23 Mar 2010

Why is Daraja blogging, tweeting, on facebook?


Starting a new organisation is a challenging process involving long hours of work and pressured decision making. So why have we chosen to add to our workload and pressure by setting up a blog and a presence on facebook and twitter? And is it worth the effort involved?

There are several reasons for doing this. First, as an organisation based in Njombe, a full day's travel from Dar es Salaam, we're a little disconnected from the rest of the civil society and related community that is concentrated in Dar. That's a good thing in many ways - bringing us closer to the community and local government, less unnecessary meetings, much lower costs, less time stuck in traffic - but it can also mean that we're out of the loop, not able to network with other organisations and individuals.

18 Mar 2010

Water Supply Challenges in #Tanzania are Political not Technical


This week is Maji Week, an annual opportunity to focus wider attention on the water sector. It includes an exhibition of related organisations, this year in Kibaha, and the media typically use the opportunity to persuade many of these organisations to pay for articles and advertisements in special supplements.

But just a quick look at the exhibition stands reveal that the sector is still failing to recognise that delivering safe and clean water to people is a political issue at least as much as it is technical. On display are a range of drilling, pumping and purifying technologies, while hardly anybody is talking about the role of governance, politics and management.

16 Mar 2010

Why hide the #Tanzania budget numbers that matter?

Just a quick note that this interesting article in the Citizen raises a good question about the budget guidelines:

The purpose of Budget Guidelines is to help ministries prepare their budgets by telling them how much money they have available. So of the guidelines don't include this information, the ministries must have been told in some other way. Last year they got a letter, which the donors had no problem getting a copy of while the media and civil society struggled.

Transparency matters, but it's about more than making some documents and numbers public. The format also matters a lot.

Is there any good reason not to put the ministries' ceilings in the published guidelines? It looks like they're being hidden, but why? Maybe there is a better explanation. Any ideas?


12 Mar 2010

Local media in rural #Tanzania: print or radio?


I was asked yesterday, as I have been many times, why Daraja is trying to develop a local newspaper rather than a radio station. The idea of supporting local media in order to make local government more responsive is easy to grasp, but people are often surprised that we're talking print rather than radio.

It's easy to understand their surprise, since radio would be the more obvious answer. You don't have the same problem reaching more remote areas, you don't have to worry about literacy and radio is a more immediately interactive platform. So why did we decide otherwise and aim to establish a newspaper?

9 Mar 2010

#Wanademokrasia - The #Democracy Club in #Tanzania? (@democlub)


I recently came across a very interesting project in the UK - the Democracy Club - a country that, like Tanzania, has an election coming up this year. The aim is to make the election "the most accountable and informed election ever," by mobilising a movement of volunteers in every constituency to take very simple steps to report on local campaigns and local issues. This got me thinking about whether something similar could be done in Tanzania - call it "Wanademokrasia."

7 Mar 2010

An Underwhelming (SMS) Uprising

The potential of mobile phones as a means of mobilising citizens seems to be the topic of the moment. As so often happens in the development world, a new idea is attracting a lot of interest, praise and funds. But is this attention justified by the evidence - have the early efforts to use mobile phones delivered?

A recent book, SMS Uprising, (published by Fahamu Books and Pambazuka Press with support from Hivos), documents several such programmes from different parts of Africa. The book describes itself as taking a "try this in your campaign" approach, encouraging others to adopt the same tools. So they must be confident in what they're promoting.

1 Mar 2010

Maji Matone - A sneak preview


Here's a sneak preview of the provisional programme branding for Raising the Water Pressure.