ICT for citizen engagement: registering progress in Malawi

By Rachel Sibande Malawi Coordinator and Blessings Chavula

This week, we hear from MobiSAM’s sister project called Mzinda, being implemented in Malawi.

Mzinda in Malawi’s Chichewa language means “My City”. Through the Mzinda web platform citizens are able to send in reports on the status of service delivery in their respective areas through SMS and/or by signing up on the web platform at http://www.mzinda.com.

So far citizens have sent in 228 verified reports in the following categories:

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Waste Collection
  • Roads
  • Security
  • Sanitation
  • Street lighting.

122 of these reports were through SMS whilst 106 were web based reports.

In our last blog post we highlighted the need for responsiveness and action in order to complete the feedback loop in any citizen engagement mechanism. We thus take a dive into the reports sent by citizens to the Mzinda platform by category and gauge the rate of responsiveness from duty bearers and stakeholders.

It is interesting to note that Councillors, Members of Parliament and officials from service providers like the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), Water Boards and City councils have been responsive to reports within their respective areas of responsibility.

So far the Mzinda web platform has recorded 85 responses to the 228 reports made. This represents an average response rate of 37.28%. In the table below we outline a summary of citizens reports made by category and the rate of responsiveness from a particular stakeholder.

We are in the process of documenting corresponding rate of action, where action was needed.

On the sidelines of the analysis of the rate of responsiveness from stakeholders is a snapshot of the results of the baseline study conducted mid year to understand ways in which citizens currently participate at the local level and how they utilise technology.

According to preliminary results of the baseline study; 12.8% of citizens had engaged with a Councillor; 16.4% of citizens had engaged with the local city council; 6.4% had engaged with an MP whilst 51.2% had engaged with service providers such as Water Board and Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (ESCOM). It is clear that the rate of engagement prior to the deployment of Mzinda is significantly low for entities such as Councillors, city council and MPs. It would be interesting to note if the deployment of Mzinda and the rate of responsiveness and action from stakeholders will enhance the rate of citizen engagement.

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A weekly radio program on citizen engagement has started airing every Sunday evening on Malawi’s populous radio station; Zodiak Broadcasting Station. The program features citizens, Councillors, representatives of the city council, Water board and ESCOM. The purpose of the radio program is to enhance engagement and interaction with citizens  on issues of citizen participation at the local level. Through the program, we hope to reach out to 76% of the radio audience in Malawi as ZBS has the largest footprint of radio coverage of over 80%.

From a technology perspective; Mhub has recently developed an Android mobile application for Mzinda to enhance convenient citizen engagement besides use of SMS and direct reports through the Mzinda web platform. We hope that this can enhance the user experience for Android phone owners. The Mzinda mobile application can be downloaded at http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mhubmw.mzinda

We will soon train 29 Councillors from Blantyre city and 14 from Mzuzu city on using the Mzinda platform to engage with citizens. Blantyre, Mzuzu and Lilongwe are the three cities in which the project is currently being implemented.

The Mzinda project is funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. It is being implemented by mHub and Citizens for Jusice with technical support from the MobiSAM Project at Rhodes University. Citizens can follow @mzindawanga on twitter, share on facebook www.facebook.com/mzindawanga or SMS their service delivery report to +265 888 242 063 and access the web platform at http://www.mzinda.com.




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