BY VARYANNE SIKA.
The last week of August 2014 was an opportunity for the iHub Research team to explore the various ways in which ICT tools have/can successfully facilitate or hinder two way interaction between government and citizens towards effective public service delivery, curbing corruption, enhancing access to information and increasing transparency and accountability in Tanzania. The team visited Mwanza and Dar es Salaam to identify some of the innovative ICT initiatives that have facilitated the interaction between citizens and government as well as the (de)motivations for utilizing ICT tools among the various stakeholders (citizens, governments, civil society). While in Mwanza region we visited Magu district and Ilemela district.
READ ON THE PRELIMINARY FINDINGS IN DAR-ES-SALAAM HERE.
In this article we highlight the preliminary findings from Mwanza, Tanzania. We interviewed Tandabui-Afyaradio, Action for Democracy and Local Governance (ADLG), Governance Link, Mwanza NGO Network, ForumSyd, Prevention and Combating Corruption Bureau (PCCB),CROMABU.
Governments, CSOs/NGOs and citizens all have a great role to play in matters of governance. However many citizens have an “I don’t care attitude,after all what incentive will I get out of it?” People don’t see the “incentive” component that comes with participating or rather getting involved in governance issues. This has partly been contributed to by insufficient and unsatisfactory action taken by the responsible authorities. When people report issues related to governance, there’s hardly any expediency in solving the issues raised. The end result is having frustrated citizens with little hope and interest to participate in governance processes. Challenges of using ICT
- Policy challenge: Mr. Kisengo from the Governance Link (a Non-Governmental Organization that is working on three linked thematic areas of Food Governance, Health Governance and Trade Governance) opines that government works in a bureaucratic manner which makes it hard for ICTs to trickle down easily to the local citizens. “It will take time unless the central government is ready to implement and monitor the rolling out of say e-governance”, he adds.
- Technical aspect: use of ICT in governance has to be demystified. For instance, when we talk of e-governance, people think of using very complicated systems (electronic gadgets), that are so computerized and advanced that they cannot be part of those who can embrace them. This belief is common among government staff (as stated by the PCCB representative)and the community in general. There has been a system for monitoring government expenditure but people have not embraced it partly because of a fear that it is complicated to use, coupled with unawareness among the citizens. There has also been some sort of “gate keeping”; the government is not ready to give out information, especially that which they deem can harm them never reaches the public. They (government) only give out the information that they feel is of no harm to them!! “You don’t expect to get information that could implicate a government officer”, said one of the citizens.
- Community members are not aware of their rights and responsibilities; little incentive for the community to demand for their rights. People don’t see the need to follow up or demand to know how services are being delivered in their localities. Demanding for, say, government expenditure has been of no value to many of the community members.
Figure 1: A section of participants during the focus group discussion at the Governance Linkoffices in Mwanza
How to make ICTs more effective?
- Having information centres to educate and create awareness among the community members on issues of ICTs and governance. For instance, in Magu district, many people are aware of ICTs (e.g. use of SMS to enquire on crop prices) due to the presence of CROMABU telecentre.
- Using local radio stations to educate and create awareness. People like listening to local radio stations (they trust radio more). These were sentiments from the executive director (Mr. Adam) of Mwanza NGO Network
- Having good governance; there should be effective policy tracking from the national level to the local level. In theory the policies are there, for instance, there is a lot of emphasis by the national government that ICTs can help save time, make work more effective but on the ground, there’s very little follow up towards enacting such views.
- Civil societies, CBOs, NGOs, FBOs also have a mandate; they should popularize e-governance and the use of ICTs in matters of governance. This is according to Mr. Kesongi from governance Link.