Saturday, October 30, 2010

Youth votes could swing Tanzanian election

(Reuters) Tanzania’s presidential candidates made a last-ditch push for votes on Friday before an election on Sunday that is expected to attract record numbers of young voters in east Africa’s second largest economy.

By Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM | Fri Oct 29, 2010

More than two-thirds of Tanzania’s population of 40.7 million are aged between 10 and 35 years, according to government estimates, and analysts say a high turnout by young voters could help the main opposition candidate.

“More than ever before, youths are motivated to vote,” said Dar es Salaam-based rights activist Ananilea Nkya. “They want to see changes in the way their country is being run.”

With nearly 20 million people eligible to vote, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and the main opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) have shifted their focus to first-time voters and the tech-savvy middle class.

Political parties and supporters are using text messages, video clips on YouTube, updates on Facebook and blogs to woo young first-time voters in a country that suffers from corruption, poverty and poor infrastructure.

Like other African countries with limited bandwidth, Internet connectivity is relatively low in Tanzania, but the country has more than 17 million mobile phone users.

Many young Tanzanians use mobile phones to connect to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.


According to the latest opinion polls, Willibrod Slaa of the opposition Chadema party has chipped away at incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete’s once double-digit lead.

The 62-year-old Slaa has been campaigning on a platform of change, with promises to end corruption and review mining contracts in Africa’s third largest gold producer.

In April, a poll by Redet, a political research arm of the University of Dar es Salaam, gave Kikwete 77.2 percent. In October, another poll by researchers at the university gave the 60-year-old president just 38 percent.

Political commentators said young voters, a demographic known for low turnout vote in previous elections, could swing the election.

“Victory for Dr Slaa depends on high voters turnout … a high turnout will bring more independent voters compared to a lower turnout. If the turnout is around or less than 60 percent, that will favour CCM,” said political analyst M.M. Mwanakijiji in a post on the popular online discussion portal JamiiForums.

An ongoing online opinion poll by Tanzania’s leading Swahili newspaper, Mwananchi, gave Slaa 77.1 percent against Kikwete’s 17.3 percent of the vote on Friday. A similar poll on JamiiForums gave Slaa 68.88 percent and Kikwete 22.06 percent.

Ibrahim Lipumba of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) trails a distant third in all opinion polls.

“There is a battle for the cyberspace in the election campaigns and Chadema is winning this battle hands down because of its huge youth support,” political analyst Moses Kulaba said.


Cecy Semtawa, a 22-year-old first-time voter said she would vote for Slaa because of his pledge to provide free education, healthcare and affordable housing.

“Slaa has promised to cut taxes on cement and other building materials so that we can all build decent houses. He seems to be very sincere and is determined to fight corruption. I will vote for that,” she said.

However, Kikwete, who is seeking a second and final term in office after a campaign dominated by promises to fight corruption and poverty, is still the analysts’ favourite to win.

Tanzania has enjoyed relative stability in an often unsettled region and has managed to hold three successive multi-party presidential elections since 1995, after more than three decades of one-party rule.

“Tanzania is in safe hands under CCM’s leadership. We are the only party that can maintain peace and stability,” Kikwete told a popular youth radio station on Friday ahead of a planned nationwide television interview later in the day.

Analysts said Slaa still faces a challenge of transforming the optimism shown at his well-attended campaign rallies across Tanzania into actual votes.

“There are attempts by agents of corruption to influence the outcome of the general election. If we have a free and fair vote, we might see major leadership changes after the polls as a result of the youth vote,” activist Nkya said.

Source: Reuters

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sync libraries and transport for London students

I was at the SOAS library today and I had to wait quite a long time to ask a question about renewing my library card. While I was waiting, I thought a bit about how many cards we as students have to carry in London, and how this load could be eased.

To begin with, you have an ID card issued by your academic institution. Some institutions sync their library records with this ID card, while others do not. Mine does not. So I have a student ID card and a library borrower card from my institution.

We also apply for discounts on transport through the Student Oyster Card. That gets us to use the buses and trains at cheaper monthly rates than retail price.

And then there's the thousands of discount and loyalty cards that make London a little cheaper to eat, shop, and communicate in. So there's cards for that. For example, everytime I want something at Sainsubury, I need to think about carrying my Nectar card.

