The African Union’s initiative, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG), stands as a beacon for promoting democratic values across member states. However, its impact is shadowed by the assumed domestication gap, notably excluding Tanzania. Compounding this, the backdrop of the 2020 elections in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in both digital acceleration and divergent governance strategies. While some nations witnessed a surge in digital democracies, others tightened their grip, curbing digital liberties during critical periods like elections.
In Tanzania, the absence of ACDEG’s ratification introduces a critical void, hindering the establishment of a mechanism for facilitating and evaluating democratic culture, particularly in terms of youth participation. This gap extends to a limited understanding of the transformative role of digital technologies and the governmental efforts to regulate it. Consequently, our focus crystallizes around two pivotal research questions: (i) What is the current comprehension of ACDEG, and how does it correlate with the state of democratic culture, especially youth participation, in Tanzania? and (ii) In this digital era, what potential role can digital technologies play in shaping and augmenting democratic processes?
Ongea na Demokrasia is a collaborative venture by African Child Projects, Democracy Works Foundation, and Code for Africa. Our shared mission is to redefine civic engagement in the digital age, making democracy more accessible and inclusive. It seeks to sensitize citizens on the importance of democracy and also to develop open digital civic spaces, including the open C2G (Citizen to Government) digital platform or application, “SEMA TANZANIA” meaning “SAY TANZANIA” to facilitate the same and meaningful youth participation. This app is more than technology; it’s a gateway to empowerment. Seamlessly designed, SEMA APP features a dynamic blog for insights, a vibrant forum for discussions, engaging polls, and a secure document vault. These elements converge to create an immersive experience, enabling citizens to actively participate and connect with their government.
This objective revolves around fostering awareness and understanding among citizens regarding the fundamental principles of democratic culture and the transformative influence of digital democracy. Through targeted initiatives, we aim to enlighten individuals about the essence of democratic values, encouraging active participation and informed decision-making. Simultaneously, our efforts extend into the digital realm, illuminating the significance of embracing technology as a catalyst for shaping and enhancing democratic processes. By sensitizing citizens, we empower them to play an active and informed role in the democratic landscape, both physically and in the ever-evolving digital sphere.
This objective focuses on the creation of inclusive digital platforms, particularly the ‘Sema Tanzania’ Citizen to Government (C2G) digital platform. The aim is to establish robust digital civic spaces that foster transparent and open communication between citizens and the government. By developing ‘Sema Tanzania,’ we envision a dynamic online environment where individuals can express their opinions, share insights, and actively participate in civic discussions. This platform acts as a conduit for citizen engagement, providing a virtual space for meaningful dialogue and collaboration. Through these open digital civic spaces, we strive to strengthen the connection between citizens and government entities, fostering a more responsive and inclusive democratic framework.
This outcome marks a transformative shift, focusing on elevating the role of youth in democratic governance and decision-making. By actively engaging and involving young individuals, we aspire to cultivate a generation that actively contributes to the democratic fabric of society. Emphasizing not only physical participation but also a heightened involvement in the digital sphere, this outcome envisions a youth demographic that is well-versed in leveraging technology for constructive civic engagement. Through targeted initiatives, we seek to bridge the gap between youth and democratic processes
This outcome signifies the successful realization and execution of the C2G Digital Platform, ‘Sema Tanzania.’ This dynamic platform is designed to provide citizens with real-time access to information on democracy, elections, and governance. By facilitating instantaneous access to crucial data, we empower individuals to stay informed and actively participate in democratic processes. The implementation of ‘Sema Tanzania’ reflects our commitment to creating a digital hub that not only disseminates information but also acts as a catalyst for informed civic engagement, fostering a more enlightened and participatory society.
