In countries like Tanzania, the internet is often seen as something accessible only by a small elite – those who are already relatively wealthy. A few years ago that was probably true. But access to the internet has been growing rapidly in the last few years – largely the result of people accessing the internet through their phones.
The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority recently published data on internet access in Tanzania, up to the end of 2014. I’ve had a quick look through the numbers. So let’s see how internet access has grown over the past few years.
The chart shows the estimated number of internet users, not the number of connections. So where is says 3.4 million people had access through organisations or institutions in 2014, for example, that means 3.4 million people, not 3.4 million organisations.
The trend is clear – there’s a rapid growth in the number of people accessing the internet through individual or household connections. This line has seen a sharp upward trend since around 2010/2011.
Around the same time, the number of users accessing the internet through individual or household connections overtook the number of users accessing at work. And by the end of 2014, according to this data, there were twice as many users with individual / household connections compared to those accessing at work.
TRCA unfortunately don’t give the breakdown between mobile and fixed line connections, but it is safe to assume that the majority of these new internet users are using mobile phones.
It’s not possible to simply add up these figures to calculate a precise total number of people who are accessing the internet in Tanzania, as many of those who have office-based access will be the same people who access the internet through their phones. But the data suggests there are somewhere around 8-10 million internet users in Tanzania. That would be close to 20% of everyone in Tanzania. It’s still a long way from being a majority, but that’s a very substantial proportion of the population.
And finally, as further demonstration of the internet’s growing significance in Tanzania, the Jamii Forums facebook page recently passed 1m likes.