Like most things encountered by unsuspecting foreigners in Ghana, the high quality offerings at Busy Internet in Accra are quite impressive. It sits on the main Ring Road just a bit east of Kwame Nkrumah Circle. This is a large, modern building with every service imaginable for those who choose the geeky path in life to those who just need to check their email. Even nefarious taxi drivers know where this place is.
Started in 2001, Busy Internet was created to provide faster internet to the masses. It opened with about 100 computers to use in an internet cafe manner and evolved in to an incubator housing the offices of Ghanaian startups. The incubator aspect has faded away though as many of the original companies that started there have moved on to their own premises. In their place, a lot of groups rent space at the office to run their operations. Additionally, Busy Internet functions as an ISP in Ghana and I’m told that they provide much better service than Vodaphone, the lovely country monopoly most people have to turn to for internet.
With secretarial services and copy machines available, Busy Internet is basically The place in Accra to meet, socialize and network if you’re the least bit invested in the tech scene there. I saw great proof of this as the place is packed all day long with folks working on a wide variety of projects like the Busy Lab. Of course, with the discovery of oil this year at Takoradi, they seem to be providing a lot of services outside Accra as well.
Overall, quite cool and it blows away a great many internet cafe/incubator/networking spots I’ve seen in cities the likes of Barcelona and San Francisco.
One group that calls Busy home is Internet Research. I met these guys previously, but actually had a chance to sit down for awhile and chat with Worlali Senyo and Charles Amega-Selorm about what it is they do.
The company started in 2001 and moved to Busy in 2006. In a nutshell, they provide research and consulting about IT intelligence for all of Ghana as well as a great deal of West Africa. They’ve consulted for OSI, TIER (a UC Berkeley project), Balancing Act, and The World Bank to name a few. They also work as the secretary to the Ghana ISP Association which is comprised of 23 of the 40 total ISPs in Ghana. They are working on getting the other 17 in to the fold.
But beyond all the general work that they do, they are working for that whole “down the road thing”. For instance, they’re trying to get a Google cache server set up at the Internet Exchange in town, which happens to be the AITI Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence where Maker Faire Africa was held. This cache server would be a massive change to how internet traffic shapes up in Ghana as apparently (and I’m only quoting these guys on this) 80% of all of Ghana’s outbound traffic is going to YouTube. With a cache, you could drastically reduce that and open up bandwidth for more… well, useful things.
Overall though, when it comes to a group like Internet Research, I have to say that I’m thrilled they exist. There are far, far too many foreigners going in to Africa to “assess this situation”, which is ridiculous when there are local groups like these guys already there, who know the region, know the languages, and have a vested interest in seeing things change. I find this to be a much more effective way to run operations than having some result of nepotism come in to a country for two weeks, look around and say, “Yes, yes, they need more bandwidth here.” and then leave. That person isn’t going to push for a local IX, whereas these guys will and that is something we should all get behind. Great to meet this crew and see the premises on my last day in Ghana.