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Mobile communications, OSS changing lives in Tanzania

Mobile communications, OSS changing lives in Tanzania.

Tanzania's rapid uptake of mobile phones and massive investment in rural network coverage is helping disaster and humanitarian organisations in the country speedily disseminate and collect information.

The Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority says in its report for the first quarter 2015 that there are about 33 million mobile subscribers in the African country. Operators such as Vodacom Tanzania are investing large amounts of money in expanding mobile network coverage, especially in the country's rural areas.

This is helping humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross Society carry out their activities speedily through utilisation of mobile platforms and open source software.

"Our young volunteers have really embraced this new approach. It's made the process of collecting data much easier and quicker than using paper and pen," said Kibari Ramadhan Tawakal, disaster management coordinator at Tanzania Red Cross Society.

The Tanzania Red Cross Society said on Monday that adoption of open source technology was helping it better understand and assist communities affected by disasters in the country.

Mobile phones are being used to carry out surveys and to disseminate information in regions like the Shinyanga province.

"Using the mobile phones is exciting for them, and helps increase their confidence when interviewing beneficiaries. It also enables us to collect more consistent data," added Tawakal.

The society has been using the Open Data Kit software to facilitate data collection using mobile devices. The data is then send to servers at the head office straight from the mobile phones.

Massive rollout of mobile network coverage in Tanzania's rural areas received a boost last week when Vodacom Tanzania's new managing director, Ian Ferrao, announced on Wednesday last week that it would invest as much as $100 million to expand its rural network coverage this year as well as revamp mobile money offerings.

Vodacom Tanzania has about 37% of the Tanzanian mobile network market share.

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