What are your ICT policy priorities?
MBARAWA: Currently, my main policy priority in the Republic of Tanzania is to review the ICT policy of 2003 because since 2003 up to today, there are a number of things that have changed, from content to the point of view of infrastructure. Also, there are big issues like security. So we need to change this policy in order to accommodate all these new changes.
To what extent does ICT contribute to Tanzanian GDP?
MBARAWA: Currently, ICT contribution to Tanzania's GDP is around 2.1% to 2.3%. However, we are not happy with that contribution. We are planning in 2014, at least to approach about 3.2% of the GDP.
What new initiatives is the Ministry of Communication, Science, and Technology of Tanzania currently involved in?
MBARAWA: First of all, the government has invested a lot to build the national ICT backbone infrastructure. The government has spent around $200m to build around 7,560km of the national ICT backbone. All our regions have been connected by this national ICT backbone. So if we're going to use this infrastructure, I'm sure we should be able to achieve GDP contribution without problem, especially on the side of data. Remember now, the telecommunications have changed. A lot of people concentrate more on the data side and if we invest in the backbone, I'm sure we should be able, without any question, to achieve these 3.4% or 3.5% of GDP by 2014 without any problem.
What are the main components of Tanzania’s national ICT plan?
MBARAWA: The national ICT backbone has been divided into five components. The objective of the first and second components was to first connect the country internationally, and then the second component was to connect all regions of our country. Now we are going to another project or another part, part three of the project, which is to build another center and also to build IP and the transmission equipment on the national ICT backbone. Phase four or component four, which basically will be to build a metro network, and so far we have finished with Dar es Salaam. We're going to Mwanza, Arusha, Dodoma, and Mbeya. The last part of phase five, basically will be to connect our district, and last mile of connectivity, because without last mile connectivity, you can invest everything but you can't have the application, and application is quite important. So in order to achieve application, you need to have last mile connectivity.
Where do you see investment opportunity in Tanzania’s ICT sector?
MBARAWA: The first thing, which we want to see especially in investment, is that we first need content. We have developed everything but without proper content you can't go anywhere, and this is our weakest point. So we need to develop the content and there is a huge investment opportunity in content.
We have developed everything but without proper content you can't go anywhere, and this is our weakest point. So we need to develop the content and there is a huge investment opportunity in content.
The second area, which is very interesting, is smart cities. This is also very, very interesting and there's a huge potential in the country. Also another area, which is very interesting, is the special area of incubators and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). You know the BPOs were in India and now the people have moved to Africa. They are doing this in Egypt and they can move into Tanzania and other parts of Africa. So we have got opportunity now, especially with the investment in the national ICT backbone. There are many investment opportunities in Tanzania.
What are Tanzania’s competitive advantages as an ICT investment destination?
MBARAWA: First, you definitely need infrastructure and secondly you need a policy. We have got a good policy. Third, you need to have the proper climate. I think a lot of people talk about Tanzania, especially because it's calm and in peace. This is a peaceful country. If you're going to invest in Tanzania, everything is safe, and you are yourself safe. It is the best place to do investment. Another thing, which we try to do in order to attract investment, is skill development, because you can have everything, but without proper skill development you can't do anything. Skill is quite important in an investment.
What are the main challenges facing Tanzania’s ICT sector?
MBARAWA: Today in Tanzania we have around 27 million subscribers. After my term finishes in 2015, I want at least 39 million people, especially those people from rural areas, because the big challenge is the rural areas. The potential of the ICT sector in Tanzania will rely on rural areas. So that is my objective. I want to put that in place and we have got a plan and we've got an agenda for that. I'm sure we're going to achieve that without any problem.
What is your outlook for Tanzania’s ICT sector? Which indicators are showing the most positive trends and which remain challenges?
MBARAWA: Most indicators are doing well, such as infrastructure. Some areas where I think we need to do more are staff development and skill development. In those, we need to do more. But the climate for investment is also doing very well, so basically the main indicator of infrastructure is okay. Also environment, because it is a conducive environment for business, so we are doing very well. We need to put more work in staff development and skill development. Over all, policy and framework wise, I think we are doing very well.