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ICT meet: Tanzania moving in right direction

TOWARDS the end of last month Tanzania’s Commission of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) brought together in Dar es Salaam local and foreign ICT professionals from the public and private sectors for serious debate on absorption and use of various technologies from the world over.

Foreign ICT professionals who joined their local counterparts came from as far as Ireland. Others came from Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Rwanda and Kenya. This was the second such forum in Tanzania’s history and excitement among ICT stakeholders was founded.

The host, the Acting Director General of the ICT Commission, Mr Samson Mwela said Tanzanians, more so Dar es Salaam residents had another occasion of witnessing a gathering of ICT professionals and practitioners discussing issues of common interests.

“Conference outcome will help to build a strong and competitive ICT industry in Tanzania that significantly contribute to socioeconomic development of our country,” he said in a pre-meeting statement and hoped participants will have ample time to share experience, exchange contacts and create collaborative links to promote ICT in Tanzania.

The Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Mr Isack Kamwelwe, concurred saying “through these conferences we create and strengthen our business network, learn from one another, evaluate successes and challenges, devise strategies, share experience, develop career path of young professionals and discuss topical issues of national interest.”

The minister explained that the meeting was a special platform that the government provided to promote the ICT profession and foster investment. “I assure all stakeholders that the government is committed to promoting ICT professionalism because of unprecedented benefits it offers for cultural and socioeconomic development.”

The three-day meeting, which opened on October 26, left no stone unturned as delegates discussed intricate issues ranging from smart city development all the way to artificial intelligence. They evaluated success and challenge, devised strategies and shared experience.

And experience was there to be shared because some foreign speakers laced topics with what they had experienced in their own countries. Well before the conference ended, delegates and observers agreed that Tanzania was slowly but firmly moving towards a sound ICT footing. It is moving in the right direction. There were reasons for this conclusion.

The first and cardinal reason was the existence of the ICT Commission. The commission fosters investment in ICT; it hosts and sustains ICT infrastructure and programmes; it advises and collaborates with stakeholders on research, setting standards and foresight in ICT.

Further, the commission is tasked to build capacity, certify, regulate and promote ICT professionals. The government’s resolve to promote ICT professionalism was emphasised and against that backdrop the minister announced that a draft document on a professional body that would discourage quacks and stop cybercrime was being worked on. Speakers discussed quite weighty and interesting issues.

 An overview of smart city development was given by Masoud M. Masoud. Crowd-sourcing on smart cities: Focussing on obstacle information for pedestrians was presented by Daniel Kayange; ICT driving Tanzania’s economic growth was presented by Marius Engelbrecht; Enhancing Credit and Risk Management in SACCOS and microfinance institutions was presented by Dennis Mwighusa.

Juma Lungo discussed the economic opportunities of open source software business while Raja Balasubramaniyan discussed challenges of ICT innovation: Entrepreneurship and Startups in Tanzania. Proposed cyber-security framework for Tanzania and National strategic direction on cybersecurity was presented by Stephen Wangwe.

Man in the middle of attacks was presented by Esther Mengi while Internet of things--- A paradigm shift of future internet applications was presented by Raymond Lugina. The use of artificial intelligence to support customer services was presented by Yesaya Athumani while Internet of Things for industrial development and automation was given by Tabu Kondo.

Machine learning for healthcare: Opportunities. Towards industry : challenges and opportunities for developing countries. Block-chain in Africa today was presented by Sandra Chogo but Demystifying Block-chain was discussed by Nkundwe Mwasaga and Anthony Kigombola presented The promise of Block-chain on bridging the digital divide in Southern Africa.

Machine Learning for Healthcare: Opportunities was presented by Ireneus Kagashe while Andrew Kissaka discussed the future of radio and television broadcasting.

John Ubena talked about Techniques for regulating ICT in Tanzania: Practices, constraints and prospects. Challenges with IT projects: Best practices for effective IT project management was discussed by Anael Ndossa. Responding to delegates’ concerns on capacity building, the government assured the meeting of its readiness to build capacity of ICT practitioners and promote the profession itself.

The Director of the ICT Sector in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication, Mr Mulembwa Munaku, said the government was training ICT practioners it employs but said the government does not have money to train all practitioners in the country. He appealed to stakeholders, including development partners, help in training practitioners.

This year’s conference theme was “towards ICTdriven economy” and Minister Kamwelwe quite early asked the conference to offer the government strategies that will help raise ICT sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product. He made the appeal probably because of the five thematic areas chosen to guide discussions in various facets of ICT.

The thematic areas were digital inclusion, blockchain technologies, local content, ICT innovation and entrepreneurship, security in ICT-enabled knowledge economies, towards the 4th industrial revolution and the future of radio and wireless communication. Block-chain alone, for example, had three presenters, showing the importance the government attached to such thematic areas. The conference, hopefully, has offered the government beautiful strategies.

One would hope that the government will, without jitters, set aside enough money for the ICT Commission to implements the strategies. For example, the commission needs consistent and serious support in getting a good investor to recycle electronic wastes. Tanzania lags behind in the area of recycling solid waste. May be that is why scrap metal is exported foreign foundries! But the stride made this far is significant.

And it is fair to say that Mr Mwela was right in saying that Tanzania was delighted to see new players participate in this year’s conference. Interesting events, he said, included showcase of new innovations in ICT, capacity building, demonstration of ICT products to visitors and the media. Let us walk the talk!

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Author: Correspondent PETER KEASI in Dar es Salaam

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