Tanzania path to a strong digital backbone

What you need to know:

  • Tanzania’s digital economy is likely to take on a new look due to the latest initiatives, with projects such as the extension of the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) being implemented

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania has seen the fruits of the work done by both the government and commercial entities to improve its digital sector in recent years.

The deployment of a 5G network service is a clear example.

Tanzania’s digital economy is likely to take on a new look as a result of such initiatives, with projects such as the extension of the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) being implemented.

This was noted in a speech given by Dr Mwigulu Nchemba, the minister for Finance and Planning, on June 15 this year when he presented the national budget for the financial year 2023/2024.

Highlighted under the section of ‘digital economy’, minister Nchemba said that the government will be implementing various projects such as NICTBB with the intent to create a better digital environment that will lead to the transformation of the digital economy.

“In the digital economy, all sectors effectively collaborate through a better digital environment. In achieving the intended goal, the government will implement various projects, including the expansion of the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB), Digital Tanzania, and developing the innovation and Manufacturing of ICT Equipment,” his speech stated.

His statement complements some of the things that were mentioned by Nape Nnauye, minister for Information, Communication, and Technology.

This was during the time he was presenting the estimation of the budget for the financial year 2023/2024 in May this year.

Mr Nnauye emphasised among the things the ministry of ICT is planning to implement is the National Broadband Strategy.

“The ministry will be providing detailed education to the public about the importance of broadband infrastructure,” he said.

He further stated that Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation will expand the national communication broadband to reach about 30 districts and councils in the years 2023/2024.

“Under the motto ‘Faiba mlangoni kwako’ which translates to ‘Broadband at your door’, the corporation will connect the broadband service to 20,000 residences with over 200,000 users,” he said. Minister Nape also said that the corporation will facilitate 50 important public spaces in all cities with public Wi-Fi.

For his part, Nguvu Kamando, director of Digital Services at Vodacom Tanzania, wants Tanzania to succeed Chama cha Mapinduzi’’s Manifesto for 2025, which plans that broadband penetration will be achieved by 80 percent of the population across the country.

“That goal can only be achieved by not only backbone access but also a grass-mile access network. This means that the government has to work as hard as possible to push for connectivity in all districts in Tanzania, and private companies should work on metro fibres in all cities and build radio networks that will be reached by every citizen in the country,” he explains.

Mr Kamando details that metro fibres can also be accessed by citizens who can afford them in their homes.

“The government has to continue to give incentives to private companies so that they can be attracted to invest in metro fibres and radio access networks that can be reached by many people in the country,” he says.

Mr Gillsaint Mlaseko, Chief Executive Officer at Swahili Digital, emphasises that the resilience of the broadband infrastructure relies on the utilisation of the broadband, and Tanzania is still behind on the usage.

“There is underutilisation of the ICT broadband backbone despite huge spending to build it. According to a report by the ministry of Works, Communications, and Transport, in 2016 alone, $189 million was set aside for the project. With the optic fibre network covering over 7,000km of Tanzania, for rolling out ICT infrastructure investment projects, it is estimated that over 70 percent of the backbone is not used in many districts that already have access to it,” he details.

Mr Gillsaint advises the government to conduct a comprehensive study that will identify the barriers to the adoption of ICT services in various regions of the country.

“The government has to organise training sessions across the country to educate citizens on the benefits of using ICT services.

This will raise their interest and awareness. They should also establish community ICT centres that provide affordable access to the internet and related services,” he suggests.

He also calls for the government to work with local educational institutions to develop ICT curricula that integrate technology into the classroom.

“When students start to learn about ICT subjects at an early age, it paves the way for them to practise the lessons they have learned when they become older.

Their understanding of things such as ICT services will assist in implementing the digital economy goal in the country,” he emphasises.

On the other hand, Mr Mlaseko explains that Tanzania can succeed in strengthening its digital backbone by establishing a public-private partnership that promotes the development of ICT infrastructure across the country.

“Both public and private organisations can co-exist in one space to bring this goal to fruition,” he says.