|Information Technology in Selected Countries (UNU, 1994, 148 pages)|
|4: Development of information technology in Tanzania|
There is no informatics policy in Tanzania. As discussed earlier in this report, recommendations to formulate such a policy were made in 1974 by a consulting team from the National Institute of Productivity (NIP) in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) of the United Nations. NIP had been commissioned by the government to look into the future of computers in Tanzania after the disaster that hit computer projects at the State Trading Corporation and the Treasury. A second recommendation of the NIP/ILO team was that there should be a computer training programme in the country. Neither of these suggestions was adopted. The government was even contemplating making some of the public institutions with leased computers cancel the contracts and return the computers to the suppliers. Following advice from another team drawn from the government, this was not done, but the government banned the importation of any computer equipment into mainland Tanzania.
To soften the ban, it was later announced that computers could still be imported by the Minister for Finance. An ad hoc Computer Advisory Committee was formed after the ban to scrutinize all applications for computer importation and to advise the minister accordingly. An applicant was supposed to seek approval, but for all practical purposes the ban was very effective until the early 1980s.
The ad hoc Computer Advisory Committee has not been dissolved but it is no longer effective. It does not meet regularly as it is supposed to do, and computers are entering the country at an exponential rate.
Towards a National Informatics Policy
In 1985 the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs announced the formulation of the National Science and Technology Policy for Tanzania and the establishment of the Tanzania National Commission for Science and Technology. These steps are important as far as informatics in Tanzania is concerned, although this area was not specifically highlighted in the document. Informatics can still conveniently find its place in the policy and, given the tempo that Informatics has already gained in the country, it seems that its place is well assured.
In August 1987 an international seminar on the contribution of informatics to economic development was organized by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Planning in cooperation with the University of Dar es Salaam, the Intergovernmental Bureau for Informatics, and the UNESCO Regional Office for Science and Technology in Africa. This seminar was attended by top government officials in Tanzania (Principal Secretaries) and the heads of all large parastatal organizations. One of the recommendations that came through clearly from this seminar was the need to have a comprehensive Informatics policy.
As a follow-up to the conference, in December 1987 the Minister for Finance, Economic Affairs and Planning announced the formation of a Task Force for Informatics Development. The team consists of eight members drawn from the following organizations:
- the Planning Division of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Planning,
- the University of Dar es Salaam,
- the Ministry of Communication,
- the Ministry of Works,
- the Ministry of Agriculture,
- the Ministry of Education.
The task force is supposed to recommend to government those actions that are needed to ensure progress in Informatics development in Tanzania.