According to the deputy minister for Works, Transport and Communications, Atashasta Nditiye, efforts are now being made at state level to reach the remaining six per cent, “equivalent to four million people”, in the near future.
He was speaking at a seminar for members of the parliamentary committee on Infrastructure, organised by the government’s Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF).
Nditiye also noted that over 70 percent of the country's population are still unable to access internet services. There were 17.3 million people (34 percent) connected to internet services by 2015, he said.
The deputy minister said the government established the fund to take communications services to places where mobile phone companies are not ready to invest.
He said UCSAF is working to improve internet services in public schools, whereby it has so far managed to connect more than 250 schools countrywide.
The internet services in public schools will partly address the challenges related to teacher shortages as students will be doing their learning online, he pointed out.
Parliamentary committee chairman Moshi Kakoso noted that at least 500 wards have been provided with communication services through UCSAF.
Kakoso said the fund is currently working with the ministry dealing with health to establish an online system that will enable specialist doctors and radiologists from the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) to attend to patients in upcountry regions.
According to UCSAF chief executive officer Eng. Peter Ulanga, the plan is to bring communication services to at least 100 wards in various regions during this fiscal year.
About 500 teachers will also be trained in information and communication technology (ICT), and 700 computers distributed to public schools, Eng Ulanga said.
He explained that the poor communication services in some rural areas are due to unrealistic population statistics whereby the operational capacity of installed infrastructures does not match user numbers.
Committee member Charles Kitwanga, the Misungwi member of parliament (CCM), urged the fund to start commissioning its own researches to identify potential areas that still remain unreached by communication and internet services, instead of relying on data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
UCSAF was established to promote universal access to information and communication technology services in Tanzania.
It is also responsible for enabling accessibility and participation by communications operators in the provision of communication services with a view to promoting socio-economic development of the rural and urban population.
Mobile phone service operators in Tanzania include Airtel, Smart, Halotel, Tigo, Zantel, Vodacom, and the state-run Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL).