Few weeks ago, the Premier, Mizengo Pinda launched a GSI (TZ) National Limited five years strategic plan 2013/2017 which aims, to a large extent, sensitizing the use of the country's barcode in products made in Tanzania.
This development comes out after the country has been able to own her barcode, 620, from August 2011. Correspondent FERDINAND MOSES who attended the launch explains what took place on that day and also tries to tell us what the barcode is all about and its significance in economic development.
Read on... HISTORY has it that in 1948 Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA overheard the president of the local food chain, Food Fair, asking one of the deans to research a system to automatically read product information during checkout. Silver told his friend Norman Joseph Woodland about the request and they started working on a variety of systems.
Their first working system used ultraviolet ink, but the ink too easily faded and was fairly expensive. Convinced that the system was workable with further development, Woodland left Drexel, moved into his father's apartment in Florida and continued working on the system. His next inspiration came from Morse code and he formed his first barcode from sand on the beach.
"I just extended the dots and dashes downwards and made narrow lines and wide lines out of them." To read them, he adapted technology from optical soundtracks in movies, using a 500-watt light bulb shining through the paper onto an RCA935 photomultiplier tube (from a movie projector) on the far side. He later decided that the system would work better if it were printed as a circle instead of a line, allowing it to be scanned in any direction.
From there, a lot of research by different people and organizations went on until in 1981, when the United States Department of Defence adopted the use of Code 39 for marking all products sold to the United States military. This system, Logistics Applications of Automated Marking and Reading Symbols (LOGMARS), is still used by DoD and is widely viewed as the catalyst for widespread adoption of barcoding in industrial use.
Experts say that barcodes help track items and also reduces instances of shoplifting involving price tag swapping. In addition, retail chain membership cards (issued mostly by grocery stores and specialty "big box" retail stores such as sporting equipment or office supply) use bar codes to uniquely identify consumers, allowing for customized marketing and greater understanding of individual consumer shopping patterns.
They can also be used to keep track of objects and people; they are used to keep track of rental cars, airline luggage, registered mail, express mail and parcels. They say that Barcoded tickets allow the holder to enter sports arenas, cinemas, theatres, fairgrounds and transportation and are used to record the arrival and departure of vehicles from rental facilities. This can allow proprietors to identify duplicate or fraudulent tickets more easily.
For a long time, Tanzania was using other country's barcodes and therefore losing the above said benefits to a large extent. So by having her own barcode now, it is obvious that not only that the country will benefit, but also the business community. It is this very reason that made the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda urging business community in Tanzania to use the country's barcode for their own benefit and the country's social economic benefits.
For a long time, products made in Tanzania were using other countries' barcodes to suit international standards and penetrate foreign markets. "Since the country has entered in this system and have her own barcode, I urge members of the business community to start use it and be proud of it," he said during the meeting.
Tanzania through GSI (TZ) National Limited started offering barcodes in August 2011 after successfully became a member of a Belgium based Global Standard One. He said using barcodes in the country's products will enable them penetrate in a wide range markets such as the East African Community (EAC), the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC), African Growth and Opportunity Act-AGOA and the European Union.
"This is one of the efforts of the fourth phase government to make sure that Tanzania products have required standards and also help improve small and medium enterprises welfare in the country," he said. He urged business people in the country who continue to use other countries' barcodes to stop doing that and use the one owned by Tanzania.
He added that this is an opportune time for GSI (TZ) National Limited to use its five year strategic plan to lure more businesses into using the countries barcode and said the government will avail all necessary assistance needed. Tanzania is now a member of GS1, an internationally established organization responsible for the provision of bar codes, traceability services, e-commerce and other trade related issues in the world.
So far, GS1 Tanzania has registered 370 companies in Tanzania and issued 6,000 barcodes to various products since it started operations in August, 2011. On her part, the Chairman of Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), Ms Esther Mkwizu said Tanzania succeeded to establish GSI (TZ) National Limited and have her own barcode as a result of a close working relationship between the government and a private sector in Tanzania.
"For this system to work better there is a need for the government to have a conducive policy that will facilitate more businesses in the country to register for barcodes," she said. She said that those who have already their barcodes should properly use them and be good ambassadors to others. The Vice-Chairman, GSI (TZ) National Ltd, Mr Yakub Hasham said by having her own barcode, Tanzania has made great strides that will help introduce the country's products inside and outside the country.
The meeting was attended by government officials, Tanzania business community and other development stakeholders. We have reasons to commend all those who spearheaded the formation of GSI (TZ) National Limited especially TPSF on the private sector's side and the government.
It should be noted that the formation of GS1 (TZ) National Limited, was supported by retailers, suppliers and manufacturers in Tanzania and their trade associations such as the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), the Zanzibar Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (ZCCIA).
Others were the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI), the Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), the Tanzania Tea Association (TTA), the Agricultural Council of Tanzania (ACT), the Tanzania Women Chamber of Commerce from which some of their members formed the first Management Board to run the GS1 (TZ) National Limited.
Development stakeholders should fully support the GS1 (TZ) National Limited five year strategic plan 2013/2017 for the country's sustainable development.