The terms digitization (converting analogue representations of tangible objects or attributes into a digital format), digitalization (applying digital technologies to existing business processes), and digital transformation (changing or developing new business processes and products using digitalization technologies) are frequently used interchangeably to denote the shift to a more digital economy. They reflect the convergence of fixed, mobile and broadcast information and communication technology (ICT) and computational advances that connect people, devices and objects in real time through telecom networks and the internet, and the associated structural transformation of economies, product innovation, and changing social interaction.
The Tanzanian government is keen to fast track the uptake and use of digital technologies to improve public administration, grow the economy and achieve shared prosperity for all. Significant investments have been made to lay the foundations for digitalisation, including building digital infrastructure and boosting public service delivery through e-government. Currently, the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) connects regional headquarters and urban areas in the country, and extends to seven of the eight countries bordering Tanzania.
The country has also made steady progress on mobile broadband coverage through liberalising the telecommunications sector, allowing multiple service providers to obtain licenses and establish operations, making Tanzania one of the most competitive mobile network operator (MNO) markets in Africa. These investments have resulted in positive outcomes, including increased mobile broadband coverage (currently estimated at 81% of the population, up from 1% in 2006), increased e-government service applications and public institutions connected to the internet (estimated at 300 institutions), and improved service delivery in select sectors such as water, electricity, and birth and death registration. While mobile users in urban areas can access 3G services or higher, almost a fifth of the country’s population (primarily rural communities) remain excluded, with access to only 2G network coverage. Progress has been slow in expanding broadband connectivity to rural communities due to the difficulty in serving sparse remote areas in a commercially sustainable way. Public institutions located in rural communities are equally affected and unable to deliver services using centralised e-government platforms due to limited internet access.
At the national level, the gap between available digital infrastructure and usage is steadily rising and could potentially derail the efforts being made. For example, the proportion of the population with access to mobile broadband but not connected to or using a mobile internet service has doubled in the last five years, suggesting that potential users face critical barriers to digital adoption, which need to be addressed. The major barriers to digital adoption in the country include the high costs of internet-enabled devices, low levels of digital literacy, distrust and inadequate online privacy safeguards, and inadequate basic infrastructure such as electricity to power digital devices. A large share of small businesses in the country do not use digital technologies because they lack sufficient know-how, are not aware of the economic opportunities they can gain, and are cautious of becoming visible, which could result in higher tax exposure. Government personnel also struggle to deliver public services using existing e-government platforms, due to limited digital skills and a lack of familiarity with the systems. For efficient international and continental trade, strengthening ICT and network infrastructure ensures companies and consumers have more reliable, affordable internet access. Supporting the development of efficient, low-cost tools such as cross border digital payment systems means companies can trade more seamlessly and cheaply.
Digitalization reduces many of the barriers to entry for international trade that SMEs and startups in developing countries have historically faced. For example, better access to open-source tools and services like tax compliance software makes it easier to conduct international transactions. Using software enabled products and services on a subscription basis reduces costs. Supplying services digitally can also eliminate the expense of building a physical presence in foreign markets expands reach and access to opening to new market…. Tanzania has a young workforce, digitally knowledgeable consumers and a community of enterprising SMEs and startups are best positioned to grasp opportunities in digital trade.
Theme: DIGITALISATION AND DIGITAL TRADE IN TANZANIA
Main Objective: Enhance/promote digital trade and opportunities for SME’s and startups in Tanzania.
Specific objectives include:
- To showcase digital solutions, innovation of SME’s and startups in the country
- Enhance sales by connecting to a broader customer base within the country and beyond
- To enhance learnings, network with fellow entrepreneurs and take advantage of available opportunities
- To Strengthen development of digital business and e-commerce
- To network and explore available opportunities in the digital trade ecosystem