The Role of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in Leveraging ICT in Tanzania

The Role of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in Leveraging ICT in Tanzania

Veronica Mironge (Institute of Finance Management, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) and Dennis M. Lupiana (Institute of Finance Management, Tanzania)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTRAME.2016070101

Abstract

Information Communication Technology (ICT) plays a significant role on enhancing service delivery and provision. To fully benefit from ICT, however, access to a reliable Internet connection is required. In Tanzania, like in many other countries, Internet connections are provided by Telecom companies where customers and providers enter in some sort of an agreement. This agreement is called Service Level Agreement (SLA). SLA specifies obligations of service providers and customers and hence it is a tool to ensure customers get value-for-money and hence they receive quality and reliable services. Thus, poor written or poor implementation of SLAs can have a potential impact on the use of ICT and subsequently to socio-economic developments. This article presents findings from a study conducted to assess the effectiveness of SLAs in Telecom industry in Tanzania. The study discusses findings from the study focusing on determining the roles SLAs plays on nurturing effort to take advantage of ICT in Tanzania.
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1. Introduction

The Government of Tanzania (GoT) has long recognized the importance of ICT in improving delivery of its services. This is evident in the GoT’s commitment to spend at least 1% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research in Science and Technology. This is also reflected in the Development Vision 2025 (Planning Commission, 2000) and the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP 1 (MoF, 2005) and 2 (MoF, 2010); popularly known as MKUKUTA 1 and 2 in Kiswahili) where ICT is identified as an enabler for accelerating productivity. In 2003 GoT developed the National ICT Policy (MWTC, 2003) which was recently reviewed (MWTC, 2016). This policy serves as a framework for developing enabling environment to leverage ICT.

GoT has enormously invested on building ICT infrastructure. Although there are many efforts, the linking to the SEACOM and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) networks in 2009 and 2010; and the launch of the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) in 2010 and 2012 are two critical efforts with enormous effect on the ICT agenda. This made most major cities across the country to be connected to the NICTBB. With two fixed-line operators (TTCL and Zantel), six mobile networks (Airtel, Tigo, Vodacom, Zantel, TTCL Mobile, Smile and Halotel) and numerous Internet Service Providers (ISPs), competition became fierce. This led to reduced prices for both voice and data services making Tanzania the third country in Africa with the lowest prices for voice and data services.

In 2003 and 2012, GoT established Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and e-Government Agency (eGA) respectively. eGA coordinates, oversees and promotes ICT related projects in the government. TCRA is responsible for regulating electronic communications and postal services, and management of the national frequency spectrum. TCRA is also responsible to ensure Tanzania’s Cyberspace is fairly used. Liberalization of Telecom industry led TCRA to establish SLAs in telecommunication companies. Hence TCRA provides approved SLAs template and recommends SLAs to be included in contractual agreement between customers and service providers.

Indeed, the Government has invested significantly to prepare necessary infrastructure and regulatory framework required to take full advantage of ICT. The efforts, however, will be in vain if users of ICT solutions are not properly treated. Majority of users rely on Telecom industry to be connected to the Internet and thus the industry plays a critical role in leveraging ICT in Tanzania’s socio-economic development. In provision of services, service providers and customers enter on a Service Level Agreement (SLA). SLA specifies obligations of service providers and customers and hence it is a tool to ensure customers get value-for-money and hence they receive quality and reliable services. Thus, poor written SLAs or poor implementation of SLAs can have a potential impact on the use of ICT and subsequently to socio-economic developments.

Despite of the importance of SLAs, little has been done to assess how effective SLAs are in Tanzania’s Telecom industry. It is therefore important to determine how effective SLAs are and how they are contributing into making more people in Tanzania to use ICT. Failure to do so may lead to people’s resentment and consequently to GoT’s failure to take advantage of ICT on realizing the Vision 2025. To assess the effectiveness of SLAs, we conducted a survey. Our study shows that some customers are satisfied with some metrics while others are not. This lead to increased complaints from customers on the quality of services delivered from service providers. Thus SLA, as a quality monitoring tool, needs to be effective for customers to be treated fairly.

The rest of the article is organized as follows. Section 2 provides an overview of how ICT solutions can be used to bring a positive change to a community. A background on SLA is provided in section 3 followed by a background on Service Level Management in section 4. The two sections explain what entails SLAs and how SLAs should be honored to make sure services are in place as agreed between two parties. An account of similar work is provided in section 5. Section 6 describes a methodology used to conduct a study to assess effectiveness of SLAs in Telecom industry in Tanzania. Findings of the study and their discussion are provided in section 7 followed by a conclusion remark and a roadmap for future research directions in section 8.

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