Memo to Daraja

Ben Taylor over at the Daraja blog is wondering how the Democracy Club might be replicated here in Tanzania – and in time for the elections too. So there’s a need to be quick with input.

Democracy Club is an attempt at crowd sourcing the upcoming General Election in the UK. It aims to do a number of things. Firstly, it want to create an easily accessible database of all candidates in all constituencies. Remarkably, such a thing doesn’t exist in the UK. They also want to get candidates’ views on a range of issues both local and national.

Finally they are looking for help in cross referencing candidates promises in campaign leaflets with national level party positions. Individual campaign leaflets are little controlled by the party at central level, so it could throw up interesting discrepancies and help keep them on their toes.

So how to adapt it here? Ben suggests the following:

  1. Invite people to send an SMS to register as wanademokrasia with their name, mobile number and the name of the constituency where they live.
  2. Send out regular (weekly?) questions / simple tasks to registered wanademokrasia asking them about local priorities, local issues, promises made by local candidates and national politicians campaigning locally.
  3. Send out regular (weekly?) updates to wanademokrasia on the issues raised by others in the same constituency.
  4. Make the updates easily accessible to the media, civil society, etc. through a simple website, press releases, etc.

This is all good stuff. But I’d consider complementing it with some other stuff too.

That database of candidates could be good (if Zitto Kabwe ever makes up his mind). But for it to be useful and relevant it would also have to include the party candidate nomination phase too. Be prepared for some scraps if that idea is taken up.

It would also be useful to gather data on the distribution of party kangas and T shirts and such like. And of course all those donations of CI/bati to the schools/mosques/churches/dispensaries. And cash too. Yes, be prepared for some scraps.

I’d be wary of having everything on a mobile platform. I’d like to see those furtive individual actions supplemented by some ‘live’ public events at local and national level to allow for data to be presented and or verified. These could attempt to drive public discussions that are not stage managed by the party(ies). All sorts of difficulties on that front, particularly in rural areas. But it needs to be in the mix somewhere. Our political culture puts great store on the public event. It needs to be incorporated. Hey, if TANU could do it with one land rover…..

Finally, such an initiative should be totally clear about who is funding it and who is driving it. This isn’t something that Daraja suffers from, thankfully. This was a weakness of Democracy Club itself initially. But now it’s website is a bit more forthcoming with names.

Any ideas? If so, use the comments section on the Daraja post.


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