Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tanzanian government to lower costs for ICT services

TANZANIAN government is working on the ways to lower costs of its ICT services operating in the country so as to allow more people have an access to the services countrywide. Tanzania’s Director General of its National Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Professor John Mkoma, said recently that, the move follows the realization of the fact that many people who are within coverage areas of ICT s are still not served by the ICT s due to high costs of services. According to him, Tanzania has exponential growth in the use of ICTs especially in computers, radio. Television and more recently mobile phones with a Tele-density of over 33 percent, this is equivalent to 13 million SIM cards to approximately 40 million population of total Tanzanians. Internet use has increased to about 5 percent of the population, thus the challenges of the government is to ensure equitable access to ICTs to all areas. Following the proliferation of ICT tools in the country, this has a positive impact on the country’s economy. ICTs has facilitators of economic activities and also ICT as a sector by itself has been enjoying high growth.

Professor John Nkoma addressing a press conference in one of the past meetings in his office in Dar es Salaam.

According to the Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Professor Peter Msolla, Tanzania’s government will establish ways to ICT services that go hand in hand with children protection. Professor Msalla has urged stakeholders in the ICT industry in the country to take the challenge as soon as is practically possible, especially internet cafes where children frequent, sometimes unaccompanied by adults. According to him, the government would like the private sector to support initiatives which will compliment its efforts in making ICT more accessible to children but making sure they are protected against being pulled towards cyber crimes. In his message to mark the International ICT Day in May 2009, the Director General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Dr. Hamadoun .I. Toure noted that ICT stakeholders have to create a global network in order to protect children on line by enacting national legislation, strengthening capacity building , increasing public awareness and improving national cyber responsiveness.

Professor Peter Msolla delivering a speech in one of the International meetings abroad.

He stated that, the world can create a universally accessible information society where human dignity is respected and where everyone especially children can benefit from the opportunities accorded by ICTs to attain higher levels of development. ITU day was celebrated with this year’s event in the knowledge that stakeholders have set forth a strong momentum to make cyberspace a sage place for children where every child can harness the full potential of ICTs, and where every citizen on this planet can exercise the right to access, use, create and share information.

ICT education project amid rural connectivity challenges

LIKE most developing countries, the Tanzanian rural masses lacks satisfactory social services. For rural connectivity to make a difference in the community, it must be hinged on a social sector that touches on the lives and provide content that is relevant, cost effective and essential to the livelihood of the community. Education is one of the essential social services in rural Tanzania, which is deprived of quality infrastructure, human and financial resources. For instance many rural schools lack tap water, electricity and basic telephone connections. This impedes the teacher and student’s passion to utilize modern technologies necessary in teaching or for practical lessons. The modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are among the essential tools that most school administrations hesitate to acquire due to lack of electricity and telephone or high costs of connection. When the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training announced its projects to adopt ICT as a teaching tool and compulsory subject in all secondary schools, there was no comprehensive study done to verify its practicability despite its accessibility by stakeholders in the education sector. The decision came after a series of stakeholder workshops and the last one was held in January 2005 in which participants strategize on implementation modality. The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) has already provided some funds towards implementation of the ;project. A recent workshop on titled ”Rural Access Points and Connectivity which was hosted by Share With Other People Network (SWOPNET) and supported by International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) held in Dar es Salaam to deliberate on successes and challenges of rural connectivity in Tanzania. The workshop unveiled that practical implementation of the ICT education project in Tanzania is more complex than it was earlier anticipated due to rural connectivity challenges.

Sengerema Tele-Centre, the biggest in East and Central Africa. It is located in Sengerema district in Mwanza region. The centre was established by help of IICD since 2001 and has been providing ICT services to the people of lake zone region.

About half of the 2000 government-registered secondary schools in Tanzania are in rural areas with feeble communication infrastructure. There was a need for a paradigm shift in the provision of ICT services and especially so, connectivity in rural areas. ICT stakeholders who focuses on rural area need to develop connectivity models that are people centered and relevant to those communities. The government’s commitment to the establishment of rural Tele-centres is one of the ways and part of the government’s effort to help the rural poor and other underserved segments of the population to have access to ICT. By so doing the government aimed at empowering them to meaningfully participate in the current era of globalization and knowledge-based economy, in spite of the fact that, high costs of rural connectivity. This has become a synonymous challenge as costs of internet connectivity and bandwidth which has been an impediment to the progress of many ICT projects in rural areas in developing world. The best option to reduce cost burden is for users to share connection technologies whenever possible. A model if sharing connectivity from rural community centres is an option. As far as the Tanzanian ICT education is concerned, the project managers can pick a vivid practical experiences from normal operation of Tele-centers in rural areas of Tanzania. Rural Tele-centers of Sengerema in Mwanza, Dakawa in Morogoro, Ngara Lokole in Kagera, Kasulu in Kigoma and Lunga-Lugoba in Coast region as learning examples in Tanzania.

