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With only four days to go before the 2010 General Election, information on the NEC website is shockingly outdated, while very little facts and figures are available about the October 31 elections.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standing at about 3,500, is an indication of the big number relying on it as a source of information, although the outdated and limited details can be frustrating.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