The failure of Maji Matone phase 1

In documenting the failure of phase 1 of our Maji Matone programme, we have posted five blogposts. These are collected together here on this page, in chronological order, for ease of access and sharing.

Maji Matone hasn't delivered. Time to embrace failure, learn, and move on

14 Dec 2011

It is no secret that Daraja's Maji Matone programme has not lived up to expectations. In particular, despite considerable resources spent on promotional work - printing and distributing posters and leaflets, as well as extensive broadcasts on local radio - we haven't had the response from the community that we had hoped for.  A six month pilot in three districts resulted in only 53 SMS messages received and forwarded to district water departments (compared to an initial target of 3,000). So we've made a decision - to embrace failure, learn and share lessons from the experience, and to fundamentally redesign the programme.

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

8 Feb 2012

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).

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

13 Feb 2012

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.

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

20 Feb 2012

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?

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

27 Feb 2012

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.

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Presentation to ICT4D TweetUp at Google Campus

January 31st, 2013

This is the presentation made by Daraja's Ben Taylor to the London ICT4D meeting on ICTs for social justice, earlier this week. It covers the failure of our Maji Matone programme, and lessons learned from the experience.

The presentation is largely the same as that given to other recent events, including the PwC International Development Conference, the OpenUp 2012 event in London, DFID's Digitial Development Day, and the Engineers Without Borders Annual Conference.