So here's a logically simple but perhaps logistically not-so-simple step: Issue one card for students that gets them everything; into their schools, into their libraries, onto the bus or the tube, and into shops. One card man, it will save the government money on printing and cross-business transactions, it will reduce stress amongst students, and best of all, it gets everybody talking to eachother.

Easier said than done, you think? Well, it's just a matter of finding the tech guys for universities and the tube, and ask them to sync up their databases, and lo and behold they might find that most of the records exist on both systems.

Maybe I just don't like waiting, but I think this is a pretty solid idea to try out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Statistics on Internet usage in Africa

Posted at Vijana FM on October 26, 2010

In the last two years, there has been a lot of talk about the SEACOM project, which links the coasts of East and South Africa. The project involved the immersion of undersea fibre optic cables that increase speeds and decrease costs for Internet Service Providers and users. We have discussed the SEACOM project on two occasions; when we mentioned the Nation Media Group's golden jubilee, and when we asked Mbwana Alliy five questions.

There has therefore been a lot of excitement about the prospect of starting new goods and services based on the Internet that are especially for certain markets in Africa. Due the growth in the use of mobile phones, this excitement is further channeled into how mobile applications can be built, used, and developed over the Internet.

Courtesy of Deutsche Welle

If you are getting ideas about how to run a product or service on the Internet in Africa, it is probably wise to check out Internet World Stats (IWS).

The IWS website provides comprehensive and up-to-date information about the penetration and use of the Internet across the African continent. It also provides country-specific data on the growth of Internet use relative to population growth.

For example, did you know that Tanzania has 520,000 Internet users as of June, 2009 (1.3% of the population), whereas her neighbor Kenya has 3,359,600 Internet users as of June/2009 (8.6% of the population)?

With a resource like this, your due diligence is made easy. That is, you don't have to spend so much time contacting so and so bureau for information before you start an Internet-based project. IWS can be used as a quick reference to make find markets, make projections, and assess progress relative to a given country or Africa's internet penetration and growth.

With increasing numbers of Internet Service Providers and bandwidth, the focus seems to be shifting not on access, but on how those who currently have access can innovate for their population.

Related Links:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Redemption in rejection

I just realized today that trying to start a new way of thinking in our world inherently assumes that the world is a collaborative place to work.

Why would someone want to introduce a new way of thinking, either through an invention, theory, or service? Probably because they don't find the resources to solve a problem when it happens and where it happens. But also because they assume that there will be a need for their invention, theory, or service to interact with other existing ideas.

So starting something new and not collaborating seems more difficult than getting in with strong working relations with others in the field. Collaboration is therefore not only recommended for sustainable development, but necessary.

There is value in being rejected by the world, then. Because you learn what existing collaborations do not take into consideration. Yes, this does involve copious amounts of tweaking to someone else's preferences, but it yields something in the end that is of value not only to you, but to those you are building it for and with.

(Picture taken while leaving Cairo, Egypt in August 2010)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordle 2

Tried the same thing as my last post, just a different day (today).

In case you're wondering what my source for the words is, it is this RSS project that I've just shelved for about a year now. At the moment it is quite simple a self-refreshing page displaying 8 feeds. What would be nice is if a new wordle could be generated on the same page for everytime the feeds were refreshed (every 5 minutes).

Hebu tujaribu.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wordle for today

I've put that ol' RSS project in a filing dustpile for a while now, but I'm just dusting it off now. Here's today's wordle... I would like to figure out how to do this real-time, so that we can have a look at trends in words as they are uttered (on the news).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tanzania is not Tasmania

Dear friends: Please let's stop refering to Tanzania as Tasmania. Here is why.

Tanzania is located on the coast of East Africa, below Kenya. It is not origin of the the cartoon character from your childhood.

Tasmania is an island which is part of Australia.

The animal known to exist only on Tasmania is the Tasmanian Devil. Once again, you will see this is not the cartoon character you remember from your childhood.

Let's summarize: Tanzania is not Tasmania.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Burning questions

What makes one human act for another? What makes them think they can do it for a long period of time? More importantly, where do those values go as time passes; are they cultured and developed into ways of being, or are they ignored for other values?

From the works of Jabir

The impediments incident to this work, are generally two, viz. natural impotency and defect of necessary expence, or occupations and labours. Yet we say, natural impotency is manifold; viz. partly from the organs of the artist, and partly from his soul.

