Tigo Tanzania has been operating in the country for the last 25 years. In the last three years the telcom has invested almost 1.0tri/- to digitalise its infrastructure in a bid to grow its business and enable the country to attaining semi-industrialised economy by 2025. Our Senior Reporter, ABDUEL ELINAZA interviewed SIMON KARIKARI, Managing Director at Millicom (Tigo) Tanzania on the firm’s data business growth.
Question: What is behind Tigo’s progression from the era of 2G and now 4G+?
Answer: Overall our strategy is to continue to build the digital lifestyle in Tanzania. We have been the first operator in the country to roll out 3G, 4G and 4G+ technology which proves our genuine commitment in connecting more and more Tanzanians to fast and reliable internet services. We continue to invest in the latest technology such as 4G+ because we believe data is the future. The demand for data has been strongly increasing and this has been made possible because low cost smartphones are available in our market and we are also able to provide relevant content to our customers.
Question: What has been the value of this massive investment in monetary terms at least over the past three years?
Answer: Tigo Tanzania in the last three years (2016-2018) has invested over 331bn/- and purchased goods and services worth 954bn/- from Tanzanian registered companies and individuals. We are one of the top 30 tax payers in Tanzania contributing in excess of 852bn/- in the last three years including collecting and remitting VAT and excise duty.
Question: What are the challenges and opportunities presented by this evolution 2G to 4G+?
Answer: Tigo has created massive opportunity throughout this evolution. With investment in the latest infrastructure technology such as 4G+, we have created demand for internet consumption and helped develop the mobile ecosystem in Tanzania for mobile device manufacturers and content developers for instance.
We have also forged strategic partnerships with different players including media companies i.e. Multichoice Tanzania and StarTimes to offer our customers relevant content such as soccer during World Cup 2018 and now African Cup of Nations tourna-ments. However, despite the opportunities there is concern that the cost of investment to roll-out the latest network infrastructure is high with the longest return on investment period, especially in rural areas. Additionally, digital literacy remains a challenge in Tanzania coupled with the cost of mobile devices which is still high.
Question: Tigo has invested in data centre to cater for ICT demand for specific needs. How does this compare with other telecoms in Tanzania and across the East African region?
Answer: Tigo is proud to own and operate the only Tier III certified data centre in Tanzania, allowing Tanzanian businesses to securely host their sensitive data and mission critical business applications in a state-ofthe- art facility certified by global authorities.
Tier III data centre is a highly secure data storage facility with redundant and dual-powered servers, storage, network links and other IT components.
It guarantees 99.982per cent availability with less than two hours of downtime per year. Tigo’s Tier III data centre is a scarce asset in East Africa with only two comparable facilities currently available in Nairobi.
‘Big data’ applications take advantage of the abundance of data available to organisations in an increasingly digital world.
However, harnessing the true power of ‘big data’ is dependent on two critical success factors: access to large data storage facilities and highly secured communication links to access these data stores in real-time.
Tigo’s Tier III data centre is the only facility in Tanzania that enables Tanzanian businesses to exploit the full range of opportunities made available by ‘big data’ applications.
Built according to global standards and certified by international authorities, our facility maintains the highest availability and security standards for real-time data analysis in the country. Tigo has seven-data centres across the country which provide data storage solution to customers from different industries include banking, manufacturing, public sector/institutions, oil and gas, transportation, agriculture to mention a few.
Question: The million dollar question is how secured is the Tigo Data centre?
Answer: To build a state-ofthe- art facility in Tanzania, Tigo worked directly with international authorities to design the most secure data storage facility in the country.
Today, Tigo is proud to own and operate the only data centre in Tanzania that has been officially certified by the Up Time Institute (Tier III Design) as well as the BSI for Information Security (ISO27001) and Business Continuity (ISO22301).
These certifications require significant infrastructural investment, involve the adoption of best practice processes and require that the facility be operated by highly skilled personnel.
Our highly secure facility is the best choice for organisations to ‘co-locate’ their critical servers and infrastructure components. Hurricane and earthquake resistant, with armed security, video surveillance and biometric access, our facility offers the safest way to store a company’s data.
