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Tanzania's Journey Toward a Regional ICT Giant
Source: Tanzania Daily News
Source Date: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Created: Feb 07, 2013

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is now taking a centre stage in many development endeavours around the world.

People's quality of life, as well as prospects for social change and economic welfare increasingly depends upon information and its exploitation.Tanzania under the Fourth Phase Government is fairing well in this area as Staff Whiter DEO MUSHI reports...

A FAMOUS expression that we are now living in a globalised world came about mainly due to easy and fast flow of information among people around the world due to the highly developed Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

Something happening almost anywhere in this planet of ours today could easily be viewed by the rest of people far away. Big events such as the bombings of America's Twin Towers; President Baraka Obama swearing in ceremony; the burial ceremony of the late Mwalimu Nyerere to mention but a few are still ripe in most people's minds thanks to the development of technology.

ICT is also now believed to be taking a centre stage in many development endeavours around the world. People's quality of life, as well as prospects for social change and economic development increasingly depends upon information and its exploitation.

It is no wonder therefore that nowadays society's living standards, patterns of work and leisure, the education system, and markets are all influenced by advances in information and knowledge. This has necessitated countries to strive and strengthen ICTs infrastructure so as to reap maximum benefits from what technology has to offer.

Tanzania is not lagging behind on endeavours to strengthen her ICT infrastructure and in fact the chance for the country to become a communication hub for East, Central and Southern Africa region is increasingly becoming a reality.

These struggles become real when looking at the country's efforts towards strengthening of the National Fibre Optic Cable network in and outside the country. Already, the National Fibre Optic Cable has been connected with undersea fibre optic cable systems of SEACOM and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy).

Plans are underway to connect it with The East African Marine System (TEAMS). The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, Dr Florens Turuka, says that the National Fibre Optic Cable is now connected to all regional headquarters in Tanzania Mainland and some district headquarters.

"In Tanzania, seven telecommunication companies are connected to the National Fibre Optic Cable," Dr Turuka says. He mentions the companies as Airtel Tanzania, Infinitty, Simbanet, Tigo Tanzania, Tanzania Telecommunication Company Limited (TTCL), Vodacom Tanzania and Zantel. He says that the government through his Ministry and TTCL has already built a 7,560 kilometre fibre optic cable.

These include new 5,448 kilometres and 2,112 kilometres built by TANESCO along the main national grid ways. Explaining further, he says the national fibre optic cable has enabled other countries' cable networks or communication systems to take advantage of it and connect.

The countries are Kenya through (Namanga, Sirari and Horohoro), Rwanda (Rusumo), Burundi (Kabanga), Malawi (Kasumulu), Zambia (Tunduma), Uganda (Mutukula) and Msumbiji (Mtambaswala). Also telecommunication companies from neighbouring countries have been connected in the national fibre optic cable and these include MTL (Malawi);

MTN (Zambia); MTN, RDB, Airtel, KDN, RwandaTel, and BCS (Rwanda); UCOM and ECONET (Burundi). Dr Turuka says that the advent of the fibre optic network has helped facilitating communication in financial, education, health, agriculture, commerce, and tourism sectors.

He explains that because of conducive environment to develop communication sector, private sector entities in the country have ventured in building metro networks so as to better utilise the national fibre optic cable in offering communication services. Giving example, he says already the Dar es Salaam metro network covering 90 kilometres has been completed and started to be used.

It is expected that other metro networks in Arusha, Mwanza, Dodoma, Morogoro and Mbeya will be built in the future. The country's communication sector has been fast growing in recent years. According to the Ministry the sector has been growing at an average of 21 per cent for five consecutive years up to 2011 compared to other sectors.

The contribution of the sector to the national Gross Domestic Product has been growing from 1.7 per cent in 2005 up to 2.7 per cent in 2009. Statistics show that over 50 per cent Tanzanians now use telephones compared to only 3 per cent few years back. Also, the number of internet users has grown from an average of 25,000 users in 1999 to 4,800,000 in 2012.

The physical infrastructure development coupled with human resource and academic institutions development in the country could really make Tanzania a communication hub for this region and beyond. The government has already spent Tshs 42 billion in building The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Tengeru, Arusha region.

NM-AIST, opened by H.E. President Jakaya Kikwete in November last year enrolls masters and PhD level only so as to train a pool of professionals in agriculture, water, energy, environment and ICT sectors. Already, over 183 students are attending studies from the 2011/12 academic year.

Explaining other measures taken by the government, the Permanent Secretary says that the government has in 2009/2010 sponsored 295 professionals to undertake studies at Masters and Phd levels at the tune of 6.4bn/- in five public universities.

The universities are University of Dar es Salaam, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) Ardhi University and NMAIST. Also the government has established Mbeya University of Science and Technology (MUST) after getting consent from the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) in March 2012.

The number of students enrolled at the university has risen from 597 in 2005/2006 to 3,125 students in 2012/2013. The prospects for Tanzania to use ICTs in attaining development are high and what is needed now is more support from development stakeholders.

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