From the organ of the artificer, it is also manifold; for either the organ is weak, or wholly corrupted. And it is manifold from the impotencies of the soul; either because the soul is perverted in the organ (having nothing of rectitude, or reason in it self) as the soul of the mad infatuate man; or because it is fantastical, unduly suseptive of the contrary of forms, and suddenly extensive from the one thing knowable, to is opposit, and from one will to its opposit likewise.

I interpret the above extract from the works of Jabir, the eighth century Muslim Alchemist, to mean that spiritual pursuits require mental and physical commitment. What I am confused about however is whether or not mental and physical commitments are indefinately broken without spiritual direction.

Carpe diem,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Boring websites

Why is it that we have so many websites today that are about making easy money online (which always comes down to maintaining a blog to get as many clicks on website ads as possible)?

What happened to actually sweating for some cash?

From Mauritius to Somalia

I was recently reading on Financial Times and BBC that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has been studying governance in Africa for a few years now. The studies aim to give a prize in governance every year to those African countries making remarkable progress towards stable democracies, though for the past two years the Foundation has not found any country in Africa to qualify.

Current rankings from the Foundation put Mauritius, the Seychelles and Botswana in the top ten, and Somalia, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the bottom ten.

I'm just thinking aloud: Why haven't we as Africans developed scales of improvement that are relative to our peoples' cultures, resources, and ambitions?

Though moves to incessantly grade each other - from our schooling days, to the work place, to retirement pensions - are meant to philosophically help us improve eachother, I feel that we are getting carried away with assessing eachother.

I fear that when it comes down to governance in Africa specifically, we are comparing African systems to Western systems. We do not consider Africa as the largest continent on Earth, and possibly where human life first originated. We do not consider that ancient, indigenous systems of governance somehow prospered and allowed people to live right through into colonialism and out of colonialism.

Most of all, we don't consider that peoples are different. And while we all share some basic things as humans, we have different histories and essentially different values. If our values are different, we need different ways to measure these values. But since we seem to be moving into consistent ways to measure values across peoples and cultures, it seems we're locking ourselves out of the diversity of possibilities.

Like I said, I'm just thinking aloud. Don't mind me.

Monday, October 4, 2010


A distinguished scholar and thinker in Islamic Studies, Dr. Mohammed Arkoun, passed away recently, on September 14, 2010. He was 82 years old.

Professor Arkoun was, amongst a large list of job descriptions, a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Ismaili Studies. I happen to be in the first class at the IIS graduate program that will not have a class with Professor Arkoun.

I never had the chance to meet this man. But this man, I came to find, had an astonishingly huge impact on his students, colleagues, and fellow thinkers. At today's memorial service at the IIS, as I heard various faculty members and former students paint a picture of his life, I was humbled at their praise for the unquestionable spirit of Professor Arkoun's exploration of Islam.

He seems to have been a man that wanted to explore thought, the ways of thinking, and the ways of advancing thought in Islam. He also seems to have been a man who enjoyed theories, and pushing the boundaries of contemporary theories, especially within the context of Islamic Studies.

Professor Arkoun, posthumously, taught me that we live in a world where things have become constant, static, and perhaps even redundant. Behind every activity is a process, behind every process a reason, behind every reason a theory. But rarely do we question why we automatically - nay, mechanically - submit to such theories.

I quote one of his lectures at Gifford titled, The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought 2001:
As soon as we decide to put in historical and philosophical perspective any key problems of Islamic thought, we are confronted with all the difficulties inherent in the historical gap that separates the Islamic from the European frames of thought. These two adjectives, ‘Islamic’ and ‘European’ already contain a gap that is not only temporal but, more substantially, notional and cognitive. On the one hand, any cognitive statement must create for itself a place in a connotative and conceptual network strongly marked by the categorizations and the semantic structure of the religious discourse. On the other hand, we are sent back to a trajectory and procedures of thought enriched uninterruptedly from classical Greece and Rome legacy down to the present day by an intense educative dialectic between what I would call the rights of critical, independent reason which claims intellectual responsibility and those of religious reason, commanded by dogmatic postulates, principles and foundations.
I am likely to encounter Professor Arkoun's work, and the implications of his work, in my future classes. Moreso, I am likely to encounter him in the ways that I learn to learn.

May God rest Mohammed Arkoun's soul in eternal peace. Amen.

Carpe diem,