Businesses count losses after internet disruption

TCRA said that the problem was occasioned by a disruption of the subsea cable systems operated Dar es Salaam. PHOTO: COURTESY via AP

What you need to know:

  • From the provision of health, education, Visa and online meeting services to media business and online entrepreneurs, the going has been tough since Sunday when Tanzania and several other African countries started reporting poor connectivity.

Dar es Salaam. From the provision of health, education, Visa and online meeting services to media business and online entrepreneurs, the going has been tough since Sunday when Tanzania and several other African countries started reporting poor connectivity.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) said on Sunday that the problem was occasioned by a disruption of the subsea cable systems operated by the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (Eassy) and the Seychelles East African Communication (Seacom).

TCRA said the disruptions occurred in Mozambique and in South Africa.

Speaking to The Citizen yesterday, a wholesale and retail trader at Kariakoo market, Ms Margret Richard, said her business has been adversely affected as it depends largely on internet where they find new buyers after posting their products on social media platforms online.

“Presently, we conduct our trading activities in a manner that is different from the way we did in the past. We get customers after posting our products on various digital platforms [mostly WhatsApp groups and Tik Tok]. Without the internet, everything gets disrupted,” she said.

In her shop, she said, she can sell over 20 pairs of shoes only through social media platforms, adding that during the past two days, the business has largely been dependent on physical visits by customers.

“If this continues for two more days, the situation will be worse. The impact will be great because for us, the internet services is like the heart of the business and once interrupted, the entire body suffers,” she said.

Commenting on the matter, an IT manager at the Aga Khan Hospital, Ms May Kibaja said while their internal healthcare services have not been affected, the general communication was affected.

Equally affected was the provision of services to holders of health insurance cards for the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

“We are unable to attend to NHIF cardholders because of connectivity issues, unfortunately we haven’t received any formal communications from NHIF on how to mitigate the situation,” she said.

The media industry is equally affected by the prolonged internet disruption, with the managing director of Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL), Mr Bakari Machumu, revealing just how the situation was complicating the news gathering, processing and dissemination exercise.

“At a time when we are aggressively promoting our digital platforms, internet disruption disrupts almost everything that we do,” said Mr Machumu.

He said modern day journalism requires that news should reach the customer on time and conveniently.

“Without internet, we are losing the two most important values for a credible content company: timeliness and convenience. We cannot process and publish news on time. Our content cannot reach the clients through a platform of their convenience because they also do not have the internet to enable them to visit our websites, YouTube and online platforms and purchase our ePaper,” he said.

The internet problem, Mr Machumu said, was affecting the whole reason for MCL’s existence.

He said, however, that the challenge needs to be considered to be a wakeup call for authorities to come up with a viable alternative that will ensure business continuity in case of such occurrences.

“It could be expensive, but it is not impossible. It is also important. If need be, the government may decide to partner with others in the region. It is about how we mobilise the resources to finance such a project,” he said, noting that other countries in Asia have such systems for Africa to learn from.

Similar views were aired by a telecommunications expert from University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Moses Ismail, said what happened since Sunday should be a lesson for Tanzania and that the country should start thinking of having an alternative fiber that can help in case of connectivity challenge.

He said Tanzania uses the Eassy and Seacom links only which, he said, were not enough.

The country needs a third and alternative cable if one of the two main routes has a problem.

In Kenya for instance, he said, Etisalat was being used as the main link while Eassy was being used as a backup option.

“I think it’s also high time for the government to look into possibility of having satellite. Although it’s expensive, it will be helpful in case of a challenge like this,” he said.

As soon as MCL realised that there was an internet problem, it communicated with TCRA and the authority confirmed about the ongoing challenge.

“It took us two hours to post the information regarding the problem on our social media platforms. Normally, such a post would take less than one minute,” said the MCL Audience and Innovation editor, Ms Zourha Malisa.

MCL, she said, is a content company. Its revenues are partly dependent on the sale of online content to the audience.

 “With no internet, the audience cannot have access to our products. We have lost revenues and the audience,” said Ms Malisa.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy to Tanzania spokesperson Kalisha Holmes said the outage has also impacted on their operations.

“Due to degraded network service nationwide, the embassy will remain closed to the public. All consular appointments on May 14 and 15 will be cancelled and rescheduled to a later date. The consular section will be open as schedule for visa pick up and for emergency American citizen cases,” Ms Holmes said.

For his part, the vice president of Strategy at Airpay Payment Services, Mr Mihayo Wilmore said the downstream should have been worse unless they have alternative links via Mombasa, Eritrea and South Africa.

“Imagine your entire vascular system stops because you have a cut. The body isolates the cut on both ends and looks for alternative vein to supply the area that is isolated,” he said in his social media account.

TCRA said yesterday that it was watching the situation closely with a view to ensuring that the situation returns to normalcy.

TCRA’s director general Dr Jabiri Bakari said in a public notice that following the internet outage challenge that occurred on Sunday, efforts were still ongoing by telecom service providers in ensuring the services is improved.

“We continue to make a close follow-up on the matter and ensure the access to internet services continue to be offered by every internet provider,” he said.