World Bank awards US$350m grant to Tanzania and Uganda for quality broadband internet services

EAST AFRICA – The World Bank has approved grants totalling US$350 million to the East African countries of Tanzania and Uganda to expand access to high-speed and affordable internet, improve efficiency of digitally enabled public service delivery, and strengthen digital inclusion.

Tanzania will get US$150 million as part of its Digital Tanzania Project (DTP), one of three national projects for which the international financial institution has released a total of US$850 million.

The money received for the DTP will be used to increase access to quality broadband internet services for government, businesses, and citizens, and to improve the government’s capacity to deliver digital public services.

The bank has also approved US$200 million financing to expand access to high-speed and affordable internet, improve efficiency of digitally enabled public service delivery, and strengthen digital inclusion in Uganda.

The new Uganda Digital Acceleration Project-GovNet (UDAP-GovNet) will support the extension of 1,000km of the national backbone fibre infrastructure, an additional 500km of fibre optic network links between towns, mobile broadband connections for 900 government administrative units and service centres in underserved areas, and 828 Wi-Fi hotspots in select locations to support access to online.

Tony Thompson, World Bank country manager for Uganda, said: “Transforming Uganda’s digital infrastructure is an urgent necessity for post-Covid-19 recovery. We look forward to the time when all citizens can access high-quality and low-cost internet, public services online, a digital economy driving growth, innovation and job creation.”

Across the border in Tanzania, the World Bank said the three components of the DTP will need to be in place for the whole project to succeed.

“The project will also identify and develop digital solutions that are inclusive for people with low digital skills and literacy levels, to encourage their full participation in the digital economy”

Raman Krishnan – World Bank Task Team Leader

 These include strengthening the digital ecosystem through laws, policies, and regulations that promote investment in ICT infrastructure, market competitiveness, digital engagement, job creation, and innovation.

The second is ensuring access to affordable, high-quality internet services for all, including in rural areas, and lastly, developing public digital platforms and services so that the government can provide services to citizens and conduct its own business digitally.

Upon completion of the DTP, the World Bank hopes that more than 75% of the Tanzanian population will have access to a mobile broadband network signal.

Some 425 public-sector organisations will also be connected to broadband, and the number of monthly online connections for public service should increase from 200,000 to at least 500,000.

In Uganda, US$140 million will come from the World Bank’s International Development Association, with a US$60 million grant from the bank itself.

The project will help develop shared platforms for ministries, departments, and agencies to efficiently deliver digitally enabled public services to citizens and businesses throughout the country.

“The project will be intentional about gathering beneficiary feedback about priority e-services,” said Raman Krishnan, World Bank task team leader.

“It will also identify and develop digital solutions that are inclusive for people with low digital skills and literacy levels, to encourage their full participation in the digital economy,” he added.

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