The third phase of the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) construction will start soon and will connect all the districts in the country, the Deputy Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Mr January Makamba has said.
Mr Makamba told the National Assembly here that the job will cost 403 million US dollars. The money is a loan from the government of China. "We signed a 403 million dollar loan when the President of China toured Tanzania two months ago. We will spend the money on construction of the National ICT Broadband Backbone. We will thus be able to connect the whole country including all district councils," he said.
Mr Makamba was responding to a supplementary question floated in the National Assembly by Ms Mhonga Ruhwanya (Special Seats - Chadema), who wanted to know when the broadband would connect the whole country and seal the communication gap. Ms Ruhwanya also wanted to know when the government would consider connecting Zanzibar with the broadband.
She also wanted to know how far the government has gone in connecting schools with the internet. Mr Makamba noted that the third phase will also connect Zanzibar through electronic cable that will be installed by Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (Tanesco).
"We have also started connecting schools to the internet under a project known as TZ 21st. Mtwara primary schools have already been connected and we are continuing with other regions," he said. In her basic question, Ms Ruhwanya wanted to know how much progress has been made in improving internet services in the country and whether the ICT backbone has really increased communication speed.
She also wanted to know to what extent the ICT backbone has led to reduce phone communication expenses and how far the government has ensured the connectivity of all its organisations to the broadband. Mr Makamba noted that airtime expenses have been declining gradually due to competition among cell phone companies and the use of ICT backbone.
"Mobile phone expenses have gone down from 147/- per minute in 2009 to 62/- this year. This registers a 57 per cent decline," he said. He noted that to date 23 government firms and 24 regional headquarters have connected to the ICT Backbone. "The government continues to call for more companies to join in. We are also installing teleconferencing facilities in various government offices," he said.