Tag Archives: citizens’ agency

On the back of an envelope: Tanzania’s #NoSimCardTax mess

sim card

It’s a tiny little thing, just 2.5cm long, 1.5cm wide and a millimeter thick. And yet it has found itself at the centre of a political storm in Tanzania. I’m talking, of course, about mobile phone sim cards.*

In case you missed it, the Tanzanian budget, passed last month by parliament, included provision for some new taxes, most notably a tax on mobile phone sim cards. It’s set at TZS 1,000/- (around $0.60) per month. And it’s in a mess. Continue reading

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

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.

Admitting failure in this way is easy to support in theory, but much harder to do in practice. It may be accepted practice in the for-profit world, but it’s uncomfortable for a donor-dependent NGO. Would it be easier to continue half-heartedly with a programme that isn’t working or close it down quietly and hope that nobody notices? Of course it would. But those approaches would not benefit anyone, wasting money and missing out on valuable opportunities to learn. So we’re taking a different tack, embracing and publicising our failures, and trying to make sure we (and others) learn as much as possible from the experience. Continue reading

Revolution in Magoda? Citizens’ agency in practice, but not quite as expected

“Magoda Wafanya Mapinduzi” (Revolution in Magoda) was the front page headline on the very first issue of Daraja’s Kwanza Jamii Njombe newspaper when it was launched last year. (See below for the full article as it was published). Residents of Magoda village, 20km from Njombe town, grew tired of waiting for a government-funded water project and decided to go it alone, paying for the project and doing all the work themselves. At the time it felt a little bit like we were over-hyping the story with that headline, but some more recent developments suggests that it might have been just right. We’ll come to that in a moment, but first some background.

Magoda villagers told us how they had been repeatedly requesting a water project for years from the district council, without success. And then, four years ago, they were told Magoda had been selected as one of ten villages to benefit from a “World Bank” project – it’s actually part of the multi-donor Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) – and that a piped water scheme would be constructed to serve the village. But that was four years ago. They waited, then waited some more. And then they gave up waiting and decided to do it themselves. D-I-Y (do it yourself) development. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

An Underwhelming (SMS) Uprising

The potential of mobile phones as a means of mobilising citizens seems to be the topic of the moment. As so often happens in the development world, a new idea is attracting a lot of interest, praise and funds. But is this attention justified by the evidence – have the early efforts to use mobile phones delivered?

A recent book, SMS Uprising, (published by Fahamu Books and Pambazuka Press with support from Hivos), documents several such programmes from different parts of Africa. The book describes itself as taking a “try this in your campaign” approach, encouraging others to adopt the same tools. So they must be confident in what they’re promoting. Continue reading

Keeping rural water supplies functioning

There’s some pretty shocking data around on how many (or rather how few) rural waterpoints in Tanzania are working. The best available data, from waterpoint mapping surveys by WaterAid and other NGOs, finds that almost half (46%) of rural waterpoints are not working. Roughly, that means the same number of people that do currently have access to improved water supplies (around 8m) are lacking access because of a broken down waterpoint. Fixing that would more than meet the Millennium Development Target for rural water supply in Tanzania. Continue reading