Can text messages fix East Africa’s development challenges ?

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Can text messages
fix East Africa’s
development challenges ?
Research on citizen reporting projects from a
summer in Tanzania
By Jacqueline Deelstra
The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy
Uganda
Kenya
Tanzania
What are some challenges in
East Africa?
•Education Quality
•Water
•Corruption
•Distance between the wananchi and the government
•Accountability in Government Spending
The Good
News
•Mobile phone growth has been
extremely rapid
•Via either ownership or sharing
most have access to a mobile
phone
•Prices have gone down because
of increased competition
How can mobile phones solve the
previously mentioned problems?
Reminder! This is the
phone I am talking about:
It all starts with the belief that citizen
reporting on problems with government
service delivery, performance and neglect can
put pressure on the government to do better
And the belief that citizens trust NGOs and
the media enough to report their problems.
 Raising the Water Pressure
 46% of water points in rural Tanzania are not working
 Asks for reports on water point functionality problems
via SMS
 Report goes straight to the appropriate water engineer
and to the media
[email protected]
 Teacher absenteeism
rates in Uganda are
between 20% and 30%
 Pilot in 100 schools,
head teachers
reporting weekly using
SMS
 Program meant to
support the
government reporting
process that was not
working and also to
inform general public
Example of a relevant
citizen reporting project
outside of East Africa
I Paid a Bribe
 Run by Janaagraha, an NGO in Bangalore, India
 Goal is to provide a better picture of when and where
people pay brides
What do these projects do?
 Give people a place to go with their complaints
 Value citizen generated information
 Deliver more and real-time data
 Take advantage of the availability of mobile phones
 Recognize the power of the media in shaping
government behavior
 Create a buzz around these issues (eco-system of
change)
Assumptions
 People who should be reporting have the
willingness/ability to do so
 People think it will make a difference
 Information gathered will be accurate/government
and other relevant actors will find the information
trustworthy
 Government incentive and ability to act
 Many more…
Concerns
 Asking for information raises expectations
 Who is included and who remains hidden
 Do these projects works?!
It is about gathering information,
using mobile phones as a tool, but
also really about fostering the
feeling that people can make a
difference
Thank You!
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