News Column

INSIGHT: Place of TZ in digital migration

May 31, 2014

Zaipuna Yonah,The Citizen Correspondent -1



Arusha. Unquestionably, Tanzania has done much in expediting information communication technology (ICT) development countrywide. It has also reduced to a considerable extent the cost of services towards improving affordability of ICT services. There are key ICT developments that could be discerned.

As confidently confirmed by President Jakaya Kikwete when launching the Telecommunications Traffic Monitoring System at the end of February 2014 in Dar es Salaam, end-user costs of making voice-calls in Tanzania have decreased by 57 per cent and Internet access costs have dropped by 75 per cent compared to 2009 prices. 

Also, the transport/backhaul costs paid by operators have decreased by 99 per cent from $20,000 to $160 per month per 2Mbps-E1 carrier stream. Undoubtedly, today, Tanzania is one of the countries in Africa with the most price-friendly internet access and has the ICT infrastructure to sustain it in a long-term. Notwithstanding, Tanzania features poorly on some of the international reports— undoubtedly showing that the national ICT activities have not been reported appropriately.

Going digital in Tanzania will be a long learning journey towards a new technology-driven way of life—a digital culture. Since February 2005, Tanzania's ICT sector is fully liberalised, covers all communication services, and has horizontal market segmentation under a service-centric, converged regulatory licensing regime. Services offered under the regime are technology neutral.  However, it is still important to report on some aspects of technology being deployed in the country because it is a global best practice.

Indicators promised in Mkukuta II

Mkukuta II—Monitoring-Master-Plan (2012)—promises that the government will document a set of monitoring indicators for all the clusters, including the tools for data collection, timing, responsibilities, institutional arrangement for data collection, analysis and dissemination. That is, it will spell-out the major requirements for reporting for both upward and downward accountability.  It is further pledged that the role of the private sector and ICT usage would be scaled-up.  Nevertheless, there is no indicator in the plan to directly track the ICT sector performance.  In September 2007, a joint infrastructure sector review exercise was conducted by then the Ministry of Infrastructure, which reviewed the communication/ICT sector performance, challenges, and financing strategies.

In the review, 15 sector indicators—teledensity, tariff, interconnection rates, number of internet subscribers, number of internet service providers, number of internet users, number of faults per 100 fixed lines, volume of traffic, number of public internet access centers, number of personal computers, investment level, number of radio sets, number of TV sets, number of listeners of radio and TV, and multi-channel subscribers—were identified to be suitable for monitoring the sector performance.

Only four of these—teledensity, tariff, number of internet service providers and volume of traffic—were identified as key monitoring indicators.

Existing indicators inadequate

Appropriate indicators are signposts for anyone who is a vision career. Such indicators, when monitored, measured, and recorded properly, would show whether the vision is being realized. Consider the National Telecommunications Policy of 1997 (NTP-1997). In this policy, the government had set a national target using the teledensity indicator to 6 per cent by 2020. That is to have at least 6 telephones per 100 people.  

The target was technology specific: using fixed line telephony. Then, in 1998, initially as a value-added-service, mobile telephony was introduced. Notably, in 2001, the number of mobile subscribers exceeded the number of fixed-line subscribers. In 2005, the teledensity (mobile + fixed telephony) reached 10.1 per cent, which is well above 6 per cent. 

Consequently, the NTP-1997 target was achieved 16 years to the deadline. At the time of setting such a target, the average cost to offer one telephone connection was $2,000. Question: was the target too low? In my view, the target was high enough for the fixed-line technology.  The indicator saved its purpose.

Today, the indicator does not really tell much given that the sector regulatory framework is now technology neutral.  Furthermore, teledensity focuses more on individuals (per capita) while our lifestyles are more community-based. Therefore, teledensity is unsuitable for monitoring the impact and effectiveness of developmental and/or universal services initiatives. Notably, also is that teledensity is based on countrywide geography.

For example, if only the population of Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Shinyanga and Mbeya were to have telephones, and all other regions to have nothing, still Tanzania would have reached the teledensity target. However, national-level inclusiveness—investment as well as service coverage—would not have been achieved. 

Additionally, teledensity can go above 100 per cent, in respect of mobile phone penetration. This is evident in countries like Finland, Italy, and Brazil—to mention but a few. Yet, within the same countries, there are people who do not have a mobile phone. This does not mean every citizen has a mobile phone but some individuals, by average, have more than one telephone—SIM Card.   Therefore, we have a challenge: which indicators should be used to guide Tanzania in going digital? 

