Politics In The Age Of Social Media
Social media has given millions of Tanzanians a platform to give and recieve information at the tip of their fingers. It has also given politicians a platform to share and connect and even get a sense of the mood of the people. It has also made politicians more engaging and more accessible than ever before.
Twitter for the most part has become the go to app for all things political in Tanzania. Politicians such as Jakaya Kikwete, Zitto Kabwe, January Makamba, Halima Mndee and President Magufuli are among the top accounts with the most Twitter followers. Tweets from these accounts and others usually evoke an array of responces from Tanzanians who wish to give their opinions on the current affairs of the state.
As internet coverage increases in the country, which now stands at 38 percent and 4.9 million social media users, expect the internet to feature more into our politic sphere. Serious political parties should start building infrastructures to take advantage of this. Most political parties do not seem to have a proper internet strategy in place including having a social media team and regularly using apps to collect data and information which not only help during campaigns but in policy formulation as well.
With the current trend of internet usage, if political parties do not start properly utulizing the internet, they will find themselves lagging behind by those who have in the next few years. CCM and Chadema have shown thus far to lead other parties in this regard with both parties having apps and able to register members digitally. The accounts with the most followers on Twitter are Chama Cha Mapinduzi (496,000), CHADEMA Tanzania (340,000), and Act Wazalendo (216,000). This is excluding accounts of their various party wings. Accounts such as The Civic United Front- CUF and NCCR Maageuzi HQ have about a thousand followers each. The rest unsurprisingly have no Twitter accounts at all.
Granted that politics is still grassroots, with a median age of 18 and 60 percent of the population aged 24 and below, the next frontier to attract and gain votes is through online platforms. I predict in the next five years, the internet will be the largest source of mobilization of mass political support in Tanzania. This also means that parties have to start creating specific policies which attract young people. It is in this regard that the party youth wings have to take a deliberate lead in the online evolution of their parties.
Tha last piece of advice I leave political parties with is that data is king. All parties should use the internet as a supplement source of research in order to gain different data on voters. It is my hope that all the main political parties will be fully digitalized before 2025.
Thomas Joel Kibwana.