Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, Government is at an advanced stage of acquiring a concessionary loan of US$30 million through Exim Bank of China for the residual work on the National Fibre-Optic Backbone Infrastructure Project to address gaps and weaknesses in the existing network and to provide ring protection to the transmission infrastructure across the country.
The Ministry has initiated engagements with relevant stakeholders particularly the PPP Unit to kick start the procurement process for a turnkey for the supply, delivery, installation, and commissioning of Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast (DTMB) platform solution based on DVB-T2 technology. The technical design of the turnkey project will cover the country with 10 main sites with powerful DTTB transmitters.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the growth and development of an electronic transaction sub-sector (e-Commerce) requires a stable and predictable legal and regulatory framework that ensures trust online and secure transactions. In this regard, the Ministry has developed a National Electronic and Transaction Bill. The New Bill is at the publication stage (Gazette) and will be submitted to
Parliament for enactment. Once passed, it will enhance admissibility of electronic document/evidence in legal proceedings thereby promoting e-Commerce and improving the country’s rating in the World Bank Doing Business Reform and financial transactions rankings.
The Universal Access Development Fund (UADF) had, over the years, failed to deliver on its core mandate to drive rural internet Connectivity due to its over bloated administrative structure. The structure has been overhauled and made leaner and productive to drive rural connectivity. Cabinet recently gave its fiat for the regulatory instrument to be laid before Parliament.
As part of its restructuring process, the Ministry dissolved the Attitudinal and Behavioural Secretariat (ABC) to create a new Outreach Coordination Unit with the Ministry to embark on public education and awareness on Government policies and strategies.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the current management of SALCAB inherited a negative portfolio in August 2018, with a cumulative loss of Le 3.8 billion from January to July 2018, a debt exposure of Le 58 billion, with a less than 47% monthly revenue collection penetration. I am now pleased to report that in less than a year, SALCAB made a net profit of Le 10 billion, re-calibrated the business model to offer a value proposition that reduced the price of wholesale data by 48%, increased data utilization/uptake by 100% from a monthly average of 8G to 16G, and increased monthly revenue by 32%.
The new management also inherited a network that was in a terrible shape. The challenges included no spares to support service recovery in the event of a downtime, and no national and International redundancy – the entire country only had one circuit going up north to Lisbon. In less than six months, the new management deployed two international redundancies in Paris and Accra (added to Lisbon) that earned the business an uptime of 99.9%. The team has re-designed the terrestrial fibre network to help operators transport a large amount of data cheaper and faster. They activated a fibre point of presence in 28 provincial cities and townships. This helped operators like Qcell to roll out their network at the back of the fibre backbone. The new Management is also migrating existing operators such as Afcom, Orange, and Onlime to the terrestrial fibre.
The current management team has reduced operating expense by 37% through strategic cost savings initiatives; they have attracted the right skill set that gave them the leverage to terminate a contract agreement with an International Commercial Consultancy Firm, which saved the business over US$ 41,000 monthly. Contract for international IP Transit has been reduced from a whooping wholesale price of US$ 38,000 to US$ 4,700 with full redundant content without compromising quality.
In the coming years, SALCAB will launch a quarterly Tech Start-up competition that will help drive innovation, create an international redundancy which will serve as a backup to the existing submarine cable and will help make the network more robust and resilient, develop a data center that will be the centralized host of all government and private sector data in the country, partner with strategic international partners to expand rural connectivity in the country, provide internet connectivity in 500 schools and universities by 2023 under the School Connectivity Project, and roll out phase 2 of the National Terrestrial Fibre Network.
A massive Simbox fraud was unearthed in November 2018. This was unprecedented in West Africa. No effective measures have been put in place to reduce Telecoms fraud by enforcing proper SIM card registration and deploying other effective fraud management systems. The National Telecommunications Commission is now cooperating effectively with the Cyber Police and the operators in tracking Telecoms fraudsters and minimizing fraud cases in the country.