28 Feb 2012

Parliament as "a place of abject poverty": Social media reactions to Speaker's remarks

Speaker of Parliament and Njombe South MP, Anne Makinda
The Speaker of Parliament, Anne Makinda recently announced that come 2015 she won't be standing again as MP for Njombe South. She blamed the recent failed attempt to increase MPs' allowances for low morale among MPs generally, and indicated that this was her reason for stepping down.

In her remarks, made in Njombe town on Saturday Feb 25th, Makinda, who has been the local MP for 17 years, made the following comments (the original Swahili is posted below):
"And I say this with full emphasis: the perception of all people, including you who are here, when I walk is that they see me as money, when they hear I am speaker it's worse. There's nobody with more money than me. Nobody. Yes, I come to tell you that in 2015 I will not stand. And I request your permission to borrow money and build a house. Otherwise you will come to insult me: 'that woman never built a house'. This is the real truth, you can't believe me but I tell you, God knows we speak the truth, and this is the real situation of MPs. Right now this is a very frustrated group."
 "Now, these allowances we were talking about, we have our procedures, all over the world there are allowance procedures. Increasing MPs allowances, during parliamentary sittings, and that's nine days, we have four sittings, three of which are only nine days. So MPs get these allowances just for nine days, that's all. When he/she comes back, like me here now, there's no allowance. I tell you, ten years from now, anybody with an occupation or who was working as a professor somewhere, will not run for parliament. Because this is a place of abject poverty. It's a place of complete and abject poverty. Ah, you like to like what you like but I tell you facts, and I am a Christian person, I don't lie."

27 Feb 2012

So what have we learnt? Summarising lessons from Maji Matone Phase 1

I realise that this blog has already devoted a lot of space to the recent failure of our Maji Matone programme. Or to be more precise, to the failure of the programme's first phase. Another post risks boring readers by going over the same ground. But previous posts have left some lose ends that need tying up, and we shouldn't forget that the programme has had some successes as well as failures. So it's time for one final post in this series*, trying to bring together all the main lessons from the programme in one place and looking forward to Maji Matone Phase 2. 

So what did we learn?

23 Feb 2012

Independent monitoring of Dar's water supply

Would you believe someone who said they had just had one drink? Or would you prefer to ask someone else who had seen them in the bar? I know who I would believe.

So who would you trust more to tell you about the state of public services: the government department responsible for delivering those services, or someone independent? 

In both cases, independent monitoring, (or at least independent verification), is likely to produce much more trustworthy results. 

Which is why some new data on water supplies in Dar es Salaam from a World Bank-financed survey is very interesting - part of the Mobile Phone Public Services Monitoring Survey, previously under Twaweza. It contradicts official data from the Ministry of Water and DAWASCO in several ways. Analysts in the sector had always assumed that this official data was unreliable, but had always used it anyway because there was no alternative, better, independent data to work with. 

20 Feb 2012

Why did Maji Matone fail? 3. Citizens' engagement, risk and apathy?

"If you're scared as well, let's just leave it."
This is the third post in a series exploring possible reasons why Maji Matone hasn't worked. The first post looked at the challenge of making the technology fit the context, specifically rural Tanzania. And the second looked at some specific challenges related to rural water supply. A final post will try to summarise what we've learnt from the experience. 

Why did Maji Matone fail? 3. Citizens' engagement, risk and apathy?

When Madeleine Bunting of the (UK) Guardian interviewed the head of Twaweza, Rakesh Rajani, she reported his concerns that in Tanzania
"there is still a deferential culture towards the government, and people don't have that sense of agency that something could – and should – be changed. That sense of entitlement that government services can and should work, is what Rajani is trying to provoke. It is basic to the way western democracies work, so it's hard to appreciate how its absence shapes a political culture. But Rajani hopes this is finally changing, and that a new generation will use the contemporary technologies of communication to transform how countries are governed and public services delivered."
Our Maji Matone programme, delivered with Twaweza as our main partners, represents both the hope and the fear expressed in that passage. The hope - that new communications technologies can transform the relationship between citizens and their government - is exactly what Maji Matone was trying to deliver. The fear - that widespread apathy and a low sense of entitlement undermine political accountability - is one possible reason why the programme failed. Perhaps we didn't get many messages because people felt that there was no point, that nothing would change as a result?

