JamiiForums’ Stories of Change: Double Impact of Citizen Journalism

A participant in the competition does not only get the likelihood to win money but is guaranteed to get ideas implemented.

JamiiForums, an organisation advocating for digital rights and democracy, has launched phase three of the Stories of Change Competition to encourage citizens to participate in shaping their government, institutions, and leaders.

JamiiForums, which also manages the JamiiForums.com platform, which is famous worldwide for Swahili content, has been running this kind of competition since 2021, where participants not only win some amount of money but also contribute to the nation by providing diverse ideas. 

For this year, the winning amount is Sh20 million. Nonetheless, for 2023, the focus has been on good governance and accountability.

It is not just the prize, but making an impact on the nation by giving ideas that will mark the grounds of strong institutions, which is amongst the issue that plays a significant role in development.

Good governance and accountability are essential principles for the effective functioning of any country. Good governance refers to the government’s transparent, accountable, and participatory management of public resources and decision-making processes. 

At the same time, accountability ensures that those in positions of authority are responsible and answerable for their actions and decisions.

The Tanzanian government has improved governance and accountability, including implementing reforms to enhance transparency, combat corruption, and promote citizen participation in decision-making processes. 

Citizen participation is where JamiiForums gives a chance for inclusivity for every citizen to participate in making changes to the country.

Towards more accountability

For a long time, JamiiForums.com has shaped information processing in the country. Citizens on the platform actively report events quickly and engage in meaningful discussions. 

Various leaders, including President Samia Suluhu Hassan, have acknowledged surfing JamiiForums to get to know the ideas people discuss online.

READ MORE: Why Civic Space in Tanzania Requires Some Panel-beating

The impact that JamiiForums has created from the daily discussions that reach over three million people daily is not to be ignored. However, neither do Stories of Change competition undermine the impact but accentuates the influence.

Addressing the press in JamiiForums office recently, the organisation’s Executive Director Maxence Melo said for this year, the state actors have agreed to give special attention to the Stories of Change so that they take what can be implemented.

A double impact, that is, a participant in the competition, does not only get the likelihood to win money but is guaranteed to get ideas implemented.

Melo said the previous phase of the competition took place from July to September 2022, with 1,820 citizens participating and submitting 2,073 entries, of which 1,462 were approved. 

The top ten winners were awarded various prizes at an event held in Dar es Salaam in November 2022. The Minister of Information, Communication & ICT, Nape Nnauye, was among the guests on the day of awarding prizes to winners. 

Her Excellency, Samia Suluhu, is expected to be the guest of honour in this year’s awarding ceremony.

The Tanzanian Government has pledged, to its citizens and the international community alike, its dedication to enhancing democratic governance. 

Most scholars have shown how digitalisation helps in enhancing democratic processes. Araba Sey and Michelle Fellows have presented a compelling argument that digital and internet technologies can revolutionise how information is accessed, and citizen participation in policymaking can be enhanced. 

JamiiForums has taken that opportunity to enhance by providing an online platform and running a competition that calls for specific focus areas.

Bridging the digital divide

Knowing that the whole process of the participation of citizens in this competition requires an internet connection, it is a call for the government in Tanzania to address the problem of the digital divide, which has been a discussion in the digital economy.

The data from Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) shows that the number of internet subscribers in Tanzania has been steadily increasing at an average rate of 17 per cent per year.

READ MORE: Here’s Why Costs of Data In Tanzania Are High

ALSO READ: The Internet Is More of a Necessity Than a Luxury. Why Make It Expensive Then?

In 2018, there were 23,808,942 subscribers, and by the end of 2022, the number had risen to 31,172,544 subscribers. However, the population census shows Tanzania has almost 61 million people, meaning nearly 50 per cent of Tanzanians are disconnected.

The digital divide, which refers to the gap between those with access to digital technologies and those without, has significant implications in many areas, such as education, politics, health, and job opportunities. 

It can lead to social stratification and economic exclusion and hinder economic development in developing countries. On the other hand, satellite internet services like Starlink have the potential to bridge the connectivity gap in rural areas with limited traditional infrastructure and fuel growth in various sectors. 

Companies like OneWeb, HughesNet, Viasat, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper offer similar services. As a result, they could contribute to bridging the digital divide.

From the Stories of Change, Tanzania can see the need to embrace digital infrastructures and establish digital tax policies to promote inclusive economic development and social inclusion through improved access to digital technologies.

Francis Nyonzo is an economist interested in social justice and digital rights. He is available at francisnyonzo@gmail.com. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo Initiative. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com for further clarification.

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