Surge in Kiswahili Content Drives Internet User Growth in Tanzania Amid VPN Controversy

Tanzania Flag on Keyboard

In a remarkable digital evolution, Tanzania has witnessed a substantial 45 percent surge in internet subscriptions over the past five years, a growth spurt attributed largely to the proliferation of online content in Kiswahili, the country’s native language. Data from the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) reveals a consistent upward trajectory in internet usage, with subscriptions climbing from 23.81 million in 2018 to a notable 34.47 million as of September 2023.

A closer examination of the statistical trends published by the TCRA indicates an average annual growth rate of 7.8 percent in internet subscriptions. Notably, between July and September of this year, fixed wireless internet subscriptions experienced a dramatic increase of 287.8 percent, soaring from 7,496 to 21,574. Mobile internet subscriptions saw a modest rise of 1.3 percent in the same quarter, reaching 34.39 million from a previous 33.96 million.

However, this news arrives amid a backdrop of contention as TCRA faces public criticism over recent restrictive measures on the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). In a contentious move, the regulator mandated last month that individuals and businesses requiring VPNs for their operations must register their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the details of their VPN providers with TCRA. The directive, which set a compliance deadline of October 30, was met with the threat of legal action by various stakeholders and public disapproval leveraged by at least one opposition party, ACT Wazalendo.

Despite these regulatory storms, the Director General of TCRA, Jabir Bakari, has emphasized the significant role of Kiswahili digital content in bolstering the nation’s internet user base. The increase in blogs, websites, and social media interactions in the local language has been identified as a key driver for this internet usage upswing, signifying a cultural resonance in Tanzania’s digital landscape.

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