A SWOPnet trainer in a training session in Mwanza region. IICD has been sponsoring such training in collaboration of SWOPnet (Share With Other People Network), an organization based in Mwanza city in northern Tanzania. SWOPnet trainings helps to empower individual groups, civil organizations and government institutions in various aspects of ICT knowledge. (Photo by the courtesy of SWOPMET website)

Development partners kike the IICD have contributed in the establishment of these Tele-centers and that Tanzania is among 20 African countries set to gain from the community Tele-centre project of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Currently the Tanzania Telecommunication Company (TTCL) operates a national wide internet backbone covering 21 regional administrative headquarters of Tanzania mainland and some administrative district centers. TTCL is also rolling out CDMA technology and many other data operators are also extending their VSAT connectivity services and cost effective solutions to remote district. ICT project cannot be stalled due to feeble or total lack of cost effective rural connectivity in Tanzania.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A visit to Ruaha National Park, now the largest in Tanzania

I had never dreamt of visiting a national park in my life, because I thought it was too expensive and unaffordable for an ordinary man like me. Most Tanzanians also think that it’s time wasteful as well time consuming just to spend a fraction of their money to see wild animals in national parks. According to such thoughts by many, these parks were established for a certain minority groups of people such as the Europeans who are considered to be the most well off.

Tourists coming out of game warder’s both at the entrance to Ruaha national park after having registered themselves.

A sign post at the gate with instructions to visitors.

After paying the entrance fees, game warders at the gate opens the gate to allow visitors’ vehicles to enter the park zone that confronts the banks of the great Ruaha river.

Three thatched huts on which sometimes visitors rests while viewing the flow of water at the banks of great Ruaha river seen infront.

People must understand that they have the wrong notion in their mind and are totally mistaken for that. The entrance fees to national parks or to most tourist destination centres charged in the country is more cheaper than one could imagine. It’s actually more affordable to local citizens rather than foreigners who pays much higher in variation depending on a particular tourist site to be visited, but it’s about twenty times the actual amount paid in total compared to the rates charged for local citizens.


A sign post showing the fee structure at the entrance to Ruaha national park

Two sign posts at the gate to Ruaha national park with instructions showing the types of various animal species one can view at the park.

The only expenses one incurs while preparing for the tour of the national park is the hiring of the vehicle, there are special kind of cars which are allowed within the reserve park like those mostly owned by Tour & Safari companies whose bodies have been designed with open spaces on top. I was hired for one in my recent trip to Ruaha national park located about 128 kilometers away from Iringa town. Indeed I was so proud of my journey for it had a great significance and of course I have something to tell about what I saw though I took short time to round within the park searching for the animals who by that time were far away that the tour guide told me it was impossible to see all of them at such unlikely time of my arrival.

Ruaha national park is linked by a 70 meter long bridge built across great Ruaha river

The width of the great Ruaha river waters at this point is approximately 50 meters away.

Visiting a park is a pleasant phenomenon and indeed an exciting event, you can learn a lot about wildlife sanctuaries and the animal species that you might have not come across in your life. There are so many different animal species even geologists themselves takes more time doing research activities on them. I set out my feet aboard a special vehicle, a Land Rover make owned by the Tatanca Tours and Safaris Company based in Iringa town that afternoon of 9th April 2009. The time was late and too short for a round trip journey, imagine I returned back at 22:00hrs leave alone a two hour and a half drive for a single journey. It was drizzling at that time and later the weather cooled down, my heart gained confidence as the clouds disappeared in the atmosphere.


I traveled with the vehicle with the registration No: T947 AVG a property of Tatanca Tours & Safaris Company based in Iringa.

I thought my journey could have some implications on the way as I thought of the long distance I had to cover along the rough and corrugated road, but the driver who is experienced in tour guide, has worked in different tour companies for the last 20 years, gave me a hope and assured that we would go and return safely. Charles Masonda, (48) an expert driver narrated to me a bit of the geographical situation of the area and about the road he passed through, despite of the situation, the area is full of thick and darkened forests all the way and you could think there were no people living into the interior. All the way through we could hardly see vehicles on the way as most transporters shun their passenger vehicles to operate in the area because of its situation. Only few that could be seen. As he was driving, the driver kept me busy narrating stories to me on the most important things about the park and the wildlife in general.

