Tanzania School of Community Networks – Third Edition
The third edition of the Tanzania School of Community Networks (TZSCN) convened by Kasulu Community Networks Cooperative took place on 1 – 2 November 2022 in Kasulu district, Kigoma Province, Tanzania. The edition themed “ Digital Literacy Towards Addressing the Usage Gap in Tanzania” seeks to build capacity around methodologies towards full utilization of broadband connectivity within the underserved communities in Tanzania, through digital literacy. The 2-day conference was officially launched by Hon. Joseph Kashushura, the District Executive Director of Kasulu District Council. Hon. Kashushura stressed the importance of government inclusion within the movement as an advocacy effort toward creating policies in support of the emergence and growth of community networks.
Community Networks in Tanzania
There are 4 community networks in Tanzania; Kasulu Community Network Cooperative (Kasulu, Kigoma Region), Nyasa Community Network Cooperative Network (Nyasa district, Ruvuma Region, Tarime Community Network Cooperative Network (Tarime District, Mara Region), and Kondoa Community Network Cooperative Network (Kondoa District, Dodoma Region). The first Community Network in this movement in Tanzania was the Kondoa Community Network (KCN ) established to bridge gender gaps by ensuring women and girls in Kondoa are connected to the Internet and make meaningful use of connectivity.
The community networks have come together to make up the Tanzanian Community Networks Alliance, advocating for meaningful universal connectivity that contributes towards a positive impact in the digital economy. The award for best community network during this third edition went to Kondoa Community Network Alliance for outstanding performance, taking into consideration:
- Enrolment of new members
- Financial capability
- Community support such as school connectivity
- Holding meetings as per the cooperative act 2013
The school opening coincided with the opening of the Kasulu telecenter and the launch of the Tarime community network website.
The school was sponsored by the Association of Progressive Communications (APC), AFRINIC, and Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF) and supported by KICTANet through the Africa Regional Coordinator and Africa Policy Coordinator for Community Networks. The school attracted 40 participants, 16 women, and 24 men, with representation from the 4 community networks, journalists and experts representing KICTANe t/ APC, Africa Child Foundation, Basic Internet Foundation, an official from the Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF), and Arusha Technical College.
It was commendable to see nearly half as much representation of women and the inclusion of persons with disabilities, with one blind participant. Even though there was Impressive participation of women, women and girls in rural Tanzania are still being left behind due to a lack of time in exploring digital literacy. They are expected to focus on house chores and fending for the family at the market leaving little time for digital exploration. The economic gap that exists between men and women in rural Tanzania makes it difficult for women and girls to afford mobile phones.
State of Internet Connectivity in Tanzania
According to TCRA, as of September 2022, Tanzania had around 31.1 Million internet users, accounting for 50 percent of the country’s population. Community networks in accounting for 50 percent of the country’s population. Community networks in Tanzania have been striving to bridge this gap through digital literacy in schools and telecenters by partnering with Vodacom foundation through the Africa Child Project and Basic Internet Foundation, who have so far donated 48 computers and tablets to 7 schools in Kasulu, 25 computers and tablets in Nyasa, and 50 computers to 3 schools in Kondoa, in partnership with UCSAF and Reneal International.
There have been efforts by the government to improve broadband connectivity for more than 75% of the country’s population through the Digital Tanzania Project, understanding the need for high-speed broadband connectivity to the industrial revolution of the country. Under this project, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies awarded a contract to Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation to construct the fiber network over the power infrastructure, with USD 150 million loan from the World Bank.
On 3rd December 2022, the president of Tanzania Hon. Samia Suluhu Hassan launched Raddy Fiber Manufacturing Ltd in Mkuranga District with the capacity to produce 24,000 Kms of fiber, aimed at speeding up the extension of the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB). However, despite the National Fibre Optic Cable network, named National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) covering over 7, 000km of the country, it is estimated that over 70 percent of the backbone is not used in many districts. This is due to a lack of affordability, the limited spread of technology, a low level of ICT skills development, backward national policy, and a low level of public awareness.