ICTs Strategic Resource for Development
Eng. James M. Kilaba
Director General TCRA
In this era, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has become a strategic resource and the foundation of most economic activity both at an individual and institutional level. In recognition of the transformative power of ICTs, the Government of The United Republic of Tanzania aspires to spearhead the digital propagation and improvements that will make Tanzania the Internet Communication and Technology hub for East Africa and beyond. Most of the network operators in the country have already demonstrated this including Smile Communications Tanzania. This makes the mobile phone companies to be strategically positioned at global level being on the World map through provisioning of the first true 4G LTE broadband service in this continent. TCRA strategic goal is stated clearly.
“To effectively regulate electronic and postal communications services, promote efficiency among service providers and protect consumer interests with an objective of contributing to development in the United Republic of Tanzania”. The goal also consequently aims at upgrading living standards of the people in the country thus:
“To enhance the welfare of Tanzanians through effective regulation that promotes innovation and ensures universal access to secure, quality and affordable communication services”.
It is with this in mind that the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and indeed the Government welcomes the investment by telecommunication companies and other service providers in the development of the country’s Internet Communication and Technology infrastructure by deploying the 4G LTE network, which is the most advanced telecommunications technologies and standards available anywhere in the world, and provides unparalleled speed, reliability, quality and ease of use.
In this regard, TCRA appeals to all investors and service providers in the country’s ICT sector to observe optimum quality in the delivery of services and offer clients services that have value for money or affordable tariff charges to clients. Since the liberalization of the Communication sector in 1990s, the Government has put in-place favourable trade investment policies with an objective of speeding up and deepening adoption of ICT in Tanzania and the projects that net-work operators undertakings conform to the Government demands and objectives. On the other hand, TCRA is committed to its corporate positioning statement of ‘Creating a Level Playing Field’.
To realize the speedy development in the ICT sector, the Government will require support of the private sector players as demonstrated by most of the Communications Operators in their endeavour to achieve widespread connectivity and ensure universal access to ICT services throughout the country.
I wish to underline this issue of universal access because, as an Authority, we are concerned that despite heavy investment in the Internet Communication and Technology infrastructure, there still exists some wide range of “digital divide” in the accessibility to internet services in some parts of the country. While we cherish the unprecedented growth of voice services, access to high-speed Internet or reliable data services still remains low, yet the demand and benefits are immense.
There has been substantial growth in the broadband and internet services users in the country in the recent past that apparently amount to over 16 million country-wide and the sector is yet to realize its full potential amid numerous opportunities that are yet to be tapped. This prevailing scenario is not only a challenge but also an appeal to us, as a country take full advantage of ICTs for socio-economic development of the people.
In this era of the knowledge economy, this solution comes in handy for local and international companies doing business in Tanzania, giving them access to very high internet speeds, and enabling them to make quick turn-around decisions. I urge them to take advantage of the 4G LTE network now available that massively boosts any activity involving real time transfer of large amounts of data, as well as putting in place innovative products like live streaming of high definition video and television that reduce time wastage.
Indeed, a safe and secure e-environment is paramount in extracting maximum benefits in the use of Internet Communication and Technology. Secure Internet Communication and Technology systems and services are important in facilitating the uptake of ICT services, and in deepening E-Commerce and other E-Services. As we are all aware, e-services are critical in increasing business efficiency. The potential benefits of ICTs cannot bedrawn without addressing the question of network, system and service quality. Besides the fact that users will not get value for money in the usage of poor quality ICT services, efficient utilization of services under such an environment would not be possible. TCRA acknowledges the need to make ICT networks critical national infrastructure and will continue to review policy and legislative frameworks to ensure that the security of networks receives appropriate focus and attention.
As a regulator, TCRA is implementing a converged licencing framework which takes full advantage of the advances in the ICT sector in Tanzania. The framework, which is technological and service neutral, has led to the uptake of many services.
The number of mobile phone subscribers and internet users has increased. There were 40 million SIM cards in the market by March 2015 and internet users currently exceed 16 million.
Besides the traditional voice and short messages, mobile phones enable subscribers to transact on-line. The mobile money services offered by the mobile phone companies have enabled many Tanzania to send and receive money, to pay for services and goods and to carry our banking transactions on their mobile phones.
The amount of money passing through mobile networks has surpassed the volumes passing through banks. This has compelled the latter to adopt mobile money platforms as part of their services.
The United Republic of Tanzania through TCRA is determined to co-operate with stakeholders in its endeavour of ICTs investment propagation in the African Continent in general and in the United Republic of Tanzania in particular.
Regulation of the liberalised Telecommunication sector has brought in more operators and triggered greater competition that has brought in innovativeness in the delivery of services, hence more earnings for the operators and enabled consumers to have a wider range of choice for service, with lowered tariff charges.
Improvement of the quality of services has also been manifested in this form of business environment that places the Continent in a better position of capacity building of Information, Communication Technologies Development, thus conforms to Capacity Africa’s clear objective of its establishment.
As I have already noted, wire-less National Wide network expansion will go a long way in assisting the government’s efforts to facilitate the transformation of people’s lives in Tanzania and steer our country towards a digital economy as envisaged by the Government.
In conclusion, I assure all service providers in the country that as a regulator of the communication sector, TCRA will accord a level playing field to all service providers, protect consumers rights and ensure that efficient quality services are provided for the sustainable development of the country.