DAR ES SALAAM: MORE than 23.8 million people from 5,111 villages are set to receive reliable communication services, thanks to the ongoing telecom tower projects executed by the Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF).
The government, through UCSAF, has disbursed a subsidy of 326bn/- to mobile network operators who are implementing the communication tower projects in a public-private partnership arrangement.
Speaking with editors from various media in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, UCSAF Chief Executive Officer Ms Justina Mashiba said the projects are part of the government’s efforts to bridge the digital divide and promote the digital economy.
“This is one of the grand projects implemented by the government through UCSAF that aims to have the whole country connected with reliable communication services,” she said.
She said that out of the planned 2,149 telecom towers, 1,321 have already been built, connecting over 14.8 million people with reliable communication services.
Ms Mashiba cited another grand project launched in May this year aimed at building 758 telecom towers through a partnership between the government and mobile network operators.
This project, called the Digital Tanzania Project (DTP), seeks to accelerate the country’s entry into the digital economy and will also involve upgrading 304 telecom towers to offer internet speeds of 3G, 4G or higher.
As of Monday this week, 111 out of 304 telecom towers had been upgraded, with the remaining towers expected to be completed by December this year.
She said that currently, 96 per cent of the population is connected with internet speeds of 2G, 77 per cent with 3G, and 65 per cent with 4G.
Geographically, Ms Mashiba said that 69 per cent of the area is connected with 2G internet speed, 62 per cent with 3G, and 50 per cent with 4G.
“This is a huge achievement since UCSAF was established in 2009 when the total communication coverage in the country was only 45 per cent,” she noted.
She said that one of UCSAF’s future plans is to connect strategic areas with reliable communication services in order to support the government’s development endeavours.
For example, she said that UCSAF is currently in talks with the Tanzania Shipping Agencies Corporation (TASAC) to provide communication services in Lake Victoria.
In this initiative, she noted, UCSAF envisions connecting all major roads, national parks, lakes and islands with reliable communication services.
She also said that UCSAF is in talks with the Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (DART) to provide free internet services (WiFi) in bus stations.
UCSAF has already started offering free internet services in some areas, such as the Community Development Training Institute in Lungemba, Mafinga-Iringa Region, Nyerere Square in Dodoma, the College of Informatics and Virtual Education (CIVE) at the University of Dodoma, Kiembe Samaki area in Zanzibar, and Buhongwa market in Mwanza Region.
The UCSAF boss said that another ambitious project is the provision of telemedicine services to help citizens from remote parts of the country that lack specialised health services.
The provision of telemedicine services will not only increase the number of Tanzanians who receive treatment from a team of specialists but also minimise the time required for disease diagnosis and treatment.
Ms. Mashiba said that UCSAF is implementing the telemedicine project in collaboration with the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), and Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI).
She said that the Morogoro Regional Referral Hospital is already connected with telemedicine services, and others like Ruvuma, Tanga, Katavi, Nzega and Chato will soon be completed.