GITGE, EG’s state-owned IT infrastructure manager is working towards reducing the costs of access to broadband and improving the quality of the services offered
We would like to start this interview with a personal question. Who is the person behind the Deputy Director General of GITGE and what is the philosophy you practice to lead the company?
My name is Oscar Ondo Ngomo Nchama and I am Guinean. Regarding my college education, I had the opportunity to do it in England, specifically at the University of Sussex where I obtained a Degree in Electronic Engineering and a Master of Science in Modern Technology of Communications and Business Management and where I am currently completing my PhD in Engineering. My philosophy is about teamwork, providing a quality service to our customers, innovation, etc.
After 46 years of independence, Equatorial Guinea is living the most prosperous moment of its history. By keeping peace and political stability, the country is becoming an example of governance in Africa. What challenges does Equatorial Guinea face in order to reach 2020 having fulfilled the goal of being an emerging country, especially in the ICT sector?
ICT is a new word in our society so it implies challenges in all parts of the world. As far as Equatorial Guinea is concerned, one of the challenges is that of increasing the users’ penetration to a quality and low-cost internet and also a larger use by the business and economic community. We are working towards reducing the costs of access to broadband and improving the quality of the services.
Oil production, which accounts to about 90% of the country’s exports, has allowed the State to focus on the development of infrastructures to guarantee basic services to the Equatoguinean people, opening up the possibility of diversifying the country’s economy which is the great challenge of Equatorial Guinea. The ICT industry is relatively new but it has developed very quickly. Could you describe the country’s economic growth of the last decade and how people’s lives have changed thanks to the ICTs?
The ICTs have changed and continue changing people’s lives in Equatorial Guinea and all around the world. During this past decade the pace of social and economic growth in Equatorial Guinea has been much faster than in the rest of the world due to the fact that we started from a less advantageous initial position. Fortunately, and thanks to the current growth, the differential with the more advanced countries is narrowing. Today the citizens and the companies of Equatorial Guinea have within reach the same range of online services that citizens in the rest of the world have, though we need to keep working to incorporate every day more citizens to the world of Information Technologies.
How do you think the ICTs will help develop these new sectors the government has set as the goal for diversification?
ICTs are a facilitator for strategic sectors such as mining and agriculture. Mining is a big communications consumer as they are essential to introduce their productive models. In the case of agriculture, there exist many reference cases of the use of ICTs by farmer’s to obtain information relative both to the context and the market. Our job is to guarantee and extend telecommunication services to make their use available by these productive sectors.
Equatorial Guinea made its connection to the first international optical fiber cable in 2012 and GITGE was created to manage public telecommunications infrastructures developed by the Government of Equatorial Guinea. Let’s talk about this important milestone and what it means for Africa in general.
The arrival of ACE was a liberation. ACE means the elimination of a bottleneck to the access to broadband in two senses: the technical one, due to the capacity limitation, and the economic one, due the cost of that capacity. The connection to ACE has meant normalizing the access to the broadband service. ACE is an important milestone with regard to the development of the ICTs infrastructure in Africa in general as its arrival would not only improve connectivity but also the broadband reach.
Please tell us about the second cable you are setting up.
The development of a solid telecommunications infrastructure is vital for the sustainable development of Equatorial Guinea. Ceiba-2, which is the second cable, is a system of 290km that will have an 8T bps capacity and use WDM (Wavelength Division Multiplexing) as transmission technology and OTN (Optical Transport Network) architecture. This cable will connect Bioko Island from Malabo with the continental region of Bata, creating a redundancy in Ceiba-1; on the other hand, it connects Malabo and Bata through the NCSCS cable in the village of Kribi creating a redundancy of the ACE cable. Once completed, this new cable will allow Equatorial Guinea to connect to different submarine cables including SAT-3, WACS and Main One through Kribi enabling the country to be connected to different European networks.
How are you collaborating from GITGE with the universal access the government has set as its goal?
Universal access means guaranteeing to the entire population the access to ICTs. Equatorial Guinea has shown and shows that universal access is a critical issue for the government. The investments and their results in roads, electricity and running water are already a reality. In the field of ICTs we still have a long way to go. With the construction of the second cable, which guarantees the service, the existing satellite connections will be gradually removed and finally all its information capacity will be contained in 2 cables, so if one fails the other one can replace it. This situation, together with the extension of the national optical fiber network, will allow achieving the first results in the scope of universal access.
Which improvements will bring the telecommunication law which is about to be passed?
The new telecommunications law that the Ministry of Transport, Technology, Posts and Telecommunications is elaborating together with the experts from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will bring new things that will allow the sector to grow with more sustainability. The aim of this law will be to create a legal and judicial framework favorable to investments in ICTs infrastructures in the country, with a coordinated focus that can respond to the needs of our country in an integral and stable manner.
Given the technologies you use, how do you train your personnel to keep them up with the latest innovations?
The GITGE staff is trained in every technology used in the network operated by the company and follows a continuous training.
The US is more focused than ever in Africa as shown in the recent USA-Africa Leaders Summit to which President Obiang assisted. As a result there is a 37 billion dollars budget to be invested in Africa. Why do you think part of that capital should come to Equatorial Guinea? What are the country’s comparative advantages?
It is good news that the USA wants to invest such an important amount in Africa, being also a country who is a friend of Equatorial Guinea and with whom we enjoy good relations. A country’s political stability plays an important role when it comes to attracting foreign investment. Equatorial Guinea enjoys political stability; on the other side it possesses all basic type of infrastructure: roads, 24 hours electricity, hospitals, running water, etc. which is something other countries lack. Equatorial Guinea gathers all the basic conditions to attract American investment.
We have talked with the Minister of Trade and Business Promotion who said that Equatorial Guinea should not be seen as a one million people market but as an entry gate to the CEMAC, a much bigger market.
I completely agree with the Minister, because as Equatorial Guinea maintains political stability and taking into account the infrastructures built during the last years the country can perfectly be the gathering center of the big industries that want to operate in the region. For example, the American University in Oyala that will be operated in collaboration with Boston University, once opened in September will be home not only to Guinean students but also to those from other nationalities of the region.
What would be your message to our readers when it comes to inviting them to come to Equatorial Guinea?
Many people who might have heard talk about my country have done it through different international communication networks that many times fail to portray the reality. That is why I invite all your readers and all those who rely on these networks to come visit our beautiful country and live closely to its realities.