Need to use internet for development

Deo Mushi

A SURVEY done in Kenya early this year showed that internet users had grown by 11 per cent to an estimated 39.4 million in 2016 compared to a growth of 35.9 per cent in 2015.

In the same period, the number of Internet users in Tanzania rose to 19.86 million late last year from 17.26 million in 2015, said the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) report.

The data clearly show that Kenyans are using internet more than Tanzanians, and that could be playing a part in their economic development. In Kenya Online jobs that pay through Mpesa are good for both part-time and full-time work.

The easiest way to become financially independent is to become an online freelancer in that country, and students as well as professionals make ends meet by working online.

Online jobs in Kenya that pay through Mpesa are good for part time work in Nairobi and Mombasa, and one does not even need a CV to get jobs in most freelancer sites.

In Tanzania, online jobs are not very popular as they are in Kenya, though there are some small companies which have started doing that.

The fact is there is a small number of Tanzanians using the internet, despite the fact that the country has the lowest mobile data cost in Africa, and I wish the city like Dar es Salaam had free internet connection in some joints, to enable young men and women go there with their lap top computers to surf.

Tanzania reaps the benefits of the rollout of 4G LTE network by state-owned TTCL and intense competition from numerous operators. According to ICT Africa report released recently as #DataMustFall campaign gains traction in the region, Tanzania has the cheapest rate for one gig at 0.89 US dollars in comparison to South Africa which is priced at 5.26 US dollars.

It is disappointing that despite such internet availability, only few people can access this service, which can really play a role as the country strives to become a middle economy by 2025. Other large markets such as Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria have higher data prices than Tanzania, showing the cost of 1GB of mobile data in Kenya is 5.0 US dollars, Egypyt 2.8 US dollars, Nigeria 5.26 US dollars and Malawi 5.8 US dollars, but local people there access internet more than the Tanzanians do.

The country has high speed data network through 4G LTE technology by state-owned telecommunication company, but yet, only few people use the service compared to Kenya, and our comparatively lowest cost in the region go without being utilized fully.

I wonder whether most of us know that in Tanzania, the market has a great potential for growth as internet penetration is hardly 20 per cent while global average is between 45 to 50 per cent providing huge opportunities for operators to upgrade and reach more areas.

In Tanzania today, the internet is often seen as something accessible only by a small elite -- those who are already relatively wealthy, and the rest of the people don’t take interest to get this affordable information service.

In urban cities like Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza and others, access to the internet has been growing rapidly in the last few years, largely the result of people accessing the internet through their phones.

The trend is clear -- there’s a rapid growth in the number of people accessing the internet through individual or household connections, and this should be encouraged among professionals like doctors, teachers and other professionals. TCRA unfortunately don’t give the breakdown between mobile and fixed line connections, but it is safe to assume that the majority of these new internet users are using mobile phones.

It’s not possible to simply add up these figures to calculate a precise total number of people who are accessing the internet in Tanzania, as many of those who have office-based access will be the same people who access the internet through their phones.

The availability and accessibility to information via the Internet has transformed the world into a global village. With little time consumption, major tasks can be performed through the Internet using very little resources.

The spread of the Internet around the globe has created job opportunities and expanded the work circle. The Internet has revolutionized the way business is done, thanks to innovations such as online shopping, Internet banking and e-commerce.

The Internet has also introduced tremendous flexibility in the education sector. Through e-learning, one can attain a degree without physically appearing in a classroom. The Internet is good because it provides access to information on a 24-hour basis, allows for communication between people all across the world and allows for the information provided to be updated quickly.

The Internet can only become a tool for social development if it is applied in a way that addresses the complex challenges of improving the lives of the least-privileged and most-needy millions in Kigoma, Arusha, Kagera, Mtwara and in all regions.

If the Internet is to be socially beneficial, it needs to be used for alleviating poverty, improving access to health care and education, conserving and fairly distributing resources, and strengthening participation in decision-making processes.

The success of the Internet should be measured less in terms of sheer numbers of connected individuals and more in terms of accessibility and contribution to social progress in all sectors.

We should all contribute to dialogue among all involved parties -- ranging from Internet users and service providers to decision makers in both public and private sectors -- on the issue of social responsibility in the development, application, and usage of the Internet in our country.

We can boost our learning institutions as well as ward schools by providing them with computers and internet services.

I hope our cities like Dar es Salaam and municipal councils throughout the country shall set aside different joints where internet services shall be provided freely as impetus to the country’s economic drive that has taken industrialization as its priority.

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