15 Feb 2012

Looking for a Tanzanian website designer with Wordpress skills

Daraja is looking for a Tanzanian website designer to finalise the website for our Kwanza Jamii newspapers. You must have experience designing websites using wordpress.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please complete the form below.

UPDATE (22/2/2012): The deadline for completing this form has now passed, shortlisted applicants will be contacted shortly.

13 Feb 2012

Why did Maji Matone fail? 2. The world of water supply?

This is the second post in a series exploring possible reasons why Maji Matone hasn't worked. The previous post looked at the challenge of making the technology fit the context, specifically rural Tanzania. And the final post, (now available), will look at citizens' engagement, risk and apathy.

Why did Maji Matone fail? 2. The world of water supply?

People outside the water sector often take the view that delivering water to people should be easy. Drill a borehole, install a pump and some pipes, and you're done. Those who work in the water sector know that it's not so simple. Just as the difficult bit in Maji Matone was not finding the right technology, the difficult bit in rural water supply is about people - how the borehole, pump and pipes should be managed so that they last.

10 Feb 2012

Guest Post: Wabunge kufadhili miradi kunadumaza maendeleo

Richard Lucas
Guest post from Richard Lucas, Programme Manager of Daraja's Maji Matone programme

Wabunge kufadhili miradi kunadumaza maendeleo 

Imekuwa jambo la kawaida kwa wananchi kuwaomba viongozi wao, hasa wabunge wawasaidie kugharamia miradi ya maendeleo. Mazoea haya yametufanya tusahau majukumu halisi ya wawakilishi wetu na pengine jukumu letu la kuwawajibisha pale wanapokwenda kinyume na wajibu wao.

Wabunge wamesahau majukumu yao ya msingi, badala yake wanajitwika majukumu ya serikali. Hali hii pia inasababisha wananchi tusahau vigezo muhimu vya kuchagua viongozi na kutumbukia kwenye mkumbo wa kuchagua viongozi matajiri-ambao nao wanaitumia fursa hiyo vilivyo kuimarisha utajiri wao pamoja na kuulinda.

8 Feb 2012

Why did Maji Matone fail? 1. Low tech obstacles to high tech solutions?

Back in December, I blogged about the failure of Maji Matone - that we simply didn't get the level of citizens' engagement that we had hoped and expected, and that we were therefore going to redesign the programme to work in a different way. And I promised that a series of blogposts in early 2012 would examine this failure in more detail, so that as many people as possible can benefit from our experience. This is therefore the first in a short series of posts on what went wrong, from our perspective. In this post I will write about matching technology to context. In the second post I will write on issues specific to rural water supply, and the final post in the series will look at citizens engagement, risk and apathy.

Why did Maji Matone fail? 1. Low-tech obstacles to high-tech solutions?
Low-tech obstacles to high-tech solutions

When we started working on Maji Matone, one of our earliest tasks was to find the right software to handle the flow of SMSs. There were plenty of possible technological options, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Using an existing software package such as FrontlineSMS, Rapid SMS or FreedomFone was one option. Finding a software engineer to design and build something specifically for us (or to customise an existing package such as Ushahidi or Human Sensor Webs) was another. Or we could contract a commercial aggregation firm (such as Push Mobile or Starfish Mobile) to handle the technology for us (which is what we did).

6 Feb 2012

Simon Kelner visits Daraja

Simon Kelner with Kwanza Jamii Managing Editor, Simon Mkina,
and Igombola Village Executive Officer, Brighton Mdoya

Daraja was honoured last week to play host to an illustrious visitor from the UK - Simon Kelner. Until a few months ago, Simon was the editor of The Independent newspaper, famed for his enthusiasm for innovation, whether in poster-style front pages or as the driving force behind the Independent's new sister paper, the i. He continues to write a regular column for the paper. But his main role now is as Chief Executive of The Journalism Foundationa new independent charitable foundation which promotes, develops and sustains free and independent journalism throughout the world, set up and provided with core funding by the proprietor of the Independent, Evgeny Lebedev. It was in this capacity that Simon was visiting Daraja, to learn more about our Kwanza Jamii newspapers, and to discuss ideas for how his foundation can support our work.