Leaving no one behind: Our journey towards inclusive connectivity and beyond

Friday February 23 2024

Device penetration and accessibility plays a big role in digital inclusion. Vodacom continues to drive smartphone affordability to enable more people to access data and digital services through strategic partnerships to identify opportunities to stimulate smartphones’ demand as well as assist on affordability. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Vodacom Tanzania

Tanzania has made remarkable strides to ensure uptake and use of digital technologies mainly to improve public administration, grow the economy and achieve shared prosperity for all. This has largely been driven by mobile network infrastructure propelled by the significant investments done to lay the foundations for digitalisation, including building the infrastructure and driving adoption.

The country’s digital transformation has positively impacted social, cultural and economic frameworks, through enhanced access to key services and improved productivity and efficiency across economic sectors. 

“We can no longer overlook the critical role the mobile industry plays in our economy. Such a direct and affordable channel before has never existed, and mobile phones are now held as critical enablers to eradicating poverty in all its forms and achieving the sustainable development agenda." Samia Suluhu, then vice president of Tanzania, said at the Global System for Mobile Communication Association (GSMA) Mobile 360 Africa Conference in Dar es Salaam on July 2017

Tanzania has steadily advanced its mobile broadband coverage by liberalising the telecommunications sector, enabling numerous service providers to operate in the country.

The results from their investments have been positive showing a 10 percent per annum increase in telecom subscription in the past 5 year, today with over 5 mobile network operators, the country boasts an increased mobile broadband coverage (now estimated at 81 percent of the population, up from 1 percent in 2006) TCRA Quarterly Reports 2023.

The country’s leading technology communication company, Vodacom stands as a beacon of inclusivity, dedicated to ensuring that no one is left behind. The company's commitment to inclusion is a driving force towards a more connected and equitable future.


At the heart of Vodacom's vision lies the belief that connectivity is a fundamental right, and in a continent where 60 percent of the population is offline, bridging the digital divide becomes a mission of paramount importance.


Mobile financial services have played a big role in deepening financial inclusion in Tanzania. Vodacom’s M-Koba has digitised saving and credit for vikoba’s across the country. PHOTO | COURTESY

“We believe that all people should reap the benefits of a connected digital society, nobody should be left behind which is why we are committed to bridging the digital divide through our various investments, connection, digital skills, and the development of innovative products and services in critical sectors. This includes mobile financial services, insurance, healthcare, agriculture as well as education and digital skills—the centerpieces of our inclusion for all purpose pillar," said Vodacom Tanzania Managing Director Philip Besimiire.

The recent pandemic highlighted the fact that access to the internet is not just a luxury; it's transformational, empowering individuals to contribute meaningfully to society.

Thanks to digital tools, online learning platforms and other edutech innovations, students were able to continue with schooling and thanks to digital tools businesses could still reach and serve their customers. This impact however was not felt across the populations.

According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) about one-third of the population is still not connected to the internet and unable to reap the benefits of being connected.

Recognising the barriers that hinder this transformative power, Vodacom is on a mission to address issues of awareness, digital skills, and smartphone affordability. By upgrading and expanding their networks, Vodacom aims to pave the way for a more inclusive society.

In a continent where rural connectivity poses unique challenges, Vodacom is pioneering new approaches. Collaborating with partners and leveraging a blend of technologies, the company is determined to overcome barriers and deliver universal coverage to Tanzania who would have otherwise remained unconnected.

“We have upgraded 100 2G sites to 3G and 4G, with an additional 190 new sites in the pipeline. Collaborating with Facebook, the company upgraded 138 rural sites to 3G and/or 4G, resulting in a marked improvement in customer experience, evident from a 16-point widening of the Net Promoter Score lead gap as of March 2023.

Notably, Vodacom achieved substantial growth, introducing 231 new 5G sites, 387 new 4G sites, and 225 new 3G sites, along with a 60 percent increase in 4G traffic.

