First Summit on Community Networks and Community Radio in Tanzania
Photo Credit: nicopace from AlterMundi.net
Community established networks also referred to as “Community Networks” (CN) have existed for many years and, provide a sustainable solution to address the connectivity gaps that exist in urban, remote, and rural areas around the world. While the global statistics estimate that about half of the world population has access to the Internet but still, the connectivity gap is very high when compared between the developed and developing countries. In Tanzania, there are 43.7 Million voice telephone subscriptions and only 23.1 Million Internet users. A study by Research ICT Africa reported that when Internet access is compared between rural and urban areas, 86% of rural dwellers remain unconnected to the Internet compared to 44.6% in urban areas. Similarly, in Tanzania, fewer women have access to and use of the Internet than men.
In order to address the connectivity challenges in Tanzania, the Internet Society Tanzania Chapter, supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme in partnership with the University of Dodoma has built a pilot project using TV White Space as a community network solution. The deployed network has connected four educational institutions in rural Tanzania and at the same time provided Internet access to community members around the schools. It has not been easy to deploy this network but we are happy that television white space is providing very high-speed Internet connectivity to schools and community members in rural Tanzania said Mr. Jabhera Matogoro, Project Manager and Assistant Lecturer at the University of Dodoma. Mr. Matogoro further noted that community network deployments are less expensive but the story is quite different in Tanzania because of the high cost required to cover bandwidth and co-location cost.
In order to achieve both technical and financial sustainability, members of Kondoa Community Network played a critical role in the deployment of the required infrastructure that finally made this project successful. Prior to the scale-up phase, the Internet Society Tanzania Chapter in collaboration with the University of Dodoma organized a two days technical workshop that brought together participants interested in community networks and those already working with community radio in Tanzania. The workshop was held at the University of Dodoma from 05th – 07th December 2018 and was attended by 45 participants in Tanzania (Dar es Salaam, Loliondo, Kahama, Kondoa, Uvinza, Bukombe, Karagwe, Arusha, Kyela, Nkasi, Ileje, Makete, and Nyasa). It should be noted that this is the first community network and community radio workshop of its kind that was held in Tanzania. The workshop was facilitated with facilitators from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Argentina.
The official opening of the workshop was attended by Prof. Peter Msoffe, Acting Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, Research and Consultancy of the University of Dodoma. Community networks are the networks that are deployed and managed by the community themselves to address the connectivity challenges and are used to receive and exchange information that could solve community challenges explained by Prof. Peter Msoffe. A participant from Unyanja FM Community Radio, Mr. Patrick Kossima highlighted that community network and community radio supplement each other, for instance, hard to reach areas that were not possible to be covered by community radio could be covered by community network and in so doing both feed each other the relevant local contents around the community.
The workshop covered topics ranging from technical to policy matters favoring Internet access in Tanzania. Internet Society Tanzania Chapter is committed to making the Internet to be available even in the very remote and underserved areas in Tanzania because we believe the Internet is for everyone said Eng. Abibu Ntahigiye, Chairperson, ISOC Tanzania Chapter. Eng. Abibu further presented a topic on “domain the undomain using .tz domain”. The workshop on the first community network and community radio in Tanzania was concluded with a visit to Kondoa Community Network, the first community network to pilot the use of television white space technology in Tanzania. While in Kondoa District, workshop participants also visited Kondoa Irangi Rock Paintings which are recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.
Reported by: Jabhera Matogoro, Project Manager and Assistant Lecturer - College of Informatics and Virtual Education, the University of Dodoma
Disclaimer: Views expressed here are solely those gathered by the author and should not necessarily be construed to be those of any of organs or agencies or any other organization mentioned or discussed. This article is released under the cc-by-sa 4.0 license, and translation into other languages is encouraged. For more information, please contact the author(s).