By Kevin Mwanza |
Tanzania’s capital city Dar es Salaam will become the fourth city in east Africa to launch a free internet zone service that will help increase innovation among the country’s youth and improve public service delivery.
Dar es Salaam will join other cities in the region like Kigali in Rwanda, Kisumu and Nakuru in Kenya that have all launched a free internet service this year. This trend underscore the growing role of internet connectivity to east African economies.
Several tech startups in the region are hosted in small open-plan spaces such as iHub and mLab in Nairobi, KinuHub and TanzICT in Dar es Salaam, and Outbox and Hivacolab in Kampala. But with these increased free networking opportunities, more techpreneurs are expected to come on board. In Tanzania, the focus of the free connectivity has mainly been placed on hospitals starting with Muhimbili National Hospital, one of the busiest places in the city, accommodating a big number of people every day.
Tanzania’s Minister of Communication, Science and Tecnology, Makame Mbarawa, said the technology would ensure that innovations take centers stage in public service delivery, whereupon WiFi can potentially transform the city into a health and medical hub for the sub-Saharan region.
Mbarawa however added the initiative will not stop there but will also be rolled out to other hospitals, big shopping malls in the city in an effort to ensure that people access free internet services.
“The government has realized that there is serious need of free internet in most of these places and will ensure that the goal is achieved,” IPPMedia quoted the minister saying.
Mbarawa noted that after realizing the importance of the service, he convened mobile phone operators in the country and sold the idea to them. The company entrusted with launching the service roll out would not be named until the government was ready to start the service.
The minster noted that he was optimistic that other service providers would follow suit as the government plans to provide the same service to other major urban areas like Arusha, Mwanza and Mbeya.
Kigali became the first city in East Africa to launch free wireless internet in specific areas of the capital last week under the “Smart Kigali” initiative, joining the ranks of “digital cities” such as Toronto, Houston, Buenos Aires, Bangkok and Taipei.
Reports show that in the past five years, Rwanda has registered one of the highest Internet user growth rates in Africa with 8,900 per cent compared with the continent’s growth rate of 2,450 per cent and the world average rate of 444 per cent. Rwanda now has an Internet penetration of around 800,000 users and is targeting five million users by 2016.