The Ecowan – Gambia Project
A major challenge facing the Community of the West African region and limiting its economic integration and shared socioeconomic growth, is the dearth of a modern Regional ICT Backbone infrastructure and e-Governance platform. Connectivity deficits, especially at regional and national levels and the lack of access to low price and high quality telecommunications services limits the potential of the region to promote integration, create jobs, expand production of goods and services, and trade competitively with the rest of the world.
There is a huge gap among ECOWAS countries in terms of the availability, usability and accessibility of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Infrastructure and services besides mobile telephony. The region also has massive disparities and heterogeneous development of ICT. This situation is particularly acute for countries which were engulfed in civil conflict such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
1.1 ECOWAN PROGRAM OBJECTIVES
The main objective of the ECOWAN program is to develop under an Open Access regime, a Regional Backbone infrastructure (about 8000km Terrestrial fiber optic cable, and WIMAX last mile solution), with nodes in all 15 (12 IDB) member countries connecting capital city to capital city. In addition, the program would develop a Regional e-Governance platform with regional flagship applications (funds, customs, transport, security etc). Thus, the ECOWAN e-Governance platform will provide ECOWAS Members States with capabilities to:
i) deploy applications, databases and systems that will significantly enhance productivity within the region;
ii) share valuable data seamlessly;
iii) provide a platform that facilitates the establishment of common standards for the exchange of information among the developing communities;
iv) expand opportunities for building and sharing knowledge and experience in and among member states; and
v) Make use of interactive audio and video conferencing for meetings as an alternative to physical meetings.
The ECOWAN program was “Adopted” on (31/07/2010) during the 9th Meeting of ECOWAS Ministers of Telecommunication and ICT in Accra, Ghana. Strategically, the ECOWAN program would deepen regional socio-economic integration and development, and facilitate trade among member states, and with the rest of the world.
1.2 ECOWAN – THE GAMBIA PROJECT
The Executing Agency for the project is the Gambia Telecommunications Company Limited (GAMTEL) in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI). The proposed project involves mainly the development and implementation of the national component of the ECOWAS Regional Backbone infrastructure and e-Governance platform (ECOWAN program) in The Gambia. The project would avail The Gambia the opportunity to implement the following:
i) 817 km fiber optic Backbone
ii) Next Generation Network (NGN), which would be implemented as the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) Ring, West Ring, East Ring A and East Ring B.
iii) A WiMAX access network within the GBA as part of the ECOWAS Regional e-Governance platform.
The implementation of the NGN network would address the connectivity gaps (398 km) on the North Bank of the river Gambia and replace the existing obsolete and mutilated network (419 km) on the South Bank. The Wimax BTS is to be deployed within the GBA, which would interconnect ECOWAS institutions and key government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
In all, the Ecowan project comprises of the following components:
(i) Infrastructure feasibility and Design Review and Development - This component includes detailed Systems Engineering design (fibre network), construction and refurbishment of the control and training center at ECOWAN National Operating center in Banjul, development of the proposed WIMAX (single) Base Station to be deployed in the GBA, which would interconnect local ECOWAS institutions, and relevant Government departments to the ECOWAS Regional e-Governance platform.
(ii) Infrastructure Deployment – This component includes - Deployment of the national fibre backbone, WIMAX base station, the towers, customer premise equipment (CPE), network security system, software, support infrastructure, system integration and testing, fiber optic cables, repeaters, power supply equipments, switches, drop insert stations (for intra-city connection), transmitters etc.
(iii) Power supply – Deployment of power supply equipments (Generators, rectifiers, solar panel, inverters, battery etc) across various locations (16) along the fiber optic route to activate the above NGN network. IDB financing will cover main locations such as GAMTEL House, Serekunda Exchange, Bakau and Basse, while the government would finance the rest.
(iv) Start-up Capital Support - This component includes Start-up capital support for the proposed ECOWAS Regional Information Technology Services Agency, special Purpose Agency (ECOWAS Regional Information Technology Services Agency) that will be created by ECOWAS Commission to take over the management and operation of the proposed Regional eGovernance platform under a PPP arrangement with the private sector.
(v) Consultancy Services - This component includes consultancy activities to be carried out related to project feasibility study and design review, supervision of project implementation, developing a strategic business plan for GAMTEL to transition into NGN environment and the audit of the project implementation and management. Ultimately, the successful implementation of this project will allow for the repositioning of Gamtel and allow it to provide backhaul services to other licensed operators and ensuring a new revenue stream for the company. It will also allow the other licensed operators to concentrate on the provision of innovative services by freeing them from infrastructural investments in backhaul networks.
(vi) Project Management - This component would provide the needed resources to enable the Project Implementation Unit to successfully implement the project with the help of consultants. Other parts of the project include the development of ECOWAN National Operating centre (Banjul) including training facilities, support infrastructure (solar panel redundant electricity capability) and Network security systems. Also associated with this component is a capacity building program to be implemented across member states by ECOWAS.
(vii) Financial Audit – This component allows for an annual audit of the project by an independent Audit firm following project implementation.
It is anticipated that the above would significantly improve the ICT network infrastructure in Gambia and enable the country to link with its neighbors as part of the ECOWAS Regional Backbone.
2.0 Project Implementation and Management
Under the GoG/IDB Financing Agreement, the executing agency will be Gamtel and the Ministry of Information and Communications Infrastructure. Gamtel is to set up a dedicated Project Implementation Unit (PIU) comprising of a Project Coordinator, a Senior Transmission Engineer, a Senior Switching Engineer, a Network Planning Specialist, a Civil/Electrical Engineer, a Project Accountant and a Procurement Specialist.
The PIU is to work full time on the project which is expected to be completed within two years. The PIU was selected following an in house review by Gamtel where a short list of four staff for each position was reviewed by a team headed by Gamtel acting Managing Director and assisted by Gamtel Director of Human Resources. The selection criteria, selection process and final list of the selected PIU team was then sent to the IDB for a “NO Objection” and received.
The PIU will be answerable to a Project Management Unit (PMU) comprising of the Permanent Secretary MOICI as Chair Person, two representatives of Gamtel, a representative of MOFEA, a representative of MOT, Ecowan – Gambia Focal Person, a representative of the MOWCI, a representative of PURA, a representative of ECOWAS, a representative of the private sector and the Ecowan – Gambia Project Coordinator.
3.0 Supervision of Project Implementation
Upon satisfactory execution of the project feasibility study and design review by the technical consultant to be hired, the consultant is to be retained to supervise the implementation of the project.
The PIU will work very closely with all project consultants and contractors whilst the PMU will provide oversight and monitoring of the implementation. The project is planned to be implemented within two years and the Project Coordinator and consultant are expected to be providing monthly and quarterly reports to the PMU and the IDB. The PMU is also to handle all cases escalated to it for urgent resolution.
During the post implementation phase, the Consultant shall assist in comparing the project scope and cost at design, contract award and completion as well carry out an evaluation of actual cost reduction realized and provide source of each.
The Consultants shall also in finalization of the project completion, commissioning and handover from the Contractor to Gamtel and Government.