Call for concerted efforts to narrow digital divide

 DAR ES SALAAM: TECHNOLOGY stakeholders have called for collaborative efforts to bridge the digital gap hindering effective use of digital information in the country.

The stakeholders said digital capacity building programmes and Information Communication Technologies’ (ICT) infrastructure investment are concentrated in urban centres, a situation that leaves behind rural dwellers, retarding country’s digital economy drive.

They were speaking at a two-day workshop dubbed “Data Tamasha” which in Dar es Salaam recently. It was organized by the dLab, a   privately- owned organization engaging in promoting appropriate data utilization for digital inclusivity.

DLab’s Executive Director, Dr Mahadia Tunga, said bridging the digital gap requires both organization and nation’s concerted efforts to consistently enrich all citizens with digital skills ranging from data designing to data protection and commercialization.

She said sufficient ICT’s infrastructures in rural and urban areas will enable exchange of information among citizens so that they can make informed decisions.

Dr Tunga said digital information brings new economic opportunities through enabling farmers and traders to receive information on markets for agricultural produce.

She said dLab in collaboration with Vodacom has been carrying out training programmes for secondary school students in rural and urban areas.

“In a year, we have been implementing  four capacity building programmes in Dar es Salaam in collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders including the government in order to cover the whole country,” she said.

She said the organization has gone beyond by undertaking outreach capacity building programmes. Every year it offers up to five scholarships to postgraduate students who aspire to become data scientists.

Financial Sector Deeping Trust’s (FSDT) Chief Executive Director, Mr Eric Masinda said unaffordability to digital devices especially smartphones is another barrier to achieving digital inclusivity.

Mr Masinda noted that only 19 per cent of citizens in the country have smartphones, and many of them are concentrated in urban areas, something which calls for collective approach.

Universal Communication Services Access Fund’s (UCSAF) Director of Operation, Research and Development, Eng Abert Richard appealed for telecommunication companies to harmonize service delivery in rural and urban areas saying it is important to address slow internet access at villages.

A two-day workshop held on November 29 and 30 this week was themed “Data for Human Centred Future” brought together about 150 government and non-government actors including digital practitioners, academicians and innovators from Tanzania and neighbouring countries to share real life experience on what is going at the ground as the transition to digital economy gathers pace.

They had constructive discussion hours on increasing data usage as the backbone of fostering digital inclusivity in among others education, governance, journalism and business for the sustainable tech powered future.

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