Category Archives: Daraja

Talking ’bout a (data) revolution? Then let’s make it truly revolutionary

A version of this post was published on post2015.org, in their blog series, ‘What kind of ‘data revolution’ do we need for post-2015?’

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Don’t you know, they’re talking ’bout a revolution, sounds like a whisper;
Finally the tables are starting to turn, talking ’bout a revolution

Tracy Chapman

“We call for a data revolution,” said the report of the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda, “with a new international initiative to improve the quality of statistics and information available to citizens. We should actively take advantage of new technology, crowd sourcing, and improved connectivity to empower people with information on the progress towards the targets.”

As someone who works in the field of data and development, I find this idea exciting. But there seem to be a couple of problems with how it is being interpreted. Continue reading

Let’s make a success of failures – from SciDev.Net

Originally published on SciDev.Net, on August 1st, 2013.

Photo: Mikkel Ostergaard / Panos

Photo: Mikkel Ostergaard / Panos

Unsuccessful development initiatives offer vital lessons — but only if we are open about failure, says Ben Taylor.

I was recently involved in a public declaration of failure. An innovative development programme I ran didn’t come close to meeting its targets, so we shut it down. And we went further, publicly declaring that the programme had failed and striving to share lessons from the failure as widely as possible.

Embracing failure can be uncomfortable, but it plays a hugely valuable role in the learning and improvement process. We need to be more honest — and more encouraging of honesty. Continue reading

Presentation: The Media and Democracy in Tanzania

This is a copy of the presentation I made yesterday at a public seminar organised by the Britain-Tanzania Society (BTS) and the Centre for African Studies at SOAS.

The Media and Democracy in Tanzania on Prezi

H/T to Pernille for introducing me to the wonder that is prezi.com. And thanks to Andrew Coulson of BTS for arranging the event and inviting me to present, and to Freddy Macha for his insightful comments, bringing a very valuable historical and cultural perspective to the discussion.

The world is doing well on water supply, but leaving Tanzania behind

Globally, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for water supply has been met. A new report from UN Water, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, launched this week, reported that 89% of the world’s population now has access to water from an improved source. This has quite rightly been a cause for celebration and media coverage (see here and here from the (UK) Guardian, and from the BBC), a rare good news story.

But here in Tanzania, we can’t share in the celebrations. Continue reading

Parliament as “a place of abject poverty”: Social media reactions to Speaker’s remarks

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. Continue reading

Running a hybrid – NGO and media cultures combine

A little while ago, I posted an old op-ed column by Rakesh Rajani, in which he asked “What if NGOs were newspapers?” And I promised to follow it up with some thoughts on our situation here at Daraja, where we are an NGO that runs newspapers, to see how accurate Rakesh’s ideas were. Well, here goes.

Rakesh’s main point was that NGOs are not subject to the strict deadlines that rule newspapers’ work, or to the same kind of pressure that newspapers face to give readers what they want. A reporter who misses a deadline finds that their story isn’t published. A newspaper that comes out late risks missing out on sales and undermining their readers’ trust. And if a newspaper writes about things that don’t interest their readers then that paper won’t get bought again. The nearest equivalent pressures on NGOs have often very little to do with the community – their “beneficiaries” – and more to do with keeping their donors happy.

In other words, NGOs aren’t as strongly accountable to the community as newspapers for doing their work on time or for doing it well. Continue reading

Local newspaper project puts the community first in rural Tanzania

All over the world, the media plays a big role in holding government to account. In the UK the current panic at the decline of local newspapers is precisely because people recognise the importance of independent local media to local democracy. But in most of rural Tanzania, there’s no meaningful media scrutiny of local government at all. As a result, local government mismanagement and poor performance are the norm.

In the village of Magoda, 15 miles outside the town of Njombe in southern Tanzania, local residents were frustrated. Four years had passed since local government promised them “World Bank” money for a project bringing clean and safe water to the village. So they gave up waiting and decided to take action for themselves. A small dam was constructed in a stream about a mile from the village and distribution pipes were laid, all designed, built and paid for by the villagers themselves, with no government involvement. Continue reading