Lawrence MacDonald at the Center for Global Development discusses Twaweza, a Tanzanian initiative that promotes political accountability and transparency, with founder and head Rakesh Rajani on the weekly Global Prosperity Wonkcast.
Twaweza, Swahili for “we can make it happen,” allows citizens to access government information and policies with the help of both old and new technologies such as cellphones, TV and radio broadcasts. Cellphone growth, in particular, has been astronomical—Rajani estimates that in the last decade, Tanzanian cellphone users increased umpteen-fold from 200,000 to 14 million.
Twaweza dovetails the proliferation of technology and “development paraphernalia” such as new infrastructure and educated people. The company managed to convince the telecommunications industry to send, for free, one SMS per month to each and every one of its customers, who receive text messages that read “medicine for pregnant women is free” or “the government sent 400,000 shillings to your district’s school.”
Armed with this information, the empowered Tanzanian populace can question and challenge local officials if their school district only received half of the allocated money.
The telecoms, on the other hand, reap the revenue generated from people who forward those text messages.
The benefits of technology are certainly exponential; imagine what Twaweza could accomplish with Blackberries or iPads. Twaweza: ‘we think we can, we think we can…’