Ghana, Viriginia Palmer has said that American Tower Corporation Ghana (ATC Ghana) is the biggest US investor in the country, having sunk millions of dollars into establishing and acquiring over 4,000 telecom towers and also setting up some 19 Digital Communities ICT Learning Centres in the country.
She was speaking at the commissioning of one of the 19 ATC Ghana Digital Communities ICT Learning Centres on the premises of Ghana Girl Guides Association (GGGA) at Achimota in Accra.
The 33-seater Digital Communities ICT Learning Centre is designed to benefit female pupils and girls within Achimota and its environs, in the area of basic ICT skills, coding, programming, drone technology and other relevant digital skills designed to set them on the path of becoming competitive both in Ghana and on the global scale.
Virginia Palmer was the guest of honour at the event and she noted that since entering the country, ATC Ghana has been very committed to improving mobile and data penetration in the country through strategic investment, and that is very commendable.
Indeed, ATC Ghana came to Ghana on the back of a national tower co-location policy designed to decouple all telecom tower operations from the core functions of the traditional MNOs, to be run by independent entities. ATC Ghana therefore invested heavily into acquiring towers from MTN Ghana, Vodafone Ghana, and later acquired all towers operated by Eaton Towers, another independent towerco in the country. At the last count, ATC Ghana controls over 60% of telecom towers in the country.
The company has since gone beyond just managing co-location towers to putting up ICT centres across the country to enable, particularly deprived Ghanaians in unserved and underserved areas to have access to the benefits of its towers beyond just voice calls.
Even though Virginia Palmer did not mention exactly how much ATC Ghana has invested in the country, she noted that records of US investments in Ghana available to the Embassy indicate that ATC Ghana has the biggest US investment in the country.
She noted that ATC Ghana has consistently responded positively to the call to invest and support Ghana’s digital transformation agenda and that is commendable.
“ICT education is critical to national development and social transformation and your continuous investment in that area is helping in a very big way to bridge the digital gap and ensure digital inclusion,” he said.
She particularly commended ATC Ghana for dedicating a centre to girls, saying that such an investment will go a long way to prepare the girls to be competitive both locally and on the global scale.
CEO of ATC Ghana, Ashutosh Singh said investments into Communities ICT Learning Centres is part of ATC’s sustainability strategy to ensure that a greater majority of people in its operational countries across the world derived full benefit of the infrastructure it provides.
According to him, ATC has an ambition to build at least 600 Communities ICT Learning Centres in its seven operational countries in Africa by 2026. So far, they have established 19 in Ghana and there more to come.
He said the centres are not just open to children, but to people of all ages, because it has been designed for training in basic ICT skills such as coding, programming and others, which promise to help users improve their own careers.
In terms of the impact so far, he said there is an internal impact assessment going on to determine how many people have benefitted from the centres so far and in what ways it has improved lives. But Techfocus24 gathered that as of 2020, over 5,000 people have made use of ATC Ghana Communities ICT Learning Centres and some 60 trainers have also benefitted from skills development in order to training people at the centres.
CEO of ATC Africa, Marek Busfy said the 4,000 plus ATC towers in Ghana is just a fraction of over 25,000 across Africa, adding that through these towers, ATC continues to connect people across the continent.
He said the investment into ICT centres is a recognition that towers are not enough to connect people if the people do not have access to make full use of the resources the towers offer.
According to him, the particular investment into an ICT centre for girls is also a reflection of ATC’s strong belief and commitment to diversity, adding that out of its seven-country operations in Africa, two of them are headed by females, and in Ghana, two of the top ATC executives are also female.
Head of Ghana Girl Guides Association, Zakiya Abdul-Wahab said the association has had a five-year relationship with ATC Ghana and that has resulted in an 11-seater ICT Centre at its headquarters in Accra, prior to this 33-seater.
According to her, GGGA started several years ago with just 75 members in Ghana, but now it has over 200,000 girls across the country, adding that with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) becoming a critical development issue, particularly for girls, the provision of such centres are very welcoming for GGGA.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum said ATC Ghana’s gesture in establishing ICT centres across the country sits well with the Ministry’s STEM policy agenda, adding that such investments are a catalyst to the realization of government policies.