A woman on a computer course at a vocational training centre, Musoma, Tanzania. Educating people to use ICTs is crucial to development / Sven Torfinn - Panos pictures
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are increasingly important in achieving development goals and promoting citizen participation. Tanzania is one of a number of countries in the Southern African region that have sought to include ICTs in their national development plans. This policy brief summarises a report of the achievements and weaknesses of this approach in Tanzania, and considers the next steps that are needed to meet the information and communication needs of the coming generation.
ICTs are believed to contribute to improving development outcomes in two main ways:
- the production of ICT-based knowledge and products contributes directly to wealth creation
- the use of ICTs contributes indirectly to national development through its impact in social and economic sectors such as agriculture, health and education.
Individuals also benefit from the availability and use of ICTs in many ways – for example, by substituting phone calls for travel, which costs time and money, and by using information on prices, which ICTs can make available, to sell their own produce and to make purchases. In these various ways, ICTs can have a significant impact on a country’s ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
There are, however, also constraints on the potential impact of ICTs in many developing countries. These constraints include inadequate technical infrastructure, limited human skills to use available networks and services, the relatively high cost of communications equipment, and poor policy and regulatory environments. These factors reduce the scope for countries and communities to use ICTs for development (ICT4D), and may even increase exclusion and marginalisation.
The report looks at both the impact of ICTs in Tanzania, and the constraints that have limited their effect. It also makes recommendations for policy changes that may help to increase the positive impact of ICTs in the future.
Publisher: Panos London