Africa Water Enterprises R&D programme attended a World Bank rural water seminar recently when the main findings were
“The most critical game changers are the increasing use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to eliminate cumbersome token usage and link prepaid meters to mobile phones and vendors.” World Bank
“Prepaid water needs to be taken far more seriously in water sector policies and regulatory frameworks and in scaled-up technical support to optimize the opportunities they offer and the risks they pose.”
During the last 6 months we have been working on a prototype that harnesses mobile technology with Near Field Communication technology to deliver a robust, cost recovery system for rural water. We have just finished a new eWATERdispense prototype (maybe put that in as a new logo). The problem that has haunted rural water operation and maintenance could soon be at an end with Africa Water Enterprises new eWATERdispense programme. Current attempts to integrate mobile technology and pre-paid meters are still too “cumbersome” relying on tokens sold at kiosks to be inserted into large bulky meters. They have worked in some urban areas in Uganda but for the millions of people living in rural Africa the use of mobile technology to pay for clean, reliable water still isn’t happening.
The eWATERdispense prototype uses Near Field Communication technology to charge up each users fob – a bit like an Oyster card on the London Tube. Users will be able to send a text and receive a code which they input into the small machine located on every tap in the village. This charges up their eWATER card which is then touched onto the tap to fill up the jerry can. It is simple, doesn’t rely on kiosks and third party cash changing hands – and crucially the design uses Raspberry Pi 2 40 pin GPIO interfaces and costs under £250. Users pay approximately 0.5 dallasi per jerry can already in one neighbouring village in Upper River Region and they use local boys to collect the cash at each tap. There is some leakage in the system and all the repairs are not done – but user rates are very high and our research showed that households are happy to pay the fee. By charging 0.5 dallasi per 20 litres this system will cover all maintenance costs – repairs for machines that break down and allow a fund to develop for significant upgrades and extensions to the system depending on the availability of groundwater.
We are now actively seeking funding to develop 20 eWATERdispense systems to install in Upper River Region to deliver clean, sustainable groundwater to 20,000 people. R&D plus operation costs will be in the region of £300,000 – we are looking for private companies and foundations to fund this project because we need partners who are dynamic, appreciate innovation and want to encourage the entrepreneurial work we do.
If you want to get involved or would like to donate please email Alison Wedgwood firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07968 477901