4 December 2012

Tanzania: ICT Investment Crucial to Improved Internet Services

ATTRACTING Information and Communication Technologies (ICT s) investment in developing countries is important in meeting increased demand for retail and corporate internet services.

ICTs have the potential to help in the provision of quality services when it comes to education, health, commerce and public administration. Statistics show that in Tanzania, the sector is growing at between 15 and 20 per cent annually, which is the highest in the East African Community (EAC) Region.

It is argued that ICTs are vital in protecting the interests of various stakeholders such as consumers, service providers and the government, who have now embraced e-learning, tele-medicine and e-commerce. The private sector is seen as a key player in bringing about flow of investments in the ICT sector, while the government has been showing commitments to improving the business environment to ensure both local and foreign investors benefit from their investments.

Increased investment in the ICT sector is necessary for the transformation of the country into a knowledge society. It is also necessary to transform the country's economy into one with higher income and quality growth over the next decade with knowledge and innovation. Substantial investments in ICT s are crucial not only for enhancing healthy competition geared at promoting quality of education, but more importantly to bring the nation to the middle income status by 2025.

To foster efficiencies mobile operators, for example, have in recent days came up with a tower sharing strategy aimed at cutting down costs while offering quality services to clients. "Infrastructure sharing is also expected to impact positively on quality of services across operators as they leverage on existing network to boost their coverage and capacity requirements," the Helios Tanzania, Chief Executive Officer, Mr Norman Moyo said during an interview over the weekend.

Tower sharing has proved fruitful in fulfilling the increase demand for retail and corporate data and internet services in both urban and rural areas. The company was founded by Helios Investment Partners, an African-focused private equity investment firm with particular expertise in telecommunications and tower operations in the continent. Helios Towers Africa reduces telecom carbon footprint and was early this month awarded the "Best Network Improvement," 2012 AfricaCom in Cape Town, South Africa.

The award seeks to recognize an eye-catching, successful initiative that has significantly improved network in Africa. Helios Towers Africa (HTA), an independent telecoms towers company in Africa, gave a keynote speech at the 2012 AfricaCom conference at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. The Helios Towers Africa Chief Executive Officer, Mr Charles Green, said one of the main advantages of mobile telecoms over landline technology is the reduced cost of providing infrastructure; tower sharing is becoming a popular option to reduce the cost of mobile infrastructure.

"The timing is right because of the infrastructure investment deficit in most sub-Saharan African markets," he said. He said unless telecoms infrastructure investment in Africa increases, it will be impossible to serve the burgeoning levels of consumer demand for 2G voice, let alone the site densification required for 3G coverage, improved capacity and the rapid growth in data traffic.

"It has been estimated that without an increase in the sharing of infrastructure, the number of telecoms towers will have to double over the next five years from 75,000 to 150,000 and that is just for 2G traffic," he added. In a presentation at a conference held in South Africa early this month, Mr Green said the growth in mobile subscribers, the need for telecoms coverage and capacity, the huge infrastructure investment required to provide telecoms towers are some of the factors behind increased demand for telecoms towers provision.

He said the independent tower model of infrastructure sharing has been successful and led to improved site 'uptime', financial certainty via Service Level Agreements, superior cost savings and a reduced carbon footprint. An additional benefit, he said, is the delivery of better networks via the increased availability of capital and coverage in rural areas becoming more economically viable.

ICTs have impacted the way business is conducted, facilitated learning and knowledge sharing, generated fast global information flows, empowered citizens and communities in ways that have redefined governance and created significant wealth and economic growth.

However, dangers posed by the digital divide and the risk of being excluded from the knowledge economy and social development caused by development disparities between rural and urban areas need swift measures to ensure that the benefits brought by ICT benefits all. ICT is one of the sectors which offer huge potential for creating massive employment, a necessary element in the government efforts to alleviate abject poverty in the country.

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