eGovernment Network Infrastructure

BACKGROUND
In November 2008, Parliament approved a $30 million concessionary loan facility that has been extended to the government of Ghana by the government of China for the construction of the initial phase of a nationwide e-Government infrastructure for Ghana. The proposed infrastructure would extend the national backbone infrastructure to all districts in the country and provide a national data centre and a secondary data centre facility for disaster recovery capability, and ultimately connect all public institutions and MDAs and MMDAs to a single shared communications and computing infrastructure to facilitate effective delivery of government services to citizens, businesses and others.

The local subsidiary of the leading Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer, Huawei Technologies (GH) S.A. Ltd. has been indicated as the implementing contractor for the project, which will be delivered on a turnkey basis to the government of Ghana. The Ministry of Communications subsequently tasked NITA with the responsibility of working with Huawei to realise the implementation of the project.

Under the proposal for an e-Government network to be built by Huawei, the network is configured to reach up to 1050 sites around the country; 550 locations via wireless last mile access networks and an additional 500 locations via any other means. The target sites are intended to be reached via several different means, including direct fibre optic connectivity, High capacity microwave links, VSAT access over the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) VSAT network and leased terrestrial circuits from local telecoms and ISP providers. This will enable the network to connect not just the district assemblies, but Hospitals, Schools, Police stations, agric extension service offices, and any other public office or institution in all the towns that are within the coverage areas of the network.

THE PROJECT OBJECTIVES

NITA have developed a deployment strategy for achieving the stated policy objective of reaching all 170 districts in Ghana, and working together with the implementing contractor, Huawei, finalised a design for the national e-Government network to ensure that the network will serve the widest possible diversity of Ministries Departments and Agencies as well as Quasi-Government Institutions, Organisations, and Corporations. The network infrastructure solution as proposed will deliver the following:

  • The eGovernment network infrastructure will be built upon previous investments by the Ministry of Finance in fibre optic connectivity between key MDAs in Accra, and will utilize capacity from the national communications backbone company, (NCBC) which is now a part of Vodafone Ghana.
  • The project will provide additional network switching and routing equipment to refresh a lot of what is currently installed at the MDAs to be served by the  project.
  • The network infrastructure will in addition to fibre optic capacity, include wireless last mile connectivity over most of Accra,  all the regional capitals in the country, and up to ten (10) additional municipal and district capitals that are located in close proximity to the national fibre backbone.
  • The project will provide equipment for connecting up to 550 MDA facilities to the wireless last mile access network
  • The project will provide for the interconnection of all the ministries in Accra with fibre optic cable, with the core network running at 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) and all ministries enjoying a minimum connectivity speed of a 1Gbps with each other and to the National Data Centre.
  • The network will provide a single secure gateway to the internet and implement services such as access control, spam filtering, firewalls and anti-virus defences for the government network as a whole and between the individual MDAs as may be required.
  • The network will also provide for the centralisation of all government voice and fax traffic within the network and directly interconnect all the existing PABX of connected MDAs and MMDAs, saving the government hugely on the cost of inter agency communications.
  • Brand new IP PABX switch components will be installed at the larger MDA locations to provide voice circuit termination and forwarding facilities.
  • Local area networks (LANs) in all the Ministries in Accra will be upgraded and equipped under this project and several new LANs will be deployed in various beneficiary Assemblies and MDAs in the regions and districts. In all a total of 6300 LAN ports will be deployed at the various beneficiary sites to support both voice and data access to the network.
  • All 170 district assembles in the country will be connected to the national eGovernment network infrastructure by utilising various terrestrial connectivity options.
  • It is intended that the leased lines to each of the districts will tie-in  with all other parts of  the  communications network and to the central monitoring systems at the Network Operations Centre (NOC)
  • Government, through the MoC and NITA’s facilitation, will negotiate bulk rates for acquiring leased lines from the local telecommunications operators and ISPs for the links from each district to the national fibre backbone.
  • All the sites served by the network will enjoy substantial savings in telecommunications costs from the new network due to the automatic routing of all telephone calls that originate and terminate in a government agency over the eGovernment network. This will lead to a substantial savings in domestic telephony charges for government.

THE BENEFITS

  • The proposed solution will be achieved by building new infrastructure as well as deploying new equipment into the existing networks and fibre optic assets in the ground that were previously procured by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
  • The network has been designed with the objective of running at a low operating cost  when compared to the total investment  in the e-Government network and will allow for cost effective scaling up as the capacity  and geographical  coverage requirements increase.
  • The proposed solution will foster the participation of local communications network operators in the e-Government network.
  • The proposed solution will allow much higher bandwidth links to each district than MoC or GoG could otherwise afford from the commercial telecommunications service providers.