Question: Data is becoming a major revenue stream surpassing voice in many countries including Tanzania. What is your take in this and what stake does it have for Tigo?
Answer: Telecom firms are increasingly turning to data market segment to stay profitable. According to latest GSMA Mobile Economy Report, voice revenues for telecom operators in Sub- Saharan Africa including Tanzania will continue to decline till end of this decade despite growing number of subscriber base. This is attributed to the increase in internet penetration which shifts customer’s preferences to over the top (OTT) messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook etc., which are reducing the traditional voice margin. Tigo is leveraging on this customer shift and proactively invest in the provision of the latest network infrastructure such as 4G and 4G+, to provide customers with the best data experience across the country.
Since many of our customers consume data through their mobile phones, access to affordable smart devices is a key catalyst to driving internet penetration. We believe that having the right network infrastructure coupled with relevant content and affordable devices will increase number of smartphone users and eventually boost data revenues, the opportunity is huge since a good number of Tanzanians are still offline.
Question: What is the future of normal SMS considering the growing popularity of multiple instant messaging platforms such as twitter, WhatsApp, Hangouts as well as social media channels which offer messaging options?
Answer: Tanzania is undergoing a digital transformation reflected by the growing number of people that are connected to the internet services using social media platforms and instant messaging Apps. Tigo partnered with Facebook for example to provide customers with Swahili Facebook and increase digital literacy.
While traditional SMS is still relevant in our market, the relevance is expected to gradually decrease as data access and usage increases.
Question: You said Tigo is a digital lifestyle brand. What should the market expect from Tigo in living up to this brand promise?
Answer: Being a digital lifestyle brand, Tigo will continue to invest in world class technologies to keep our consumers at par with the rest of the world as evidenced by our recent launch of the 4G+ technology in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro and Dodoma and plans are underway to continue rolling out to more regions across the country. With our innovative DNA, Tigo aims to ensure that its customers get the best experience through its state-of-the-art products and services every time they encounter the brand. Tigo’s pioneering spirit will keep setting industry standards in all facets of the telecommunication business and advance our customers digital transformation journey.
Question: What are Tigo future investments to enable stay at the top of the league?
Answer: We are truly a Tanzanian brand and pride ourselves in being committed to this market. We have been here for 25 years and our determination is for long term growth and potential of this country.
We continue to invest in the latest technology such as 4G+ because we believe data is the future as commented before. Also, as mobile financial services continue to expand in the country, the need to continue to invest in our Tigo Pesa business is undisputable.
Over the last year, Tigo Pesa has evolved into a fully-fledged financial service platform with multiple products ranging from micro loans, saving products and insurance among other services.
Additionally, wherever you go, you can pay with Tigo Pesa and connect with the Government Payment Gateway (GePG) to pay for all services. We are determined to expand our Tigo Pesa ecosystem further and partner with relevant stakeholders to make e-commerce a norm in Tanzania and advance financial inclusion agenda in the country.
We envisage our Tigo business unit to continue providing the most needed business to business communication solutions to small, medium and large enterprises and support national development agenda 2025.
We have invested heavily in training, channels and infrastructure to ensure that we become relevant as the country gears to becoming semi-industrialised, middle income economy.
Question: The market has several telecoms what are key drivers that differentiate Tigo from others?
Answer: As a company operating in a very competitive market, we cannot afford to be complacent. Good news is that we have made it our main duty to promote digital lifestyle for every Tanzanian. Hence, we are always on our toes, playing an active role in meeting the ever-changing demands of our customers, developing a real-time understanding of our customers, building stronger relationships with them and making them appreciate us more.
We have championed several initiatives ranging from bridging mobile phone ownership gap amongst women, improving connectivity to public schools (eSchools) by providing access to reliable internet and enhancing birth registration process (Mobile Birth Registration) by using mobile phone.
All these initiatives have had positive impact in our society hence changing lives of many. In addition, through Tigo Pesa we have contributed to advancing the financial inclusion agenda in the country by providing financial services to more than 7.6 million customers through our widest network of Wakalas across the country.