High-tech

What needs to be done to accelerate internet usage in Tanzania

By Gadiosa Lamtey

Dar es Salaam. Latest data from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) show that Tanzania’s internet penetration reached 50 percent of the population.

The development gives an optimistic impression that the country is on the right track towards digital transformation.

TCRA says about 29.8 million Tanzanians were using the internet in the country, up from 28.4 million in 2020.

The government is determined to ensure that at least 80 percent of Tanzanians are covered in internet usage come 2025.

However, economists and other communication stakeholders say reduction of internet bundle prices need to drop further to give more people the opportunity to access the internet.

TCRA officials say the current number of the users of the internet is still low compared to the telecom subscriptions that reached 54.1 million last year.

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Information and Communication Technologies Commission’s acting director general Samson Mwela said the technology is growing fast, hence needing to match with the internet.

“To reach the 80 percent target, the government has decided to invest in the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) so that service providers can reduce data costs and allow more people to benefit,” he said.

He said currently the NICTBB has reached almost all regions and plans were now to ensure it goes to all districts and wards.

“We continue to insist that users must use the internet prudently to their benefits and protect the young generation.”

A senior economist from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Wilhelm Ngasamiaku, said: “The fourth industrial revolution needs the use of artificial intelligence and digital economy. All that needs speed and quality internet for the country to get there.

We are in a good stage but bundle prices should fall further.”

He said that the government should look into the possibility of establishing local mobile phone assembly plants so that more people would afford smart phones.

TCRA principal statistician Juma Hango said that Tanzania is on the right path in the use of the internet. “The future is bright. We started with slow internet to the fourth generation (4G) and now the world is rolling out 5G. Tanzania is not an island, we must prepare the environment to be able to utilize it.” Meanwhile, the government has cut tax for mobile devices which could be another factor for the increased internet usage because more people managed to purchase smart phones.

Mr Hango said in terms of numbers in the East African countries, Kenya is leading followed by Tanzania although Rwanda is doing better in the internet because it has invested heavily in Wi-Fi in the public centres.

On the other hand, co-founder and chief operating officer of Serengeti Bytes, Mr Michael Mallya, said an increase in the number of internet users as depicted in the latest TCRA reports is a positive development as far as digital transformation was concerned.

This is because the whole world is spinning towards the fourth industrial revolution, an era in which digital technologies have taken control of most operations.

“An increase in the number of internet subscribers insinuates an increase in access and use of the information communication technologies which are instrumental in speeding up development,” he said.

“As the saying goes, information is power, I believe that when more people have access to and they can easily rely on information, it becomes easier for them to make informed decisions in all aspects of life,” he said.

At the national level, “I would say we are on the right track, the government is taking the right direction to keep up with the pace of digital transformation.”

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