Many transporters have shun the road going to Ruaha national park, an aspect that compels passengers to use sometimes pick ups or canters that serves as means of transport along the road

Masonda who holds a Diploma in tour guide operation has ever worked in three big tour companies based in Arusha which serves the northern tourist circuit in the country. He said some portion of the main road is sometimes impassable during rainy season, and I also witnessed myself as I passed along, quite large portion of the main road is full of potholes that I could sometimes feel the inconveniences while traveling. But I didn’t mind for I know this is how the situation of most roads especially in our rural areas looks like. But I came to .learn that, the government through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourist has really hard time indeed to effectively ensure safety by repairing these roads. Likewise, Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) needs to put some pressure on the government to take keen interest on the issue in a bid to ward off the prevailing situation which according to tourist experts it exists mostly in national parks located in southern circuit. Little is done to improve the situation, and this is a challenge to the government to ensure that it rectifies the situation so that tourists visiting the area should enjoy their journey.

A sign post by the side of the main road to Ruaha Rational park showing the site of Mkwawa Museum about 1 km.

For a couple of 10 minutes, we had reached Kalenga village which is 15 kilometers west of Iringa town along the road going to Ruaha National Park. The presence of a sign post with an arrow indicating Mkwawa Museum stationed slightly by the side of the road, was an indication of the theory which I read while I was schooling in primary school that of a famous historic village known of having fiercely local warriors who fought the German colonialists of the past in late 1890s. Kalenga village is an important place which has a significant historical background, not only to the nation but the history of the place has brought fame also to a very well-known ethnic group in Southern Highland region. Getting there during rainy seasons is a little bit difficult than what one could expect. The inhabitants of the area are mostly the Hehe ethnic group, the tribe’s historic nature has created superiority among the people and is still rests in everybody’s mind including historians of the past and present. This is too legend that is still being told up to today.

Another sign post also located along the main road to Ruaha national park showing the exact spot where a hero of the Hehe ethnic group, Chief Mkwawa was buried. It’s about 11 Km from there to a place known as Mlambalasi, it’s among the most tourist attractions of the southern highland region.

Many people regardless of their age have lots of information as regards the area for their mostly respected ancestral groups of elders originated from. Therefore the Museum shows various war equipment that the legend Hehe leader locally known as ‘Mtwa Mkwawa’ or Chief Mkwawa used in his protest against the German invasion, and more fascinating is his skull which has a bullet wound where he shot himself for fear of being humiliated by his adversaries before he could be captured and made a war prisoner by the German troops. About one and a half hours, we had reached to a certain area where there is a steep and then a slope downward, it’s at this point whereby my driver Mr. Masonda stopped and asked me to take a photo of the scenery whose background showed Ruaha national park with an airstrip closely built which is seen far to the distant horizon. The scenery is greenish with trees well maintained and preserved as game reserve area according to the law as stipulated by Tanzania National Park (TANAPA).

The scenery in the background shows Ruaha national park zone as it can be viewed while standing from this spot.

Whenever tourists roams within the park, they feel like walking in a cool and a pleasant area that is free of noise of any kind, there is no any mobile phone communication as there are no communication towers to transmit the phone calls. Only the presence of animals and the melodious sounds of different bird species could be seen dominating the surroundings. Or sometimes you could be terrified by a sudden groups of herbivorous animals who takes to their heels up in hot pursuit and comes to discover that, were escaping away from the sight of lioness from unknown direction. It’s like a drama that shows someone who takes to his heels to escape death. These are normal things happening within the park as you know lions are terrified animals. About the history and the geography of the Ruaha National Park is that the park is located in Southern highland region covering the southern tourist circuit, and it’s the largest park in the country covering an area of about 22,200 square Km.


The gateway to Ruaha National park is decorated with a unique specie of staffed animals. These are black and pale kudu.

The park was established way back in 1910 as part of Saba game reserve and was declared as a national park in 1964. Before its declaration, the area was inhabited by a small groups of the Wahehe people. The park is part of Ruaha Eco-system which also includes Rungwa-Kisigo game reserve to the north west. The eco-system protects a large part of the catchments for the great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers. Ruaha is interesting as it represents a transition zone where eastern and southern African species of Fauna and Flora overlap. Miombo woodland and its attendant fauna is common in central African but not found further north in Tanzania. The park is the most southerly protected area where Grants gazelle, lesser kudu and striped hyenas are found. A small portion (about 20 percent) of the park is along the Great Ruaha river in the rift valley comprising mainly woodland with many baobabs. This is the part mostly visited by tourists due to the good game viewing, its scenic attractions and the well developed road network. The majority of the park is formed by a plateau 100m higher to the north and west of the rift valley. Surface water is available year round in many parts of the park, especially in the west thus allowing animals to remain widely distributed. However the Great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers are important water sources.

