Wireless Water In Africa Via Mobile? It’s Driving Profits, One Report Says

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Mobile technology is helping provide better, more sustainable water supplies in Africa, where a third of handpumps don’t work at any given time, BBCnews reports.

In a continent where reliable supplies of clean drinking water are often hard to come by, the Oxford Univeristy-based Mobile Water for Development project did a number of studies to try to improve rural access to water through mobile technology.

Projects included a one-year study into “smart handpumps” — water pumps that can transmit their working status via embedded mobile technology.

According to some estimates, a third of handpumps in Africa don’t work at any one time, according to BBCnews.

Data collected from these smart pumps reveals patterns of usage that then alert water companies when a pump isn’t working.

The water companies can then send out engineers to fix the pumps before villagers are forced to resort to less sound sources of water.

In another example, a water company in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, teamed up in 2009 with telecoms firms Vodacom and Zain — later renamed Airtel Money –to introduce mobile
payment services for water.

Since then, mobile payment services have blossomed in  sub-Saharan Africa with water companies using mobile payment services including MTN, Airtel Money, M-Pesa, and  Mobile Money, BBCnews reports.

Ineffective billing and payment collection has cost the African water industry $500 million a year, according to the World Bank.

Studies have shown that making payments easier improves revenue and data collection and helps reduce corruption, allowing water companies to invest more in their services and operate them more efficiently.