With 66 percent broadband coverage and 93 percent of the population covered, Vodacom’s efforts extend to providing mobile coverage in challenging rural areas through innovative partnerships, including the development of a space-based mobile network in collaboration with Vodafone and AST SpaceMobile, aiming to reach 1.6 billion people in 49 countries,” said Besimiiire.

Sustainable affordability: Bridging the device gap

Vodacom recognises that internet access is not just about connectivity; it's also about access and usage. The question of devices that enable people to tap into the network and skills they need to profitably reap its benefits. The company has continued to address challenges that impede uptake of digital economy such as low smartphone penetration, digital literacy and cost of devices.

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Vodacom’s school connectivity program has provided access to free learning resources to learners across the country as well as digital skills to students and teachers resulting in a reported performance increase of 2.4 percent. PHOTO | COURTESY

Lowering the cost of smartphones is a key strategy to address the digital divide. Through subsidies, discounts, and financing options tailored to low-income communities, Vodacom aims to make smartphones more accessible.

Selling over 82,000 smart devices in the past financial year and achieving a smartphone penetration of 35.3 percent, Vodacom is making strides in bringing affordable technology to more hands.

Moreover, transforming pricing structures to reduce data costs and offering affordable personalized bundles demonstrates Vodacom's commitment to users, including youth and low-income households. The Just4You platform, offering over 100 personalised deals, is a testament to Vodacom's innovative approach to delivering affordable and tailored services.

Propelling equality: Beyond connectivity

Vodacom's commitment to inclusion extends beyond providing access; it encompasses a broader vision of societal equality. The company faces societal challenges head-on, addressing issues such as access to education, gender equality, financial inclusion, and poverty exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vodacom's initiatives in education are transformative, with programs like Connected Schools, Instant Network Schools and E-fahamu reaching marginalised communities. Over 185,000 learners benefit from digital learning content, showcasing a 3 percent increase in overall academic performance attributed to using e-Fahamu.

Financial inclusion is a key focus and Vodacom M-Pesa has been innovating in products and services that address the real needs of Tanzanians.

With products offering saving, insurance, overdraft and  microloans to  people who really need them for economic development. Products such as M-Koba saving platform in partnership with the Tanzania commercial Bank offering group savings solutions. With Tsh173.5 billion saved and Tsh148.5 billion withdrawn, M-Koba is making a significant impact on financial inclusion, particularly among women.

Vodacom recognises the gender gap in internet usage and is actively working to empower women through mobile technologies. Initiatives that enhance women's quality of life, improve health and well-being, and build education, skills, and entrepreneurship underscore Vodacom's commitment to gender equality.

On a more practical front, Vodacom is dedicated to supporting customers with special needs so they too can navigate the digital space and reap the benefits of being connected. With innovative solutions like shop agents communicating through sign language and a call center offering sign language via video calls, the company ensures that no one is left behind.

Workplace equality: The heart of inclusivity

Vodacom understands that true inclusivity begins within its own walls. As an integral part of its purpose, the company promotes workplace equality through diversity and inclusion by removing barriers, promoting gender equality, and ensuring accessibility in both physical and digital environments.

Vodacom values an inclusive, diverse, and gender-balanced culture that recognises differences and maintains ethnic diversity while providing accessibility for employees with disabilities.

Reaching its goal of 44 percent female representation in senior leadership, Vodacom celebrates diversity and maintains an ethnically diverse environment. Mandatory training for all employees on diversity and inclusion, harassment, and bullying, through programs like Doing What's Right, creates a workplace culture that fosters equality.

The company has recently introduced a Women's Network Forum, a platform run by a committee of employees under the guidance of the Human Resources Director, is a testament to Vodacom's commitment to gender equality. This forum serves as a space for female employees to participate, learn leadership skills, network, and contribute to their well-being.

Vodacom has been a catalyst for positive change, driving a future where everyone truly belongs and thrives in the digital era.