OUT of around 170 district councils in the country, only nine have established websites, but it has emerged that most of them are stuck in a time warp.
Speaking during the ongoing Tanzania Association of Government Communication Officers (TAGCO) meeting in Arusha yesterday, the Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe (pictured), revealed that out of 30 regions, only 18 had websites and of the 170 councils, only nine (5.2 per cent) of them had bothered to go online. The minister lamented that even the websites in the nine district councils were not being updated in time.
“There are also three major government institutions that have never established websites; I am not going to mention them here because I have already written to the Prime Minister’s Office, to report the matter,” said Dr Mwakyembe. He lauded the Kishapu District Council in Shinyanga Region whose website, he said, was always being refreshed and every hour one could find new information; other district councils that are active online according to the minister, are Mlele in Katavi, Kinondoni, Ilala and Ubungo in Dar and Kibaha in Coastal Region.
Meanwhile, it emerged that there was always an iron curtain curtailing members of the public as well as journalists trying to seek information from public relations officers working in various government institutions. Dr Mwakyembe said he has heard complaints on how communication officers were blocking information, in addition to not cultivating good relationships with members of the press and media outlets.
The negative trend had to change, he stressed emphatically. “Right now, we have 155 commercial radio stations, 11 community radio stations and 34 television stations, but information officers representing government institutions do not seem to bother to use them in reaching out to people regarding their respective institutions’ activities,” said Dr Mwakyembe.
The minister said most public relations officers had not been trained and were therefore not familiar with issues of the media and journalism and that was why many didn’t fit well into their positions. Mr Gasto Leseiyo, the Public Relations Officer for the Arusha Technical College (ATC), put up his own defence. “Sometimes it is the people of the ICT department who let the information officers down when it comes to uploading or refreshing websites,” he said.
The Director of Tanzania Information Services (Maelezo) and Government Chief Spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbas, said the public relations officers must always be proactive, by intercepting what could be journalists’ possible enquiries instead of waiting until the media personnel contacted them.