Tanzania: Invest in Rural Areas, Telecom Operators Told

THE government has directed telecom operators to develop broadband access across the country by investing in Internet infrastructure in rural areas. The number of internet users in the country rose by 16 percent at the end of 2017 to 23 million, with majority of them using their handsets to go online.

Around 19 million internet users accessed the World Wide Web last year through their mobile phones, up from 18 million in 2016, according to figures released by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA). Internet penetration in the nation of over 50 million people reached 45 percent in 2017 from 40 percent a year before, according to the industry regulator.

Speaking to Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure on inspection tour of Universal Communication Services Access Fund (UCSAF) funded communication infrastructure, the Deputy Minister for Communications Eng Atashasta Nditiye said rural communities remain alienated from the service.

“Most telecom operators offer voice service (2G) in rural parts of the country despite availability of telecom towers,” he said, directing all telecom operators to consider providing data services to rural areas across the country.

He said the government through UCSAF has been providing grants to telecom operators to improve access to communication services including in rural areas. “We want the entire citizen to be able to access both voice and data. It is their fundamental right and President John Magufuli had promised to serve all the people,” he noted.

About 530 wards have benefited from UCSAF sponsored telecommunication services across the country. Vice-Chairperson of the Parliamentary Infrastructure Committee Ms Hawa Mchafu argued that telecom firms need to consider investing for long term.

“This means that the infrastructure being built should serve long term demands,” she said. She was concerned why the government had released such huge sum of money yet wananchi were not able to communicate effectively.

“These people should also be able to access the fourth generation network- 4G,” she said. Mkulula Villager Patrick Sanga said earlier despite the construction of the tower, communication services have remained poor.

UCSAF Manager of Operations Eng Albert Richard said the newly built tower could only service 7,917 residents in Nyakavangala, Isaka, Usolanga, Makachupa and Mkulula.

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