#SautiZao: Pioneering Digital Civic Engagement for Tanzanian Youth and Women

Carol Ndosi
5 min readSep 18, 2023

In a world that’s increasingly digital, the significance of online civic engagement cannot be overlooked. However, for a place like Tanzania, there’s a nuanced tapestry of digital platform usage that doesn’t necessarily translate into genuine civic involvement, especially among youth and women. This is where the #SautiZao project by The Launchpad Tanzania, boldly steps in.

Digital rights are intrinsically linked to civic engagement in Tanzania, as in many other countries. In this East African nation, the growing digital landscape has become a pivotal platform for citizens to exercise their democratic rights.

Access to the internet and social media has empowered Tanzanians to participate in political discourse, share information, and organize grassroots movements. However, the protection of digital rights, such as freedom of expression and online privacy, is essential for a vibrant civic society to thrive. Ensuring robust digital rights safeguards in Tanzania is crucial to foster an inclusive and informed civic engagement environment where individuals can freely express their opinions, access information, and hold their leaders accountable in the digital age.

The Need for #SautiZao and Unearthing Digital Disparities

A baseline study by The Launchpad Tanzania revealed a concerning trend: while a significant proportion of youth (aged 18–24) engage actively on social media platforms, particularly WhatsApp, only 45% partake in discussions surrounding public, political, and community activities. This mismatch between digital engagement and civic participation underscored the need to find ways to amplify youth and women’s voices in matters of governance, politics, and societal development.

Furthermore, In February-March 2023, An online survey of 120 participants conducted by LP Digital, the digital arm of The Launchpad Tanzania, further highlighted the nuances of digital engagement. Surveying individuals aged 18 to 35, a striking revelation was the gender disparity in online participation — 75% of respondents were men.

Co-Creating Solutions through Design Thinking

Recognizing the power of collaborative solution-making, The Launchpad Tanzania organized three design thinking process workshops. Drawing in youth representatives from diverse backgrounds, the sessions aimed to co-create a tool that would encourage, safeguard, and elevate youth and women’s online voices. By applying this approach, #SautiZao ensured that the resultant solution was relevant, feasible, and most importantly, initiated by the very group it sought to benefit.

Workshop Dynamics

With participants encompassing the core Launchpad team, design thinking coaches, and a diverse group of youth and women, the workshops were primed for holistic insights. The attendees, primarily from the age group of 18–35, were not just regular digital users but also changemakers in their domains.

Structured meticulously, each workshop spanned two days and adopted the design thinking approach, progressing through stages like understanding, observing, ideating, and prototyping. The capstone would be a conclusive workshop where the final prototype undergoes testing.

Discoveries and Challenges

One of the pivotal segments of the workshop was deciphering the user journeys. This exercise laid bare some stark realities:

- Economic Barriers: Affordability emerged as a major concern, with many finding the costs of devices and sustainable data plans insurmountable.

- Digital Literacy- A significant section felt ill-equipped in terms of digital navigational skills.

- Awareness Gap — Users were unaware of platforms for meaningful engagement or even about their digital rights and responsibilities.

Innovations and Recommendations

  1. Website and Mobile Application — Advocating for a platform distinct from the mainstream, participants championed the creation of a dedicated website allowing anonymous logins. Not only would this protect identities, but by having it data-free, it also mitigates access costs. Another innovative suggestion was direct participation by government officials, ensuring first-hand narratives and reducing information distortion.

2. Bespoke Data Bundles — Directly addressing the data affordability issue, this solution aims to democratize online access, making it feasible for more Tanzanians to participate in civic dialogues.

3. Grounded Community Engagement — Recognizing the irreplaceable value of offline interaction, the need for community meetings with local authorities emerged. These would act as avenues for open discussions and reinforce real-world civic engagement.

Looking Ahead

#SautiZao serves as a prototype, a beacon of hope and change, that can be emulated across various ecosystems in Tanzania to boost and safeguard the online involvement of its youth and women. By addressing specific needs, such as cheaper data costs and discussions on public community meetings, there’s potential to rewrite the narrative of digital engagement in Tanzania.

As Tanzania journeys further into the digital era, the lessons and solutions from #SautiZao are bound to act as a roadmap, ensuring that the voices of youth and women are not just heard but resonate powerfully in shaping the nation’s future.

You can access the full co-creation report here — http://www.lpdigital.or.tz/images/CO-CREATION%20DTP%20REPORT.pdf

You can also follow the conversation on #SautiZao on Twitter and Instagram and a monthly virtual townhall on X (Twitter ) @swahili_central

#CivicTech #CivicEngagement #DigitalRights



Carol Ndosi

🇹🇿 |Development Advocate|#GlobalGoalsTZ Champion|Feminist|MWF ‘16|Social & Biz Entrepreneur @MaMaendeleo @nyamachomafest @bongofesttz @thelaunchpadtz