over 100,000 users in Tanzania, up nearly 25% in just the last 6 months. It might be less than 1% of the population, but it is around 20% of all internet users in Tanzania and it still makes Tanzania one of the fastest growing countries in terms of facebook. I've noticed several Tanzania-specific adverts on facebook recently, evidence that the private sector thinks facebook has now reached critical mass in Tanzania.
And while employers everywhere complain about staff "wasting time" on facebook and other social networking sites, it has a potentially very positive side as well. Just as Daraja is exploring how social networks can be used as a tool for increasing public accountability, so facebook was today suggested as a platform for citizen monitoring of Tanzania's controversial and recently established Constituency Development Catalyst Fund (CDCF). Where was this suggestion made? On facebook, of course. It was made in response to a post by Zitto Kabwe, who must surely be the Tanzanian with the most "friends" on facebook - almost 5,000.
And only four hours after Zitto Kabwe's original post and two hours after the suggestion was made, a facebook page is up and running that provides space for Tanzanians to report on how the CDCF is working in practice. What projects are being funded, what opportunities do citizens have to propose projects, are there cases of mismanagement or abuse of funds?
It only takes a few minutes to set something like this up, of couse, and it's much harder to make it work in practice. Who can say whether it will take off? And even if it does, promoting, managing and moderating the page will require time and energy. A first hurdle is to get some basic information about how the CDCF up on the site: how is it supposed to function, how much is available to each MP, where can citizens get information on planned and completed projects, etc?
The challenges are many but the potential is undeniable. So go on, as a first step, show your support by going to the page and clicking the "like" button at the top. And if the support is there, Daraja will put in the time needed to make the page work as a real tool for citizens' monitoring and public accountability.