International reporting

For argument's sake, three sources of reporting are considered here: the Global Information Technology reports by World Economic Forum (WEF) and INSEAD that use the Networked Readiness Index (NRI); Measuring Information Society Reports by ITU – that use the ICT Development Index (IDI) and the Quarterly Telecom Statistics reports by our Regulator - the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) that use the four key indicators: teledensity, tariff, number of service providers and their market share and volume of traffic. 

The IDI is a composite index combining 11 indicators into one benchmark measure (presented on a scale from 0 to 10) that monitors and compares developments in ICT across countries.

The IDI is divided into three sub-indices: the access sub index, the use sub-index and the skills sub-index, each capturing different aspects and components of the ICT development process.   The WEF/INSEAD model, using the NRI, expands the ITU model in tracking 53 indicators, grouped into ten pillars, and these pillars are grouped into four sub-indexes: Environment, Readiness, Usage, and Impact indicators. In this case: The environment, readiness and usage are drivers for generating the desired socio-economic impacts.

Analysis: ranking of EAC countries

Reports from Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) show that only voice traffic, tariff trends, teledensity/penetration and number of subscriptions are consistently monitored. Also, not much is being reported on ICT infrastructure build and uptake by operators and government; usage of ICTs by government and businesses; ICT skills development and certification and the impact of using ICT in socio-economic activities. 

In contrast, in 2011 the IDI rankings of EAC countries, using the format IDI (Rank out of 157 countries) were: Kenya: 2.23 (116); Uganda: 1.72 (130); Rwanda: 1.54 (143) and Tanzania: 1.57 (141). Burundi case not reported.  For 2012 the IDI rankings were: Kenya: 2.46 (116); Uganda: 1.81 (130); Rwanda: 1.66 (141) and Tanzania: 1.65 (142).   In the 2012 report, the NRI rankings of 142 countries (a score between 0 and 7) for the EAC countries were: Kenya: 3.51(93); Uganda: 3.25(110); Rwanda: 3.70(82); Tanzania: 2.95(123); and Burundi: 2.57(137). For 2013 report, the NRI rankings (covering 144 countries) for the EAC countries were: Kenya: 3.54(92); Uganda: 3.30(110); Rwanda: 3.68(88); Burundi: 2.30 (144) and Tanzania: 2.92 (127).

I wonder: if these simplistic, emotive, and well-marketed data are the only ones that make it to the global stage. If so, should this not raise an alarm? Are these rankings accurate?

Astonishing are the NRI scores for the Readiness sub index (Infrastructure, affordability and Skills).  In 2012 report: Kenya: 3.7(108); Uganda: 3.7(107); Rwanda: 3.2(120); Burundi: 3.5 (109) and Tanzania: 3.0 (125). In 2013 report: Kenya 3.7(110); Uganda: 3.8(104); Rwanda: 3.2(116); Burundi: 2.5 (138) and Tanzania: 2.7(135).

Surprisingly, Tanzania scores very low in spite of the completion of the National ICT Broadband Backbone and connecting to the submarine cables, and having over 80 per cent country coverage by the mobile signals. It is these scores that sent ionising pains through my spine as to why the scores are low. I concluded: we are not known. Many are not aware what Tanzania has done or is doing to even empower the neighbouring landlocked countries like Rwanda, Zambia, Malawi and Burundi to sustain their ICT development. In a way, this justifies a revisit to the type of indicators used to report about our ICT activities.  Surprisingly, we care so much about FIFA rankings.  Responsibly, is it not time we begin to care in the same way about the IDI rankings by ITU and the NRI rankings by WEF/INSEAD?  It is time we do.

Conclusion

It is time to formulate new indicators to strengthen the way we report about our ICT activities and achievements. It is strongly recommended we go for composite indicators, like the NRI or IDI. Given that we are in a technology-neutral, broadband-ready environment, and converged regulatory environment, it is time for TCRA and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to work together on this issue.    So, in addition to reporting on penetration, traffic and tariffs for different services we should start reporting on: investments in the ICT sector, ICT use, devices, and ICT Skills development and certifications. Such reporting could then easily be bench marked to other monitoring models like that of the WEF/INSEAD and the ITU.

Dr Zaipuna Yonah is a consulting engineer in ICTs and a senior lecturer at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha.he can be reached at 0784,786429/0732920233 and engzaipuna@ieee.org


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Source: Citizen, The (Tanzania)


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