Monitoring emerging small towns in Tanzania: A ‘proof of concept’

Tanzania’s President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) worries that many Emerging Small Towns (ESTs) in the country are still officially recognised as rural locations. Estimates indicate that there may be as many as 800 ESTs. PO-RALG has identified the lack of accurate and timely information on ESTs as a major obstacle to sound policy making and urban planning. This project is driven by the desire of PO-RALG to collect better data on ESTs.

PO-RALG is currently taking stock of all ESTs in the country, but the manner in which this is done leaves room for errors and inconsistencies.  In particular, PO-RALG has asked staff at the district level to identify all ESTs in their districts and obtain data about them (such as infrastructure, housing, natural resources and land use). This data is collected locally in 169 districts and sent to PO-RALG HQ by e-mail. It is then compiled, in a somewhat piecemeal manner, into a single database.

We believe that the quality, consistency and scope of these data can be extended by the introduction of a computerised system that has the following features:

  1. Browser-based and data held on a secure central server
  2. Allow offline data entry with the option of using handheld devices for direct data capture
  3. GPS functionality and mapping features
  4. Multi-user operation
  5. Configurable by PO-RALG staff after appropriate training.

The first objective of this project is to assist PO-RALG to collect better data on which to base their policy decisions. A second objective is to construct a high-quality dataset on ESTs to conduct research on issues related to secondary towns.

We will begin by examining the data already collected and held by PO-RALG.  The analysis will identify the units of study, the data definitions, the coding systems and conventions used and the types of reports and other information products that have been created so far.

Next, we will create a working application to demonstrate the proof of concept.  Some of the data supplied by PO-RALG would be reworked and migrated into a database system that satisfies the criteria outlined above.  This will allow us to demonstrate the features and advantages of the system in a presentation to PO-RALG.

Based on findings and feedback this project can then be extended to (i) move to a final application and (ii) assist in its deployment within PO-RALG. These would be the objects of follow-on work and are not part of this project.


  • Research in progress.

    Project last updated on: 20 Feb 2018.