Tanzania: “Glaring shortcomings” in government websites

By Al-Amani Mutarubukwa, The Citizen, 27 Oct 2010

Dar Es Salaam — The glaring shortcoming in accessing timely information from public agencies and other government institutions – especially using information technology – has been aptly unravelled by the official website of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

With only four days to go before the 2010 General Election, information on the NEC website is shockingly outdated, while very little facts and figures are available about the October 31 elections. The total number of visitors to www.nec.go.tz, currently standing at about 3,500, is an indication of the big number relying on it as a source of information, although the outdated and limited details can be frustrating.

A quick visit proves that NEC was yet to post up-to-date details of voters and polling centres, or the presiding officers as deployed countrywide. Coupled with constant breakdowns, and the continued use of obsolete information, the site could mislead those intent on using it to monitor or follow the voting progress on Sunday and the subsequent counting exercise. It is not clear why NEC is yet to update some of the information, including changing the names of former MPs, some who are deceased and others who had already been replaced during by-elections. There is also no list of presidential candidates running this year. Under the tag of Voter Register, the latest entry is an update for 2007/2008 that put the total number of voters at 18 million, with an additional 2 million new entries. NEC had indicated this year that those who have been cleared to vote stand at over 19 million.

Yesterday, the NEC principal education officer, Ms Ruth Masham, told The Citizen in a phone interview that the Commission had been experiencing technical problems in running the website. Asked why they had not updated it, she said: “This is an internal matter whose details I can’t disclose to you but we are working on it and will soon bring it to date.” However, part of the problem appears to be a shortage of staff, including those with IT skills. “We have been overwhelmed by preparations for the General Election and as a result the person tasked to update and manage the website could not get time to do so,” Ms Christina Njovu, NEC’s public relations officer told The Citizen last week in a telephone interview.

Only a few websites including that of the Bank of Tanzania, parliament and the national bureau of statistics appear updated, modernised and busy.

Some websites belonging to ministries have not been updated with critical information for the past year.

The ministry of East African Cooperation is another huge non-performer. Unlike the corresponding websites of other East African partner states, the local website has no single material posted regarding the East African Common Market protocol that came into force in July.

For more than two years, the ministry of Energy and Minerals website is more or less like a “dummy.” It has neither energy nor minerals statistics posted on it. “Statistics coming soon,” it reads.

The director for Information and Communication Technologies at the ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, Dr Zaipuna Yonah, says the responsibility to manage the websites is within the ministries and agencies themselves. He said the authorities have realised there is a deficiency in ICT utilisation for communication and has called a meeting for tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss, among other things, matters pertaining to mismanagement of government websites.

via allAfrica.com: Tanzania: NEC’s Website Shame As Oct 31 Nears.

New public health laboratory network for East Africa

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$63.66 million to create a unique regional network of 25 public health laboratories across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. This network will operate across country borders, improving access to diagnostic services to vulnerable populations in cross border areas and making optimal use of internet and mobile communications to improve public health.

Laboratories are currently the weakest link in the region’s public health defenses, seriously hindering each country’s ability to confirm and respond in a coordinated manner to disease outbreaks. By bolstering diagnostic and surveillance capacities, the new multi-country laboratory network will help to identify potentially devastating disease outbreaks at an early stage, enabling countries to act quickly to prevent the rapid spread of diseases across borders. Communicating outbreak-related information across national borders in real time is more important than ever before, as labor mobility is likely to increase shortly with the establishment of the East African Community common market and with growing global travel.

The network will also support the roll-out of new technology for drug resistance monitoring and more efficient tuberculosis diagnosis, most notably for people living with HIV/AIDS. Greater access to diagnostic services is expected to significantly contribute to improved health outcomes, and ultimately to attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

via World Bank Press Release, 25 May 2010

Tanzania seeks to strengthen HIV Health Management Information System

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on behalf of the Tanzanian Ministry of  Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW), is currently tendering for a major revamp of the country’s information systems handling the response to HIV and AIDS. The purpose of this program is to provide technical assistance to strengthen Health Management Information System (HMIS) capacity within all levels and units of the ministry in order to:

  • Build on lessons learned and investments in the HIV/AIDS sub-sector to support national planning and harmonization of health sector information systems to achieve the goal of one data collection and dissemination system that meets the needs of all government, cooperating partner, non-governmental, and civil society institutions operating in the Tanzanian health sector.
  • Improve the capacity of the ministry to collect, manage, and analyze aggregate program monitoring and evaluation data to meet government, international, and cooperating partner reporting requirements.
  • Support the ministry in systems analysis, process design, vendor selection, and deployment of operational or transaction processing management systems supportive of standard operating procedures across the MOHSW.
  • Support the creation of a data warehouse, or analytical processing system, which brings together information from aggregate data collection systems, surveillance and evaluation studies, transactional systems and National Bureau of Statistics  data.
  • Support application of data analysis in dissemination papers, abstracts, and report cards.
  • Support the use of policy analysis, projections, and modeling techniques to build evidence-based policy formulation, programmatic resource allocation, and decision making across the health sector and at all levels.

via International Development Business at devex.com

Ethiopian commodity marketing system attracts interest

Kenya is one of three countries that are eyeing software developed by the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) to market and sell agricultural products through an internet portal. The others are Zimbabwe and Tanzania who believe the tool that can improve farmer’s earnings. This was announced by ECX chief executive Dr Eleni Gadri-Madhini said at the seventh African Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibition held in Mombasa last week.

The software serves farmers, traders, processors, exporters and consumers. It provides a secure and reliable system of handling, grading, and storing commodities, matching offers and bids for commodity transactions, and a risk-free payment and goods delivery system. Once adopted, farmers will have increased access to market information and be able to trade coffee directly.

SMS-based drug supply management pilot nears completion

A pilot malaria drugs supply management project called “SMS for Life” has Tanzanian authorities excited over its potential. The project, which brings together IBM, Novartis, Vodafone and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, taps into a combination of smart technologies to track and manage the supply of anti-malarial drugs.

The initiative uses a combination of mobile phones, SMS technologies and intuitive websites to track and manage the supply of Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy drugs and quinine injectables, both of which are key to reducing the number of deaths from malaria. Vodafone, together with its technology partner MatsSoft, developed a system in which healthcare staff at each facility receive automated SMS messages, that prompt them to check the remaining stock of anti-malarial drugs each week. Using toll-free numbers, staff reply with an SMS to a central database system hosted in the United Kingdom, providing details of stock levels, and deliveries can be made before supplies run out at local health centres.

Tanzania focuses on Public Sector ICT Management

The University of Dar es Salaam Computing Centre (UCC) yesterday launched a two-year project on capacity building on the effective use and management of information and communication technology in the public sector. The Sh500 million (US$ 370,000) project will see at least 240 workers in the public sector receive ICT training.

Office of the President (Public Management) permanent secretary George Yambesi said when launching the project that the programme aimed to improve information management among public servants. He said that there was a need for appropriate capacity in ICT management and technical skills in some areas to efficiently support government initiatives.

Centralised admission system for Tanzanian universities

Early this year University Computing Center Ltd (a company fully owned by the University of Dar es Salaam) was awarded a contract to develop a Centralized Admission System to be used by The Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU). All admission applications to Tanzanian high learning institutions will be done centrally through this system.

Currently, all applicants are applying directly to individual institutions and this forces them to pay multiple application fees for each application in occasions where an applicant has to apply to multiple institutions to increase a chance of being selected. Another challenge is, all the these institution have to submit names of their successful applicants to High Learning Student Loan Board where TCU intervenes manually to remove duplicated entries to avoid multiple loan allocation to applicants. This process in done manually.

The Centralized Admission System addresses the above mentioned challenges. The applicant has to enter only the Index number for O -level and A-level Exams, the system populates the personal details and results from National Examination Council of Tanzania, and if the information provided matches then the applicant can proceed with selecting courses he/she is interested from all registered institutions. All degree programmes have their minimum requirement pre-configured which are used by the selection algorithm.

FSIU @ UDSM node proposed Chisimba framework to used to develop this application. Chisimba is an open source content management system which is the product of collaboration between the 12 African universities who are members of the African Virtual Open Initiatives and Resources group.

The proposal was approved on April 2009 and the first demo of the system to more than 40 representatives from high learning institutions was on 12thNovember, 2009. The demo was successful and the system is expected to be ready for service early next year.

via Frank Tilugulilwa, Team Leader – Free Software Innovation Unit University of Dar es Salaam