The Internet Is More of a Necessity Than a Luxury. Why Make It Expensive Then?

The current pricing policies of Tanzanian telecommunication companies are widening the digital divide instead of narrowing it.

The benefits of digital technologies are immense, ranging from higher incomes to improved quality of life and numerous political and cultural advantages compared to non-users. 

However, the digital divide remains a significant challenge, especially in developing countries with low access to ICTs due to high poverty rates. 

Godwin Myovella is an accomplished academic with a wealth of experience and knowledge in economics. 

In a recent paper titled ‘Determinants of digitalisation and digital divide in Sub-Saharan African economies: A spatial Durbin analysis’ that Myovella co-authored, the researchers argue: “In today’s world, digital technologies have become a necessity rather than a luxury.”

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A lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of Dodoma, Myovella, who was the paper’s lead investigator, is well-positioned to offer valuable insights into the field of economics, including international trade and digitalisation. 

In their paper, the researchers discuss how a digital divide caused by poor economic status can result in a poverty trap, making it difficult for people to access quality health services and engage in trade. 

The lack of access to digital technologies and any limitation to digital technology lead to social and economic exclusion, which affects the quality of life at the individual level and for society as a whole.

Myovella and his co-authors analyse how the digital economy has transformed value chains and competitive processes in almost all industries and markets. 

Digital platforms have replaced many traditional forms of intermediation, and those who lack access to digital technologies may be further disadvantaged.

Therefore, bridging the digital divide is crucial to ensure that everyone has access to digital technologies and can benefit from the advantages of the digital economy.

A global issue

The digital divide is a global issue affecting about half of the world’s population, with developing countries being the most affected. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only about 23.5 per cent of the population uses the internet compared to 80.6 per cent in Europe, Myovella and his co-authors point out in their paper.  

This divide impedes economic development and hinders access to critical services such as education and healthcare. The knowledge of the digital divide’s causes is essential for policymakers to implement strategies that bridge the divide.

In their paper, Myovella and his fellow researchers examined 41 Sub-Saharan countries. They captured differences in geography, demography, social, political, economic infrastructure, and spatial differences in ICT access and use, affecting ICT infrastructure’s demand and supply.

The study showed that policies to bridge the digital divide should focus on improving access to education, infrastructure, and regulatory quality. 

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Policies should promote ICT adoption among women and low-income earners and develop e-government services to improve public service delivery. 

The researchers also suggest that bridging the digital divide requires cooperation among countries to facilitate technology transfer, knowledge sharing, and capacity building.

Despite the advantages offered by telecommunication services, the current pricing policies of Tanzanian telecommunication companies are widening the digital divide instead of narrowing it. 

This mainly affects low-income earners, such as those in the agricultural sector and women, who pay a higher percentage of their average monthly income for these services.

The introduction of the mobile transactions levy by the government in the latter part of 2021 has led to an increase in the costs of financial services that were previously benefiting the poor and contributing to their financial inclusion, which had helped to lift them out of extreme poverty.

In today’s world, digital technologies, particularly the internet, play an increasingly crucial role in economic growth and human development. 

More of a necessity than a luxury

The internet has revolutionised how we communicate, work, and do business, becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. 

From facilitating online transactions to providing access to vast information, the internet has transformed many industries and markets, and its importance cannot be overstated. 

The government of Tanzania knows this potential and has incorporated it into the National Information Communication Technology Policy 2016 to enhance the exploitation of e-opportunities by making the internet accessible and affordable. 

READ MORE: Tanzania Wants Starlink to Set Up Physical Office in the Country to Receive Operational Approvals

We can excuse the delay in investments necessary to make the internet available in every corner of Tanzania, as it needs more time and financial resources. Still, regarding affordability, only political willingness is enough without financial resources.

The benefits of making the internet affordable to all cannot be ignored. 

Affordable internet access can catalyse economic growth and development by increasing access to information, promoting innovation, and creating new opportunities for entrepreneurship. 

In Tanzania, a lack of affordable internet access can hinder the potential for growth and development, particularly in rural areas where access is limited. 

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Small businesses and entrepreneurs may struggle to access online markets, connect with customers, and compete globally without affordable internet access.

Furthermore, the internet is crucial in promoting democracy and civic participation. It provides a platform for citizens to express their opinions and participate in political discourse.

The internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity for businesses and individuals. It provides immense economic growth and development potential, and those without access may face significant social and economic exclusion. 

Bridging the digital divide and promoting universal access to the internet must be a priority for all stakeholders to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable future.

Francis Nyonzo is an economist interested in social justice and digital rights. He is available at francisnyonzo@gmail.com. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo Initiative. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com for further clarification.

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