The Ministry of Communication, in collaboration with StarTimes, a Chinese multinational media company, on Wednesday, launched a 300-village access to satellite television (TV) project to provide needy communities with digital electronic gadgets.
The project, launched with the aid of the Chinese Government, seeks to provide free solar powered digital TV receiving systems, decoders and projectors, as well as solar lights for 900 locations within 300 communities across the country.
Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful, the Minister of Communications, said the transfer of technology and knowledge across borders, as a result of globalisation, was helping to boost innovation and productivity, whilst increasing global interdependence and strengthening global cooperation.
She said the emergence of the Information and Knowledge Society and its power to gather, process, store, retrieve and transmit knowledge and information created a range of opportunities to accelerate the development of rural, un-served and underserved communities.
Satellite TV, she said, therefore, had the potential to introduce an array of educative, informative and entertainment channels and programming to the beneficiary communities.
Mrs Ekuful said: “For Government, television remains an important platform for communicating and disseminating vital information to the general public, predominantly through the news and public sensitisation campaigns”.
She commended the Chinese Government for the initiative, saying that, in the digital broadcasting environment, the proliferation of satellite TV across the country would offer an opportunity for local and international content providers to develop exciting, relevant and quality programming that would appeal to a range of audiences.
Mr Felix Ahonzo, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of StarTimes Ghana, said the opportunity accorded the Company an invaluable opportunity to ensure that the African continent and media development progressed to the next level in digital television broadcasting.
He said the beneficiary communities would receive 6000 decoders, 600 projector TVs, 900 solar lights and 300 Television sets.
They form part of the 10,000 communities that were selected to benefit from the project in 25 African countries.
“Each community will receive 20 decoders with dishes and accessories installed in selected individual homes, 2 projectors TVs and a StarTimes TV with backup solar light installed at public viewing and recreational centres,” he explained.
Mr Ahonzo said the Ashanti Region would receive 57; Eastern Region 43; Greater Accra Region 37; Central Region 35; Brong Ahafo Region 31; Northern Region 30; Western Region 24; Volta Region 18, Upper East 17; and Upper West eight.
He said the Company worked with districts and regional representatives across the country to identify the communities, explaining that key considerations for the selection included access or availability of public places (community halls, schools, hospitals, etc.) which could guarantee the safety of the installed devices.
Mr Ahonzo said a total of 20 channels with predominantly African content, which included news, music, and Ghanaian movies, would be available to the beneficiaries.
For six months, some selected households would not pay for the broadcast, however, it would be perpetually free at all public viewing places.
“In addition, Startimes will be responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the devices for five years. They would be installed at no cost.
Startimes would, consequently, train 600 ambassadors; two people each in the communities for the installation and maintenance of the devices.
Mr Shi Ting Wang, the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, said the maintenance support service would eventually provide jobs to more than 1000 Ghanaians.
He reiterated China’s goodwill and commitment to support Africa’s development.
“We follow a ‘five-no’ approach in our relations with Africa: no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings in assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa,” he quoted President Xi Jinping as saying at the December 2015 Summit on China-Africa Cooperation.
Ambassador Shi said the Chinese President was emphatic that China valued sincerity, friendship and equality in pursuing cooperation.
Mr Shi announced that China would launch eight major initiatives in close collaboration with African countries, including Ghana, in the next three years and beyond
They are on industrial promotion; infrastructure connectivity; trade facilitation; green development; capacity building; healthcare; people-to-people exchange; and peace and security.
He emphasised that to make sure these initiatives were implemented, China would extend $60 billion of financing to Africa in the form of government assistance, investments and financing.