Experts call on Tanzania’s Government to set up an ICT Agency

Computing

Experts have called on the government to establish an agency that will coordinate and manage ICT activities so as to enhance the sector's growth. The call was made during at an ICT summit, which was held in Dar es Salaam to take stock of digital development in Tanzania and explore ways to catapult the sector to a new level.

The experts and other stakeholders said the proposed body will also assume regulatory functions in order to create a level playing field in the fast growing industry.

According to them, ICT has huge potentials in providing quality services in areas such as education, health, commerce and public administration. They argued that the agency was vital in protecting the interest of stakeholders such as consumers, providers and the government who are increasingly embracing services like e-learning, tele-medicine and e-commerce.

"The lack of a national ICT coordinating body constitutes one of the biggest challenges in developing the sector in the country," Dr Mmasi Raphael, director for Information and Documentation at the Commission for Science and Technology (Costech), told the gathering.

The expert, who is credited with developing Rwanda's ICT sector, said that despite the presence of some institutions that deal with some aspects of ICT, the mere absence of a single body with the mandate in all ICT issues creates a responsibility gap and stalls the sector's growth and development.

He said another major challenge to the growth and application of digital technologies in the country was absence of a comprehensive strategy to implement the 2003 National ICT Policy.

The director-general of the Tanzania Communications and Regulatory Authority (TCRA), Prof John Nkoma, said the inadequate ICT infrastructure and the lack of the national ICT backbone were among impediments constraining digital penetration in the economy. Other constraints he pointed out were backward terrestrial connectivity and the high cost of bandwidth, which is vital to lessen the cost of ICT services.

Richard Kasesera, the managing director of ID Cards Solutions Ltd, said the lack of the national ICT body also posed a huge security risk. "The government is preparing to start providing national identity cards that will make it easy for one's information to be accessed online...but it will be risky if there will be no robust organ to guide the process," he said.

Charles Sekondo, the executive director of the Tanzania Global Development Learning Centre, said that because the ICT sector was growing so fast, there was a need to establish a database through which the proposed body would perform its monitoring role.

The formation an ICT body was necessary to guide the government in the transitional stage from analogue to digital broadcasting, a senior TCRA official, Innocent Mungy, noted. "As we are prepared to move our broadcasting from analogue to digital, we really need that organ," he said.