In December 2014, Africa Water Enterprises began working in three more villages and decided to offer a more flexible and innovative payment methodology for users that might help to overcome the problems of villages like Kunkujang. Users would be given the opportunity to pay their monthly user fee by text. We forged a partnership with QCell the largest mobile phone operator and with the support of the Department of Water and the Agency for the Development of Woman and Communities. Users would send a text including the village name each month at a premium credit rate equal to the monthly fee. QCell take 10%, the Department of Water Resources has a country wide policy of taking 10% of fees collected for any communal water project, and the remaining 80% paid for the Village Water Entrepreneur and went into the Africa Water Enterprises maintenance fund.
The advantages of eWATERpay are many.
- Human errors, petty theft and large scale siphoning risks all reduced
- Accurate records generated, more information accessible and so much more trust for consumers
- Understanding and acceptance that clean water doesn’t come free is much easier when introducing new technology
- Customers choose when and where they want to pay, no cumbersome door to door cash collections
- Paying by text code simpler, water entrepreneur still has role in maintenance and finance
The biggest advantage was trust and accountability. Many people instinctively knew that when they send a text there is a proper electronic record kept “on the system” – they trust this more than cash payments to an unknown Village Water Entrepreneur – it is modern, fresh, technology that is more dependable than coins and dirty notes. The data set drawn up each month also made administration for Africa Water Enterprises much easier, we knew exactly which mobiles/compounds hadn’t paid. There is still a need for the human contact of the VWE. Their role is now one of ensuring the maintenance is done, and seen to be done, chasing up consumers who had forgotten to pay their monthly amount, and presenting the VWE account to the Village Development Committee to demonstrate the transparency of the system.