Sengerema district is 1 of 7 districts in the Mwanza region with a population of 663 000. The main economic activities in the district are agriculture, livestock keeping, timber work, fishing, mining, business, and small-scale industry. The main cash crops are cotton, bananas, maize, rice, cassava, and paddy (Mbangala & Samzugi, 2014).
The STC is the result of UNESCO’s CMC projects for Africa (introduced above). The overall objective is to make ICT accessible at affordable rates to rural communities, farmers, livestock keepers, fishermen, entrepreneurs, disadvantaged groups, and institutions. The STC was initiated to become a model for the government of Tanzania and international ICT practitioners to learn and replicate such facilities in other rural settings. It was established through collaboration between international partners, including UNESCO, ITU and IDRC-CANADA, ICT practitioners in Tanzania led by COSTECH, and local partners comprised of Sengerema District Council, Sengerema Secondary School, Sengerema Folk Development College and individuals (Ncheye, 2010).
The STC offers a wide variety of IT-related services with many community development aspects, such as a computer centre where staff are instructed to help customers operate the computers and search for relevant information and services. They run their own library and community radio station, and ISP services to the local and district government and various organisations such as NGOs. They also offer a variety of IT consultancy and secretarial services, including desktop publishing and Web design, and they have a conference room with video conferencing equipment for rent. The ISP services are their main source of income, together with the computer centre. Only 5 people have fixed positions out of 18 employees. In addition to relying on volunteers and paid staff, the centre also gets assistance from local NGOs, such as women who belong to the Sengerema Women Information and Communication Group, to create awareness and promote the telecentre.
From the supply side, we note that radio, an old and widespread technology, still is the most important information disseminator in rural Africa and that integrated solutions, based on the interaction between Internet and ICT, mobile phones, and radio are becoming increasingly important for bridging the digital divide. Simple systems based on robust technology that work in harsh conditions succeed. In our eagerness to promote new technology, the ICT community has had a tendency to forget or disregard the radio as a major information disseminator. Mr Ncheye, the manager of STC, reminded us of this, and he claimed that the radio addresses one of the biggest hindrances to information delivery to most of the rural areas in developing countries. In Tanzania, radio is the most available technology in rural areas, where more than 90% of families have at least one radio at home. For STC, Radio Sengerema has been vital for information dissemination, as well as in creating awareness of the availability of the Sengerema Telecentre in the district.