Different pictures showing the confluence of the great Ruaha river forms the boundary to the eastern side of the national park. The river is a resource for wildlife as it provides water for drinking at the park. The conservation of the vegetation around is highly maintained by the Tanzania National Park in order to preserve the region in its natural creation.

To be able to see both greater and lesser kudu and roan and sable antelope in the same park is one of the special attractions of Ruaha national park. Visitors often see lions, leopards and cheetahs as well as wild dogs and smaller predators. Groups of elephants frequent many areas of the park, crocodiles and hippos are numerous in the Great Ruaha river. According to geologists, more than 400 species of birds have been recorded in Ruaha more than any other East African park. Its geographical location means that it is visited by both northern and southern migrants. Ruaha also has a great variety of resident species due to the diversity of habitats. The best time for keen birds watchers to visit is between January and April. About the weather at the park is that, the average rainfall at the park headquarters is about 500mm and usually comes between November and April. The coolest month is normally July with a daytime maximum of 30 degrees of Celsius dropping to 15 degrees of Celsius at night temperatures then rise until it rains in November or later. They can reach 40 degrees in the day and only fall to 25 degrees at night.


Small impalas feeding close to the staff camp in Ruaha national park.

Offices and staff camp at the park

This is a lodge at the park where visitors spends night on hiring basis.

These are newly built TANAPA staff quarters at Ruaha national park headquarter which are in their final touches

The road network is constantly being improved to all-weather standard to allow access to a greater proportion of the park. The tourism warden can provide well trained guides for visitors. The best time to visit the park for game viewing is during the dry season between May and November. The Ruaha river lodge is located on the Great Ruaha river ten kilometers upstream of the entrance gate. It has 28 bandas beautifully positioned along the river bank and around the Kopjes, most with en-suit facilities. There is Mwagusi Safari camp, eight kilometers north of the headquarters has eight well appointed en-suite tents, providing accommodation for up to 16 visitors. The park headquarters has two shops, one selling cold and sodas, the other basic commodities such as flour and sugar. Diesel and Petrol are usually available from the park’s headquarters. The park is protected by the force of about 100 game rangers distributed between Msembe headquarters and seven outlying posts. Anti-poaching patrols are regularly undertaken both by car and on foot, sometimes supported by aero plane.


The eco-system of the Ruaha National park with a natural vegetation, it was in the evening time when the photograph was taken and the animals were rarely seen around

Ruaha national park provides the great source of river Ruaha, and the Mzombe river forms the park’s northern boundary and also flows into Mtera dam. Mtera together with Kidatu dam further downstream were created in the late 1970s and early 1980s to provide electricity for Dar es Salaam and most of Tanzania. Below Kidatu, the great Ruaha then joins Rufiji river sand flows through the Selous game reserve and into the Indian Ocean 150 km south of Dar es Salaam city. In recent years, the great Ruaha river has stopped flowing towards the end of the dry season and is reduced to pools which teem with fish, crocodiles and hippos. The reduced fliw is of concern to everyone from conservationists to users of electricity throughout Tanzania and is currently under investigation by several cooperating agencies. With the onset of the rains, the river is transformed to a wide and a fast flowing body of water peaking in April.


38 species of fish have been identified in great Ruaha river. They traditionally provide an important part of the diet of people living along the river. Within the park, crocodiles have apparently increased in recent years and now some very large ones can be seen along the river bank. There are also many hippos that use the river by day and come to gaze at night on the surrounding grassland.

A famous baobab tree at Ruaha National park, the tree which has a hole in the middle of its trunk, is an attraction to most tourists visiting the park

Throughout the park, the presence of Baobabs and other trees can be seen almost everywhere. The Boabab trees with their scientific name “Adansonia Digitata” are many. These magnificent trees can may live for up to 3000 years and are remarkably resilient and most of the big ones have a lifespan of between 100 and 800 years old. In 1970s it was feared by some that baobabs would be eliminated from parts of the park by the activities of elephants who strip the bark to obtain food and moisture from the wood. However, perhaps because of the reduction in elephant numbers during the 1980s, and the freedom of dispersal of the remaining population, they have survived and area prominent feature of the landscape.