The Ongea na Demokrasia Project will focus on an urban district in Dodoma and the rural district of Iringa in Tanzania and implement three initiatives:
Conducting an initial baseline study is our first imperative. This study will delve into the citizens’ comprehension of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG), as well as the prevailing democratic culture in selected districts within Dodoma and Iringa, Tanzania. The insights garnered from this research will serve as the bedrock for shaping our advocacy strategy. Subsequently, we will employ a civic tech tool or digital platform, the development and utilization of which will be refined based on the findings from the baseline study. The effectiveness of this tool will be evaluated in the second research stage, where we will compare the knowledge uptake with the baseline. The primary focus of our target population will be the youth, and while the sampling will be non-random, data collection will employ mixed methods, incorporating qualitative approaches for a comprehensive understanding. The research that was as follows;
This extensive endeavor took shape in the form of interviews and focus group discussions, enabled by the preparation of thoughtful and comprehensive sets of questions. These questions were designed to ensure that the research unfolded smoothly, guiding conversations in a way that allowed us to extract meaningful insights.
Our engagements reached a diverse array of stakeholders, including representatives from NGOs, esteemed ministries such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tanzania, eminent figures from universities, and dedicated voices from village councils.The insightful conversations and exchanges that ensued during these interactions were nothing short of invaluable. They provided us with a deep well of knowledge, offering unique perspectives and nuanced insights into the state of ACDEG understanding and democratic culture within Tanzania.
Our commitment to transparency and thoroughness led us to meticulously document every facet of these interactions. This wealth of recorded information will serve as the bedrock upon which we will prepare the comprehensive research findings, ensuring that they reflect the depth and breadth of our engagement.
Building upon the insights gained from our research, the initial phase of our advocacy efforts will be a dynamic sensitization campaign. This campaign aims to underscore the transformative potential of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG), digital democracy, and online platforms in fostering participatory democracy and fortifying trust in institutions. Our approach is participatory, involving all key stakeholders, with a special emphasis on engaging the youth, civil society, government bodies, local politicians, and political parties. The overarching goal is to cultivate support for ACDEG, nurture a heightened democratic culture, and catalyze increased youth participation. By adopting a participatory action approach, we seek to bring about a tangible and positive impact on the perception and practice of democracy within these communities. Activities under this include;
Embarking on the journey to cultivate digital democracies, this is a dynamic initiative centered on impactful awareness meetings, conducted both physically and virtually. On the ground, our passionate field officers traverse diverse regions of Tanzania, immersing themselves in communities spanning university campuses, private sectors, NGOs, and the broader adult population. The aim is to cultivate localized awareness, tailoring our message to resonate with the distinct needs of each group. This physical outreach serves as the cornerstone, creating a grassroots understanding of the transformative role digital platforms play in shaping the modern democracies.
Simultaneously, our virtual endeavors break through geographical barriers, extending our reach globally. By leveraging online platforms, we engage with individuals inside and outside Tanzanian borders, fostering dialogues that transcend distances. This dual approach ensures a comprehensive impact, empowering voices from all walks of life. Furthermore, in our virtual engagements, we actively seek out groups facing barriers due to various factors, striving to include perspectives that might otherwise be unheard. Whether in-person or in the digital realm, our mission remains unwavering: to elevate awareness and understanding of the pivotal role digital platforms play in building robust and participatory digital democracies. Join us in shaping a future where these discussions catalyze transformative change, bridging the gaps between communities and fostering inclusivity.
This activity initiates a dynamic hybrid advocacy campaign, weaving together traditional and digital mediums to amplify our message on the importance of digital platforms in building digital democracies. This comprehensive approach encompasses radio waves, television broadcasts, newspapers, and versatile meeting platforms like Zoom and Google Meet, ensuring our advocacy resonates with diverse audiences.
In rural landscapes where local radios hold significant sway, our campaign strategically taps into these channels, tailoring our messages to directly connect with a broader population. Simultaneously, on the visual front, our television outreach secures dedicated sessions within various programs, ensuring that our advocacy messages are engaging and comprehensible to a diverse audience. Acknowledging the varied preferences of our audience, we extend our reach through virtual meetings, fostering an interactive environment that accommodates individuals who find it more convenient to participate through digital channels.
