Many people are familiar with the Question and Answer or Notes & Queries sections of newspapers, in which readers pose a question that has been troubling them and others write in with the answers. Often, the questions relate to relatively trivial matters such as the origin of a phrase or questions of etiquette. In Tanzania, however, Daraja have been using their newspaper to ask more serious questions and seek meaningful answers. Their Twanga Swali (Shoot the Question) project gives citizens in rural Tanzania a chance to ask questions of their leaders and be heard in the Daraja Letu newspaper. Using an SMS system, readers can text their questions on governance, accountability and expenditure, to which the Daraja team will seek answers from the relevant leaders. The answers are then published (and sometimes broadcast on radio) so that all citizens have the chance to read them and decide for themselves whether the answer is satisfactory. Indigo is delighted to be supporting the project with a grant of £14,790, which will be used to purchase special code, collect questions and answers and publish them. In this phase of the project, Daraja will especially seek out questions and answers on water, education and health – three priority areas identified by the communities where Daraja works.
The reason we’re supporting this work is that Twanga Swali really combines appropriate and accessible forms of technology and communication (radio and newspaper) with a more interactive and two-way medium of SMS. We hope that this blend of technologies can be used to reach as many people as possible and that by bringing these questions to light can contribute towards a more accountable and effective system of governance.