In Tanzania, Community Network Cooperative Society Brings Affordable Connectivity

Mozilla

By Mozilla | Feb. 3, 2021 | Fellowships & Awards

Reflections on Jabhera Matogoro’s Mozilla Fellowship


In Tanzania, internet access is never a given. And in the country’s rural regions, it’s exceedingly rare — about 86% of rural residents lack internet access, according to Research ICT Africa. That same research also revealed that far fewer women have access than men in Tanzania.

Against this backdrop, Jabhera Matogoro began his Mozilla Fellowship about one year ago with an ambitious goal: Lay the groundwork to bring 20 million more Tanzanians online. That’s about half the country.

Now, just over a year later, Matogoro has made steady progress. Alongside the Internet Society (ISOC), he has established five robust community network cooperative societies in the Tanzanian towns of Kondoa, Kasulu, Nyasa, Tarime, and Mpimbwe. The networks cleverly leverage existing infrastructure — television white space — to bring internet connectivity.

The Kasulu Community Network Cooperative Society Ltd
The Kasulu Community Network Cooperative Society Ltd

In the months and years ahead, these networks have the ability to scale up and connect thousands — and eventually millions — more Tanzanians. “It’s a framework to create profitable and sustainable community network initiatives across Tanzania,” Matogoro explains.

The ability to scale stems from Matogoro’s training model: giving community members the necessary skills to run the network themselves. Over the course of his fellowship, 186 people were trained. “Capacity building for technical and non-technical skills plays a critical role in achieving sustainability for community networks,” Matogoro says.

Sim Card-based Router installation at one of the community network cooperative society in Tanzania
Sim Card-based Router installation at one of the community network cooperative society in Tanzania

In addition to the five community networks, Matogoro participated in drafting the potential television white space regulation and submitted it to Tanzania’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology for further action. He also played a critical role in establishing a multi-stakeholder team to drive this work forward, housed within the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and the President's Office Regional Administration and Local Government.

“This team will map connectivity demand for schools, health facilities, and villages, and build ICT capacity for skilled workforces in both the education and health sectors,” Matogoro explains.

Matogoro’s work will continue under the banner of tzCNA, or Tanzania Community Networks Alliance, a nonprofit organization registered to operate in Tanzania Mainland. “It’s crucial to close the digital divide in Tanzania so that many citizens can participate in the digital economy,” Matogoro says. “And it’s clear that community network cooperative societies are the best approach to connect the unconnected population in rural Tanzania.”