- Posted March 11, 2014 by
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
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Charting the future course for ICT and innovation in Tanzania
What is in your portfolio as the Permanent Secretary of Communication, Science, and Technology of Tanzania?
MAKUNGU: As Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communication, Science, and Technology, my work is actually to get the Ministry of Communications, Science, and Technology to do the mandates given by the President of the country, which is actually to oversee and make sure that communication, science, and technology are contributing significantly to the economic and social development of Tanzania. So it is very broad, the administrative part of it, the acts, the policies.
What new initiatives are you currently involved in?
MAKUNGU: On the science and technology side, at the moment, we are actually trying to look to do a reform of the total science, technology, and innovation environment, particularly to emphasize on the innovation part of it. We think that science and technology has not contributed much to the development of the country, particularly because innovation was not given appropriate attention.
How would you describe Tanzania’s ICT Infrastructure?
MAKUNGU: We were fortunate to put in place a very strong regulatory government and through the Tanzania Regulatory Authority to put the proper acts and whatever, which gave us a leeway in many fronts. One of the fronts has been to put in an ICT fiber optic network, which we are very proud of because we have already reached more people than other regions. But we have also reached the points where we can connect with our neighbors and we are fortunate to have many of them. This was built by the government, although it is run by an operator, but we find that it is integral, it is one unit, and it can serve the sector very well. We find this is very unique; I believe that not many countries have such a consolidated fiber network.
In what ways is Tanzania working together with its neighbors on ICT integration and collaboration?
MAKUNGU: Well we are also very fortunate on that front. First of all, through the regional blocks, there is a set of initiatives that are working towards seeing that the region is connected. There is the East African community, where one of the big projects is actually to deal with the infrastructure, apart from transport, railway and whatever other types of communication infrastructure.
One of the activities actually is to see that we are linked through the network. The same thing has happened with the southern part of our neighbors who are not a part of the East African community where a similar initiative is ongoing. And so this gives us a push of a regional nature, but bilaterally each country is connected with the other countries for commercial interests, and that front is also working very well with us and for that reason we have already connected with a number of our neighbors.
What would you like to see accomplished while you hold this office?
MAKUNGU: What I would really like to have accomplished is to see that Tanzania is well developed in terms of achieving the Tanzania Development Vision 2025, which is actually envisioning us to be a country where information, knowledge, science, and technology are playing a very strong part in the economic development of our country. In that end, I would really want to see that the ICT infrastructure which we are building is operational in the sense that it is actually one of the tools or the instruments which is used in the various economic activities including for example, leveraging some of the mostly advantageous positions that we have.
What are the biggest challenges facing ICT in Tanzania?
MAKUNGU: The biggest challenge is actually the fact that the technology that we want to use is advancing very fast. Also, we have a very large population which is very youthful but which again, is not very well skilled or has no capacity to make best use of the opportunities which are emerging. So the challenge is to bring the youth who are a very powerful resource if you want them to be, but who need to be prepared so that they can actually use and be used to produce the value that we would really like to take advantage of. So that's a very big challenge.