Today is the general election here in Tanzania, with voting for the President and also the members of parliament. Slightly odd being in the middle of it all without a vote, I have a bright yellow t-shirt which was a gift from when I was in Jamaica which I wear from time to time, but not over the last few weeks, the colours coinciding with CCM, the ruling party.
A very good summary of the issues can be found in this BBC News story. Particularly, this is the first time that there has been a viable option to the party which, albeit with some changes, has been ruling since Independence in 1961. Actually being here has been interesting - lots of posters around, a fair few marches with vans playing music at high volume. Also yesterday, whilst I was able to change dollars to shillings, the first bureau I went to was out of local currency, and the supermarket was noticeably busier than normal, running out of fresh meat, vegetables and fruit. Today, election day itself, there was only service at the Cathedral by order of the bishop, so 7am. in Swahili, very pleased to have a Bible with English and Swahili in alternating columns, thank you Stephen for that kind gift! On the way back there was a noticeable presence of the military acting as security, with road closures ensuring good pedestrian access to polling stations. Polls due to close at 4pm. local time, we hope and pray that everybody who wants to vote is able to do so as this is one potential point of conflict - as indeed it was in the UK in some places in 2010. The presidential vote is due around Friday, it is reasonable to suppose that the closer the vote the longer it will take. The worry here is that the ruling party wins a narrow victory which is not accepted by the opposition. But that is jumping ahead.
I don't know enough about Tanzanian politics to have a view on the relative merits of the two parties. I would say, though, that the whole nature of democracy means that there needs to be a viable opposition and the occasional change in Government - so from that point of view am very pleased that there is, for the first time here, a genuine sense of choice. Also very pleased that, following the Anglican lectionary, the theme in this morning's service was peace (amani), and peace is what we are praying for today as election day itself and the next few days as the results are announced.
Meanwhile, in this recent blog post I recorded my difficulties in getting on top of my then new Samsung phone. Pleased to say that since then I have mastered the Android interface - or, to be more precise, I am able to do what I want to do on a day-to-day basis without undue difficulty, I strongly suspect that there is a huge amount of functionality, some of which might be quite useful or enjoyable, which I am not accessing.
Well, whilst I was in the UK I treated myself to a dual SIM card Cubot smart phone, also running on Android, which I am using here for my personal and work TZ phone numbers. Have to say that I really like is, much more convenient just carrying one handset around, easy access to work and personal texts and emails. Great!
Except for one thing. Yesterday morning I indulged in breakfast at Epidors, a popular Lebanese all day restaurant going seamlessly from breakfast to morning coffee to lunch to afternoon tea to dinner. They're quite happy that people should take laptops and work so long as you order something to eat or drink from time to time. Having arrived, I found that my phone, quite unprompted by me, was telling me that I had just travelled from home to work (well, sort of right I suppose), tracing a map of my journey and telling me that it would take 15 minutes to return.
Goodness gracious! Big brother is watching me! Working out (correctly) where I live and making a guess as to where I work. At least in principle this sort of information could be used to generate all kinds of personalised offers and for all manner of other untoward purposes.
Presumably it's possible to switch the tracking off - if I can work out how to do so. At least I'm being told the kind of information the phone is collecting on me, I suppose. The real frustration is that, on the one recent occasion when I wanted a sat nav function on my phone, it wasn't picking up the signal so I was left on my own. But when I don't need or want it....
What do I think about this? It's not possible to go backwards with technology. I suppose we need to accept that this kind of thing is going on and ensure that we see the technology and don't allow it to use us. There are, of course, legitimate reasons for not wanting everybody to know exactly where I am at anyone time, going for a job interview is one example of this. But in general, what's the problem? Would be interested to know any other views on this point, do please get in touch and let me know what you think!