At its core, it aims to transcend communication barriers, engaging with communities through the channels they prefer. This multifaceted campaign embraces the diversity of communication methods to foster a deeper understanding of how digital platforms can shape the future of democracies. Join us in this journey as we advocate for a more connected and digitally empowered society, ensuring that every voice is heard.
Introducing our innovative open C2G digital platform, Ongea na Demokrasia. This platform harnesses both mobile and web interfaces, catering to urban areas while seamlessly integrating with our existing InfoSpots for rural outreach. The primary aim is to enhance information accessibility and foster interaction among stakeholders, with a special focus on engaging the youth demographic.The development and implementation of Ongea na Demokrasia will adhere to a design science approach, utilizing agile methods for efficiency. Rooted in actionable inclusive design principles, our web platform embodies the core tenets of informed and participatory democracy. It features specific issues open for voting or rating, serving as a hub for real-time polling to facilitate engagement between citizens and government. This approach is strategically designed to address real-world challenges, particularly in mitigating democratic deficits. Through an iterative process, we will problematize, build, test, and validate artifacts, incorporating user perspectives and experiences to ensure a user-friendly and impactful tool. Activities for this initiative include;
The journey of designing and developing our digital tool SEMA APP was a collaborative odyssey, with two skilled developers at the helm – one dedicated to crafting the web app and the other to the mobile app. This intricate process wasn’t merely technical; it was a dynamic engagement involving the African Child Project’s team at every turn. Our commitment to excellence drove us to actively participate in the creation of each feature, ensuring that the digital tools align with our vision of fostering a more informed and engaged democratic society.
Among the stellar features birthed from this collaborative effort, the Forum stands out as a beacon of connectivity. This robust platform empowers users to create forums, share insights, comment, and engage in meaningful discussions. Users can not only express their thoughts but also host virtual meetings, fostering dialogue on various democratic matters. The development of this feature encapsulates our commitment to creating a space where every voice is not just heard but actively contributes to shaping the narrative of our democratic future.
The meticulous process of conducting initial testing for our digital tool unfolded in two strategic phases, each playing a crucial role in sculpting a platform that resonates with our stakeholders and beneficiaries. The inaugural testing took center stage during the Sema Hackathon, a dynamic event where diverse stakeholders came together. This provided a unique opportunity for individuals to interact with the first draft of our app, sharing invaluable insights that became the bedrock of enhancements. Collaborating closely with developers, we ensured that every viewpoint was not only heard but actively incorporated, refining the app to align seamlessly with the expectations of our stakeholders.
The second and final phase of testing unfolded with a modern twist – leveraging the reach of bulk SMS. We disseminated the app’s link to a spectrum of stakeholders, inviting them to partake in the final evaluation before the official launch at Sema Hackathon 2. This interactive approach ensured that the digital tool underwent real-world scrutiny, offering a comprehensive understanding of its functionality, accessibility, and user-friendliness. Through these testing phases, we don’t just develop a tool; we co-create a platform that empowers our community, making technology a conduit for impactful democratic engagement. Join us on this journey where testing isn’t just a phase; it’s a testament to our commitment to delivering a tool that truly serves the needs of those it’s designed for.
Our strategy for the roll-out of the digital tools involves a dynamic and multi-faceted approach. We plan to leverage the Sema Hackathon 2 as a key event to introduce and demonstrate the functionalities of the tools to our stakeholders. This interactive platform will allow for real-time engagement, feedback, and insights.
Simultaneously, our dedicated field officers will play a crucial role in launching the app in various regions, including Kilimanjaro, Iringa, and Dodoma. Their efforts will focus on reaching diverse groups of people, ensuring that the tools are accessible and beneficial to a wide spectrum of users. This comprehensive roll-out plan aims to maximize the impact and reach of our digital tools, fostering a broad and inclusive user base.
We’re searching for dynamic ambassador who can also be the content creator to amplify the reach and impact of our web app. Join our vibrant community, enjoy exclusive perks and be at the forefront of exciting opportunities. If you’re passionate about democracy and ready to make waves in the digital landscape, this is your chance. Complete the form below and let’s create something extraordinary together.