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Why Tanzania govt, private sector must build digital economy together

Sunday May 09 2021
Digital pic

Communications and Information Technology minister Faustine Ndugulile briefs journalists during a meeting with members of the CEO Roundtable of Tanzania this week. Looking on is CEO Roundtable chairman Sanjay Rughani. PHOTO | CITIZEN CORRESPONDENT

By The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. The government and members of the private sector stressed on the need to have joint efforts as a way of easily moving forward with Tanzania’s digital transformation agenda.

The Minister for Communications and Information Technology Dr Faustine Ndugulile met with the members of the CEO Roundtable of Tanzania this week, calling on them to facilitate the shift. “Ten years ago, most billionaires were in the manufacturing industry. But now with the information and communication technology (ICT) transformation across the world, we are seeing more billionaires in this industry,” said Dr Ndugulile, stressing that ICT is the door to building a digital economy.

The digital transformation is one of government’s agenda as it is included in the Tanzania Development Vision 2025 and in the ruling party’s manifesto.

The government intends to increase broadband reach from 40 percent to 80 percent, improve digital literacy nationwide, enable affordability of digital services and review the industry’s legal and regulatory framework as part of its ICT priorities.

The CEO Roundtable dialogue which is held monthly, focuses on how joint collaboration between the public and private sectors could harness Tanzania’s transformative development.

This time, the focus was the digital transformation agenda in which the CEOs of leading firms shared their insights from the business leaders’ perspective in relation to the government’s overarching vision.

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Dr Ndugulile explained that government role would be that of an enabler and called on the CEOs to be the drivers of digital transformation by liaising with investors to bring about affordability of digital devices through public–private partnerships (PPPs).

He said the Ministry will also be reviewing investor policies to attract investment in the ICT sector in Tanzania, and hinted at upcoming major institutional and functional reforms that will see the regulatory authority nurture growth of ICT in the country by becoming more of an enabler rather than policing the industry.

In his plan to create a think-tank to chart how to move forward with the national digital transformation agenda, Minister Ndugulile encouraged the private sector to act as advisors and share guidance in working with the public sector on training and manufacturing of relevant goods including devices, tower components and fibre optic cables.

On the other hand, members of the CEO Roundtable supported the outline of planned activities but also cited various challenges which should be overcome on the road to the country’s digital transformation.

Vodacom Tanzania managing director Mr Hisham Hendi pointed out the need for extending internet connectivity to the entire population, the smartphone dependency, and the high taxation on the devices that hinder their affordability.

Minister Ndugulile brought up phone subsidies as a possible solution for telecoms to consider, reiterating the government’s commitment to enabling progress in digital transformation. PwC Country Senior Partner Mr David Tarimo also commented on the high costs of digital services in relation to the ability of ICT to broaden the tax base and eradicate digital poverty.

Furthermore, Mr Martin Warioba, Managing Partner at WS Technology Consulting, brought up challenges with innovation in the country and the need to recognize innovators.

Addressing a comment from Serengeti Breweries Limited managing director Mark Ocitti on the importance of data privacy, the minister stated that the government is working on policies to oversee data privacy and protection, and would engage the private sector in formalizing the policies.

The CEO Roundtable chairman Mr Sanjay Rughani said the platform remains dedicated to working with the government, its development partners, and other stakeholders to perpetuate a conducive business environment for Tanzania’s development including the cultural shift in digital growth.

“Through its members, the CEO Roundtable can greatly impact the nation’s competitive thinking. By bringing the private sector into the equation, the government is tapping into connected reflections that are directly linked to the public,” said Mr Rughani.

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