Informing Parliamentary Decision-Making and Enhancing Citizen Participation
Parliamentarian from Temeke Develops the Awareness, Confidence, and Innovative Tools to Foster Data-Driven Community Interventions
In Tanzania, 393 individuals serve as Members of Parliament, and these individuals serve an important role in identifying and overseeing government investments and programs for their respective constituency and ensuring the accountability of those investments.
Compared to his colleagues, Honorable Abdallah Ally Mtolea of Temeke District—a PEPFAR DREAMS district—is relatively young. At 38, he has served as an MP for just two years. He is a member of the Youth Parliamentarians Caucus, a subset of 45 MPs between the ages of 23 and 40 who recognized the value of fostering a community of individuals committed to youth issues and promoting youth-led development across Tanzania.
Temeke MP (seated, white jacket) reviews footage from the documentary Data Zetu is producing of him to share his insights as a data ambassador
Honorable Mtolea recognizes that both he and his staff have little knowledge and confidence when it comes to data collection, analysis, and visualization. There is also the perception that even with that knowledge and confidence, accessing accurate, usable data is difficult. Honorable Abdallah recognizes that, in order to ensure that his investments and priorities are driven by community needs, and in order to be effective and convincing when tendering Parliamentary motions, he must better incorporate data into these processes.
The MP from Temeke recognizes that, in order to ensure that his investments and priorities are driven by community needs, and in order to be effective and convincing when tendering Parliamentary motions, he must better incorporate data into these processes.
In order to address the above challenges, Data Zetu partner Tanzania Bora Initiative (TBI) has worked with the Honorable Mtolea and his team to build skills and confidence to better incorporate data into his Parliamentarian responsibilities and priorities. Complementing these efforts, Data Zetu is working towards developing a web and text-based platform to promote two-way information sharing between the MP’s office and citizens. This tool, still currently in the design stage, will be known as “Jenga Jimbo” or Build my Community,” modeled off of the “Fix my Street” platform popular in the UK.
In May 2017, TBI led a workshop with 35 of the 45 members of the Young Parliamentarians Caucus to introduce the Data Zetu program, explore possible tools to promote citizen engagement and data-driven decision making using online platforms and social media, and to identify interest in who would be interested in sustained partnership with TBI.
Following the workshop, TBI reached out specifically to the MP of Temeke, the Honorable Abdallah Ally Mtolea, and held a meeting with the MP and his staff to discuss how their office is currently using data, what their data needs might be, and how they could better incorporate online tools and social media to foster better engagement with their constituents.
In October, the TBI team shot a documentary of the MP. In it, he reflects on a series of community-identified challenges, or “pain points”, surfaced during a period of Listening Campaigns held in Temeke. Listening Campaigns are ward-level meetups where citizens share and prioritize challenges that are important to them. These insights have the potential to inform the MP about community priorities to which he can align his investments. This documentary is expected to be edited and available to share by November 2017.
TBI is now working with the MP and his staff, in consultation with the Data Fellows and dLab team, to design a text and web based tool which they call “Jenga Jimbo” or “Build my Community,” modeled off of the “Fix my Street” platform popular in the UK. This platform will enable the MPs team to better share and gather information/data from the community.
Specific features currently being explored for this tool include:
- Enabling citizens to report on and track issues in their community, such as unsafe roads.
- Encouraging dialogue and community inputs to inform spending in the Constituency Development Fund.
- Helping MPs and citizens look up data collected from the Listening Campaigns, such as community priorities and demographic information.
- Connecting MPs and their constituents with open datasets relevant to their community and priorities.
The tool is expected to build off of existing, open-source tools that enable civic engagement and citizen feedback through data sharing. For instance, tools like Fix My Street, as well as a new citizen reporting tool developed for Dawasco, Dar es Salaam’s biggest water utility, use an open standard called Open 3-1-1 which would be reutilized for this Jenga Jimbo platform.
Outcomes and Impact
The MP has already demonstrated increased commitment and understanding of the value of using data and we hope that he will continue to serve as a data ambassador amongst his Fellow young MPs, which has implications well beyond Temeke. Once the tool is developed and the team trained—expected by January 2018— Jenga Jimbo will foster a greater culture of transparency, citizen engagement, and data driven decision-making at the Parliamentary level. The MP’s full team will be trained to maintain this tool, as well as to generally access, analyze, and use data as an essential component of their day-to-day work.
Reflecting on the importance of this engagement, the Honorable Mtolea shared that “…Tanzanian citizens, especially our Temeke youth, are increasingly using information and communication technologies (ICTs) including mobile and social media, in their daily lives. As Parliamentarians we should learn to harness the power of Data-driven innovative ICT to enhance the ability of citizens to provide input into our parliamentary work so that we both contribute towards political leaders effectiveness. This will build shared knowledge and inform citizens and foster the idea of representative democracy…. if proper tools were in place to enable us to reach out to our citizens in a timely and effective manner, this will really empower both leader and citizens alike. To me emerging technology coupled with data use is empowering.”
“As Parliamentarians we should learn to harness the power of Data-driven innovative ICT to enhance the ability of citizens to provide input into our parliamentary work”
Through ICT, Media and Arts, Tanzania Bora engages the Tanzania community, specifically youth, in providing civic educational programs and projects based on effective leadership, democracy and accountability, good governance, human rights and development issues.
The Young Members of Parliament Caucus consists of dozens of young (under 35 years old) Parliamentarians with the Government of Tanzania. Young MPs Caucus has participated in several Data Zetu activities, and the involvement of Young MPs from PEPFAR DREAMS districts in which Data Zetu works has made this possible.
Data Zetu aims to empower communities to make better, more evidence-based decisions to improve their lives. Through partnerships and collaborations with local communities, Data Zetu works with stakeholders to build skills and develop digital and offline tools that make information accessible to everyone.