How digital drive will boost socio-economic development

COMMUNICATION experts hailed the government’s grand initiative to improve and expand access to communication services across the country- as a strong catalyst for boosting the socio-economic development of people and nation as a whole.

On Saturday, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, witnessed the signing of crucial contacts for extension of communication services in rural areas.

At the well-attended event at the Jakaya Kikwete Convention Centre in Dodoma, the contracts were signed between the Ministry of Information, Communication and Information Technology and five telecommunication companies to implement a robust Digital Tanzania Project (DTP), which seek to propel the country into the digital economy.

The telecom companies which signed contracts with the government include Vodacom Tanzania, Airtel Tanzania, TTCL, MIC (Tigo), and Viettel (Halotel).

The contracts will put up 758 communication towers in the mainland Tanzania as well as upgrading 304 others to enable the towers, which now offer 2G internet speeds to scale up to 3G, 4G or even more.

The ruling party CCM Election Manifesto 2020- 2025 directs the government to increase communication scope from 45 per cent in 2020 to 80 per cent in 2025.

The party document also has set a target of increasing internet users from 43 per cent in 2020 to 80 per cent come 2025, as well as improving communication.

Reacting to the government’s latest move, the experts said the execution of the projects that intend to enable 8.5 million Tanzanians to have access to the services will promote efficiency, learning as well as fast track payment systems within the country.

A seasoned economist-cum-banker, Dr Hildebrand Shayo indicated that access to communication will help to fast-track communication, hence promoting businesses in the country.

Dr Shayo observed that since communication mechanisms will readily be available, people in both the rural and urban areas can access and send information about their goods and services to intended parties.

“Information such as availability of crops, transportation and markets can be accessed by both parties including sellers and buyers,” said Dr Shayo.

He noted that currently, there are some circumstances that a trader goes to the villages, while there and wants to communicate with people in the town fails due to lack of a reliable network.

Besides, the initiative will also help promote communication in real time and tame fraudulent activities such as mobile network fraudsters.

The Economist also noted that jobs will be created as youths will engage in mobile money services and online business which will be facilitated by strong internet connectivity.

Commenting on the same, a Computer Science Engineer at the University of Dodoma (UDOM) Diwani Salim noted that the move will promote telemedicine in the aspects, where health services providers in the rural areas receive complicated health cases.

Eng Salim noted that the health service providers will be able to use their communication gadgets to secure the right information from colleagues and other online materials to help save the lives of their patients.

“Currently, through artificial intelligence we have devised an online clinic for pregnant women, the goal being to help the women from hard-to-reach areas access the services,” noted Mr Salim.

Besides, he disclosed that improving access to communication services among rural dwellers will promote the learning process among pupils and students.

He said students can be linked through the various platforms and access various school materials and digital books by strengthening education within the country.

“We know that through a well learned community it means many people will be able to make consented decisions which will contribute to the development of the country,” he said.

For his part, the Director of research and evaluation at MASSA Institute of Social science research ltd (MISSR), Mr Joshua Mwakalikamo was of the view that improved communication and access to internet will eventually improve e-commerce and digital payments.

He pointed that it implies economic agents including households/individuals, firms, the government and the rest of the world will interact easily.

“This will further smoothen distribution of goods and services between households/individuals and firms. The government will also be able to collect timely tax revenues because of digital payments resulting from communications and internet access,” he said.

He cited an example of bills payment through mobiles…today you can pay electricity bills and property tax using mobile internet, thereby helping the government to collect its property tax instantly.

Mr Mwakalikamo stressed that by individuals meeting their financial obligations on time it impacts the economic growth of the country.

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