Read time: 3 minutes

Access to tech dominates Mobile 360 conference

Access to tech dominates Mobile 360 conference

The strategic use of mobile technology to fast-track digital inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa has served as the starting point for discussions at the Mobile 360 Africa conference in Dar es Salaam this week.

Makame Mnyaa Mbarawa, Minister of Works, Transport & Communication in Tanzania kicked off proceedings by emphasising that private and public partnerships are required in order to achieve digital inclusion in the region.

"Mobile technology is playing a key role in driving digital, financial and social inclusion in many African countries by providing access to essential information and services. One of the key areas as the region moves to universal broadband is the harmonisation of government and private sector agendas with the common goal of encouraging digital inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. Greater digital inclusion will continue to drive economic and infrastructure development, increasing productivity and employment across the economy and will improve access to critical services such as education and healthcare."

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA called for the breakdown of barriers of adoption for digital inclusion to become a reality for every African. "There are four main barriers. The first is network coverage, because when you don't have coverage there is no means of accessing the internet. Number two is affordability which we can tackle by addressing key issues such as mobile specific taxation, which is really important. Number three is digital skills and awareness which is providing training to people so that they understand the benefits and opportunities of being online and having skills to use mobile content. Number four is to find that local relevant content."

Granryd noted that less than half of the population in Africa (46%) subscribes to mobile services, far below the global average of 63%.

Ian Ferrao, CEO of Vodacom Tanzania echoed the call for the Conference to find ways of making mobile connectivity more affordable, although he cautioned that this should be done without destroying the long term value of the telecommunications sector.

"It comes back to government working with regulators, working with operators and working with vendors. The focus will be on taxation relief and I call for government to look at taxation of the mobile industry and the short term benefits which are enhanced tax versus the long term implication which is reduced investment for the industry. Today in Tanzania we have the second highest taxation rates on telecommunications services across Africa and it is something that is going to have to change if we are going to improve on the return of capital which will allow us to invest heavily into rural connectivity."

Ferrao says a simpler and more stable tax environment is important to enable wider access to mobile services on the continent. "I hope that we can use the next few days to really agree on the challenges and craft clear action plans across all the various stakeholders."

Read more
Daily newsletter