Happy Birthday MTN

By Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng

MTN Ghana CEO, Selorm Adadevoh

The bright sunshine outside did not invite your columnist to take the couple of steps required to put him in front of the laptop to fulfil the weekly obligation of writing this column. Sunshine is a rare thing in London even in early summer, so the hottest day of the year must not be “wasted indoors”.

“Excuse duty” calls to the Editor to get myself out of this task yielded nothing; the Editor smooched my ego with kind words about how she enjoys my articles herself. I smiled to myself; I had used that particular ruse to indulge recalcitrant columnists when I was in her exact position some 35 years ago. It never failed then; nor did it this time.

So here I am sitting on a bench at the middle of the concourse in London’s Victoria Station dictating this article to myself on the cellphone. When I finish, I will edit it on the same hand-held device and send it to the Editor five thousand kilometres away in Accra. It is as easy as handing it over to her in person. This is the magic of technology.

The worldwide technological revolution which has changed not only the way we communicate but the way we behave as human beings would not be possible without notable corporate bodies that have gathered the resources of science, human intelligence, innovation and capital to bring us to this brave new world that barely half a century ago was the stuff of science fiction.

It is for this reason that our nation must salute and say a hearty happy birthday to MTN, the country’s leading telecommunications company as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The celebration kicked off with a formal launch last Wednesday. One can only wish the company many happy returns.

The story of MTN is basically the story of Ghana’s technological development over the past 25 years, which is why this occasion is not only the anniversary of one company but a celebration of Ghana’s digital journey so far.

According to company information, Scancom Ltd (MTN Ghana) was incorporated in 1994 as a private limited liability company. It began operations in Ghana in 1996 with initial coverage in Accra and Tema. Since then, the company has extended its services to all sixteen regions, key districts, towns and many rural areas.

MTN currently has the widest network coverage in the country. Following its Initial Public offer, the regulations of the company were amended to become a public company now known as Scancom PLC.

The business which started with 20 staff has thousands of workforce and millions of customers. The brand has evolved over the years from Spacefon to Spacefon Areeba, Areeba and MTN.

We have come a long way as a nation. Most people in Ghana today may not remember the days of the telegram, a communication platform which allowed the sender space for only twelve words. One wonders what our loquacious social media commentators would make of it today.

There is a popular video on You Tube of a man who set his teenage sons the task of dialing a telephone number on an actual dial phone – the one with the numbers in a circle on the face of the telephone. They did not know that they had to lift the handset to activate the call. The two young digital natives struggled in vain.

The world we have left behind had its virtues but the new digital environment has the bigger and better prospects for giving more people better health, prosperity and general happiness than mankind has ever known.

The response to Covid-19 is a case in point. Although the infection has caused a massive disruption in our lives, due to technology, especially the technologies of communication, the recovery appears to be underway and likely to create an environment of general growth and development.

Today, no nation can grow without being linked and connected to the interconnected ongoing digital global transformation. This is why the President, Nana Akufo-Addo spoke the minds of Ghanaians when he emphasized the need for the digital connection as the basis for our future development.

Speaking at the formal launch of the anniversary, the President said: “having a national database was one of the critical elements of a digital economy, and (we) instituted that as a matter of priority by implementing the National Identification programme, and completing the first phase of the National Digital Property Addressing System, to support geolocation and the issuance of postal codes.”

We should be pleased that the President emphasised the inclusive nature of digitization when he told the gathering that the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation is also embarking on an ambitious national broadband infrastructure development programme for the ICT Sector, with a special focus on providing total connectivity to the unserved and underserved communities in the country.

It is good that the President assured Ghanaians that the Rural Telephony and Digital Inclusion Project is “currently being rolled out, and construction of 2,016 solar powered cell sites across the country has begun in earnest, to provide voice and data connectivity to millions of rural dwellers and facilitate national roaming too”.

The task of digitizing the entire country cannot be left to the telecom industry alone, neither should they bear the responsibility for the lapses for which they take the flack all the time.

MTN often bears the brunt because of its share of the telecom business in the country. Indeed, it has been 25 years of a good relationship with the country and its citizens.

Given its market share, it is inevitable that the corporate giant it evokes high expectations among customers. It is this high expectation that sometimes poses the biggest challenge for the company. However, it is clear from its determination and the national push behind the modernizing agenda that the company and the nation it serves are on the road to eventual success.

The company, like the telecoms sector is evolving fast all over the world; it has to chase new ideas in order to stay afloat and we need it to succeed so that we can continue to be wired into the future. Taken all in all, it has done well for our country and its story is part of our transformation.

This is the point at which the magic of technology takes over and I send this article across the oceans into your hands, gentle rreader.

First published in The Mirror