28 Oct 2010

Monitoring rural water supplies - a job for experts or for citizens?

My attention was drawn yesterday (thanks to Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza) to FLOW, a recently-launched mobile phone app that can be used to monitor the functionality of rural water points. It was reported on recently by CNN. This tool, with the full name Field Level Operations Watch (hence FLOW), is the work of the US-based organisation Water for People. They describe it as
"a dynamic new ... baseline and monitoring tool that allows us to get a clear view of what’s working, what’s on the verge of disrepair, and what’s broken. Not only will Water For People use the data to make better programming decisions, but governments, partners, donors and the public can also easily monitor projects and take action when necessary. Plus, the data is easy to gather, share and understand allowing us to build better solutions for a lasting impact."

26 Oct 2010

Water (not) in the news: more evidence of water supply being sidelined in #uchaguzitz

(Click on the image to see a larger version)
How much coverage does water supply get in national newspapers? Answer, not much. In the past year since Daraja has been monitoring the press, there was a peak of stories around Maji Week and World Water Day in March, but otherwise not much. And in the election campaign period, the number of stories has been even lower than usual, presumably since space is taken up with other campaign issues.

24 Oct 2010

Good things come in small packages. This blog is now mobile friendly

It seems likely that growth in internet access in Tanzania will be driven by mobile phones. Mobiles are enabling people in developing countries not just to leapfrog landlines, but also to leapfrog the laptop. I haven't come across any up to date, Tanzania-specific data that backs this up, but it seems a reasonably safe prediction.

Part of the reason for Daraja being active on twitter, facebook and with this blog is to explore the potential of social media as a way of promoting good governance in Tanzania. So in this spirit of exploration, we've made this blog mobile-friendly.

21 Oct 2010

Be part of a national election monitoring exercise for #UchaguziTZ

Ushahidi comes to Tanzania! It comes in the form of uchaguzi.or.tz, implemented by TACCEO, a group of 16 Tanzanian civil society organizations that have partnered for election monitoring, with assistance from Hivos.

Uchaguzi.or.tz allows anyone  with a mobile phone to report on the election as it happens, wherever they are. This means that candidates and polling stations can no longer breaks the rules knowing that they are out of the view of formal election observers and the traditional media. Any citizen who sees something happening that shouldn't be happening can send an anonymous report that will be posted as text and highlighted on a map on the uchaguzi.or.tz site.

So what can you do as a citizen? How can you become part of a national election monitoring exercise?

19 Oct 2010

Water supply is missing in #uchaguzitz 2010. More evidence.

Just a little more evidence in support of the case made previously that water supply is largely absent at national level from the general election campaign. In this case, the chart shows the breakdown of issues focussed on in media election reporting during September, as monitored by Synovate's Tanzania 2010 Election Monitoring Project. Water supply doesn't even get a mention.

15 Oct 2010

Water supply in #Tanzania is political not technical, so where's the politics? #uchaguzitz

The challenge of making clean and safe water accessible in rural Tanzania is political rather than technical or administrative. As this blog has discussed a couple of times in the past (see here and here), deciding where new water supply infrastructure should be built as well as keeping that infrastructure functioning are political challenges. We'll take this argument further in this post, in the context of Tanzania's current general election campaign, but let's begin with a brief recap of why water supply is a political issue.

5 Oct 2010

Media and civil society in #Tanzania - too close for comfort?

A debate has been rumbling recently in the blogosphere about whether the relationship between civil society and the media is becoming closer than should really be the case. As the director of an NGO that could be reasonably accurately described as a media organisation, how could I possibly hold back from engaging in such a debate!

The post that drew this discussion most particularly to my attention was from Pernille Baerentsen’s After Africa blog, asking the question: How much should international NGOs push the media to provide a certain kind of news? (Some other key links are listed below.) Pernille uses Twaweza’s DaladalaTV project as an example, a project that promotes public debate in the back of a commuter bus-turned-TV studio. Though she likes the programme, she complains that HIVOS, the Dutch NGO behind Twaweza, makes unlikely claims about the agenda being set by Tanzanian citizens.It is certainly the case that many NGOs (whether international or national – and most national NGOs are anyway largely dependent on foreign funds) have sometimes found attracting media coverage for their research and advocacy work to be challenging, and have shifted towards engaging the media directly in various kinds of partnerships. Whoever pays the piper picks the tune, as they say, so the content of such programmes is undoubtedly determined by the NGOs. Is that an infringement on the editorial independence of the media?

2 Oct 2010

Cards up in the air: Digital media as a disruptive technology in #Tanzania

The destruction brought by digital media to traditional media in the global north has been fascinating to watch, but pretty terrifying for people whose jobs and business models are at risk. The internet, blogs, social networks, and even mobile phones have all contributed to declining newspaper sales and advertising revenues, and to the closure of hundreds of newspapers.

In Tanzania the paper with the largest circulation is said to sell around 40,000 copies a day. Most of the papers are highly dependent on advertising, with the only possible exceptions being those who put political interests before commercial profitability. Meanwhile internet access continues to grow rapidly, driven by mobile phones. With mobile phones, developing countries have already leapfrogged fixed line networks, but they are now also leapfrogging laptops.

1 Oct 2010

A car crash in slow motion? The Joint Water Sector Review, 2010 #Tanzania

The past two days have seen Tanzania's fourth annual Joint Water Sector Review, the biggest annual discussion and consultation event in the water sector. In the past it has not been a perfect event by any means, but it has provided some valuable space for useful discussions on the direction of progress in the sector. In particular, it has proved the best opportunity for civil society to contribute ideas.

But this year has been disappointingly different.