Hatua Project: Leading the Digital Governance Agenda in Tanzania

By Basil Malaki

In context, ‘Hatua’ is a Swahili word meaning, ‘taking steps, taking initiative; the word could also mean, ‘taking action’.

Hatua Project is driven by a vision to actively engage citizens to take responsibility from the government in identifying key governance challenges and innovating reasonable and viable governance solutions using technology to help address the identified solutions in close collaboration with government institutions and leaders, relevant policy makers and influencers, the media among other channels that could be used to drive change from the grassroot level to the most urban areas that are deemed to be more advantaged in terms of development and access to public services.

For the past 9 months, Buni Hub in Dar es Salaam acting as the project implementation partner in collaboration with Sahara Sparks in partnership with Making All Voices Count who provided funds to initiate and run the project have been actively and consistently monitoring and evaluating the impact technology creates in promoting the process that leads to good governance.

There has been various activities that have drawn the projects close attention to concentrate more on technology and data production, usage and activism. There are organizations and individuals that have been identified to be proactive in technology production, these are individuals who develop various web, mobile and other related technologies that can be used to influence change to masses, harness big data, aid activism efforts that in ripple effect influence policy change and impact created can easily be measured.

The Hatua Project has put a keen focus on technology users, in essence this is the general public cum citizens who are targeted with these technologies, it could be a specific group of leaders or community groups defined by geographical location or other specified demographic mapping.

Working in collaboration with other stakeholders, we discovered that there was a section of key stakeholders who play a unique role in the tech for governance ecosystem, one of their primary roles was to advocate for the use of existing and new technologies to promote good governance. These groups play a centre stage role since merely producing and using governance technologies can not produce the desired good governance results, there is need to have groups of people with critical minds and an eye to analyze and visualize the collected governance data to the public and government officials to be used to influence decision making processes of the government and individuals.

Photo Credits: Hatua Project engaging farmers groups and LGA´s at Nundwe village in Iringa, rural Tanzania.

During the lifetime of the Hatua Project, it has been evident that data has never been the issue. The underlying issue has always been the lack of data analysts and activists to break down the big data for ease of consumption by the public.

There is a clear gap that still needs to be filled, that is currently being explored by tech for governance stakeholders in Tanzania such as Jamii Media who offer advanced civic education to government officials to use governance data harnessed from various technologies to inform them on how best data can be used to make informed governance decisions to produce evident results to the public.

In line with the production, usage and activism of tech for governance technologies. The same should also apply to data; production, usage and activism.

In the process, we’ve had to constantly revise some of our common understanding of technology used in governance in the Hatua Project context.

The term technology in governance can go a long way, technology could mean use of traditional media technologies, new social media technologies, online and offline technologies but most importantly we are focused on technologies that can be used to generate data, data which can be used to influence policies and drive change as a result disrupt the normal governance process and lead to better governance in a short or long span.