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A missed opportunity | The (un)availability of information on government websites

An increasing number of Tanzanian citizens are able to access the internet. Over 5% of the population had access by the end of 2016, equivalent to around 3 million people. For many in this group, an online search is increasingly the first action they take when looking for information. Moreover, the internet offers an unparalleled opportunity to governments and others to make a wide range of information – and potentially other services – available to the public. 

In many ways Tanzania has been a leading country in open government. A wide range of budget information has been available for many years, though often in difficult-to-use formats and inconsistent across years, and official public audit reports have been routinely published for over a decade. 

More recently, the government’s open data portal (opendata.go.tz) has made public over 150 different datasets on education, health and water services, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Act and Access to Information Act promise to give citizens new opportunities to access useful information from government. Further, the e-Government Agency has worked to harmonise and improve the government’s use of information technology, for example by encouraging adoption of dot-go-dot-tz email address and website domains. And yet, the quality and quantity of information available from government websites has been inconsistent and sporadic.

This brief looks at the availability of key information and functions on a selection of key government websites. Specifically, the websites of forty-one (41) government ministries, departments, and public agencies were reviewed in December 2016, looking for nine types of tools and information:

  • Search facility
  • Budget data for the ministry / department / agency itself
  • Tenders
  • Financial reports
  • Narrative reports
  • Details of the Minister / Head of institution
  • Contact details for the ministry / department / agency
  • Feedback mechanism
  • Social media

Key findings include:  

  • 13 of the 41 institutions whose websites were included in the assessment made any of their own budget information available on the website.
  • The majority of published documents in the above categories were published in English (60 out of 76), while 19 were available in Swahili.
  • Of the 41 websites reviewed, 30 (73%) had a search bar, almost all on the site’s homepage
  • Most institutions (35 out of 41) posted contact details on their site, including email addresses (33 cases), phone numbers (38) and postal or physical addresses (33).
  • A little under half the institutions reviewed (18 out of 41) had a visible Facebook account, though just a quarter (10) had posted anything on this account in the past seven days. 

You can read the full brief here.

Read more: access to information evaluation learning

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