Science and Technology minister Prof. Makame Mbarawa

This was said on Saturday by the Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, Prof. Makame Mbarawa, at a meeting in Dar es Salaam on the International Broadband Fibre connectivity between Tanzania and Malawi.

The minister said that the communication improvement was prompted by the fast changing technology in the global ICT industry.
He cited the rapid changes in the mobile telephone technology as one of the biggest growths in the ICT industry. “With a limited ICT backbone infrastructure, mobile telephony has always been a technology of choice to both users and network operators.”

He added that it has resulted in an increase of mobile phone users from less than 100,000 in the late 1990s to about 20 million in December 2010, which translates to around 50 per cent teledensity. This contributed about 25 per cent to the national GDP in 2009/2010 financial year.  The minister was elaborating on the success to Malawi’s Minister for Information and Civil Education, Mrs Patricia Kaliati.

The Malawi delegation envisages a link to international connectivity mainly to submarine cables. Minister Mbarawa said the government took a bold step to connect all its regions and districts so that they can have access to the 10,000-kilometre long national and regional broadband infrastructure.

“This technology is not only resilient to bad weathers, including rain, but it possesses better characteristics such as high bandwidth capacity, compactness, low transmission losses, high signal security, immunity to interference and system reliability. “It is also easy to maintain. These are among the most important qualities. The technology is also more efficient and reliable for communication over satellite-base communication,” the minister said.

He added that the project’s financial resources for the initial two phases  come from three main sources — 30 billion shillings from the government’s  development budget;  170 million US dollars being a concessional loan from the government of China and 100 million dollars generated from the project’s operations.

“The government, through its ministry is encouraging partnership and collaboration with operators from Malawi, similar to Regional Communications Infrastructure project in Malawi (RCIP-Malawi). “Tanzania is also implementing a 100 million dollar project to deliver connectivity to local and central government departments such as e-government network,” he pointed out.

Impressed by Tanzania’s success, Minister Patricia Kaliati said that the main objective of their visit is to learn from Tanzanian experts since they hope to adapt the new technology. “Malawi uses satellite communication, which is very expensive. But this will change when we start using the fibre broadband,” she said.

The National ICT Broadband Backbone Project (NICTBB) is already connected to two major submarine cables of SEACOM and EASSy, extending the connectivity to the neighbouring countries.  The virtual landing station of the submarine cables through the NICTBB have been established at the respective cross-border points of Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Kenya.

By HASINA MJINGO, Tanzania Daily News

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