As in many other Sub-Saharan African countries, Tanzania is experiencing somewhat of a mobile revolution. Since 2012, the average selling prices of smartphones has halved, more Tanzanians than ever have a mobile phone and mobile wireless services are responsible for the majority of internet connections. From 2012 till 2017, the internet penetration has doubled but despite this rapid growth up to 45% - but that means at the same time that 55% of Tanzanians remain without internet access as the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) reports.
Amongst most popular online services are – not surprising – Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Youtube. This showed a snapshot survey commissioned by MCT and carried out by GeoPoll. It is even less surprising considering that Facebook’s services (which include Instagram) don’t use up data
Alternative online news sources are popular
Remarkable is, however, that - even before Twitter and Google - the news and whistleblower website Jamii Forum is mentioned as a go-to-source. Popular news websites are not run by, or identical with traditional media outlets – but are independent blogs. The online presences of traditional newspapers are for example not automatically also read by Tanzanians. The world wide web rather seems to be a playground for alternative voices and viewpoints.
This leaves an even bitterer taste considering the government reacts lately sensitive when it comes to bloggers and community forums. They have to register and pay the fees that come with such a registration, which is often not feasible for those independent individuals and has led to the (temporary as well as in cases final) shut downs of news outlets.
“How often do you get news from the Internet?”
While the internet may be speeding up news delivery dramatically in many parts of the world, this is not yet a format that has a broad reach in Tanzania. This question asked by the African Media Barometer 2017 revealed that the internet as a news source is still not as valued as other types of media. Only 17 percent of surveyed Tanzanians use the internet at least once a month, only 8 percent daily. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are used just as much as information source.
Low audience concentration online
The data from GeoPoll and also alexa suggests that there is no audience concentration – the independent websites that were included in the media selection belong to divers owners that only run this particular website. To mention are amongst others Maxence Melo (Jamii Forum), Millard Ayo (Millardayo Blog), Issa hMichuzi (Michuzi Blog). They are not remarkably involved on other (media) businesses except their blogs.
Ipsos (2012). Tanzania Media Fund – Baseline Community and Decision Maker Media Perception Survey.
Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (2018). Quaterly Communications Statistics.