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The United Nations Foundations (UNF) and the Telecom Management Partner (TMP) has begun the implementation of the Electronic Commerce and Renewable Energy (E-CARE) project initiated in 2003 to bridge the digital divide between the urban and the rural areas with the installation of state-of-the-art telecommunication facilities in two regions in the Southern part of the country.
The Eastern and Ashanti regions would benefit from the project, which comprises a shipping container each with installations of three landlines, computers and printers supported by solar panels for targeted areas. The two regions would together benefit from about 25 installations of the facility. About 70 containers would also be installed in the Northern part of the country early next year.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra on Friday, Mr Joseph Abanyin, General Manager of E-CARE, said its main focus was to accelerate access to information and communication technology (ICT) in deprived areas of Ghana by establishing rural and peri-urban Community Business Centres equipped with three telephone lines, faxes, a computer, printer and internet services to serve each community. The project is aimed at helping to reduce poverty through the acceleration of the extension of modern telecommunication and renewable energy to rural and peri-urban users.
The General Manager said the facilities, which would be given to individuals on hire purchase would be powered by solar energy to forestall the hazards of power outages and beneficiaries would be expected to pay 800 thousand cedis per month for seven years to an account at Ghana Commercial Bank to cover the cost. Mr Abanyin said there was no need for a whole community to apply for the facility and that individual entrepreneurs could qualify for selection.
The prospective entrepreneur must, however, be a citizen of Ghana and must be at least twenty years of age and must have completed at least senior secondary school or its equivalent. Applicants should also demonstrate strong inkling for entrepreneurship and creativity and must agree to run the e-care centre as a full-time business. They must also have sufficient funds to cover 10 per cent, approximately five million cedis, of the E-care centre capital expenses and must be in good financial standing with a local bank or other reputable financial or community-based public institution.
Beneficiary entrepreneurs are, however, paying eight million cedis currently and this is intended to reduce the loan amount that is to be paid over the seven-year period. Mr Abanyin said the loan amount to be paid within the period was fifty million cedis and that the 10 per cent served as an equity to ensure that selected individuals became partners of the project. Of such individuals, Mr Abanyin said: "Partners are supporting both the UN and the Government of Ghana's vision to increase ICT access in the rural communities for poverty reduction as well as the use of renewable energy and good livelihood." The project is also partnered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Kumasi Institute for Technology and Environment (KITE) and the Ghana Telecom.
News date: 01/09/2006