Zambian and Kenya: Researchers Seek Ways to Improve Water Supply Using Mobile Phones

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Researchers are working to use the mobile phone to enhance water management in Kenya. A team of experts from the University of Oxford, Rural Focus Limited (Kenya) and ZamDex in Zambia hopes to use the opportunities the handset presents. The Smart Water Systems will exploit innovations in metering and communications to improve water supplies and management.

By the end of this year more Kenyan households would have mobile phones than access to enough safe water, but this can change. "Africa may soon lead the world in the adoption of new technologies to address its oldest problem -- insufficient access to water," they said.

The group's work is financed by the UK through the Department for International Development.

The team has fingered Kenya and Zambia as being "particularly interesting case studies" and a workshop will take place today in Nairobi. Present will include Ministry of Water and Irrigation as well as water services boards staff, service providers, mobile telephone operators, banks and donor agencies.

Water Services Regulatory Board CEO Robert Gakubia said the smart water systems could improve Kenya's water supplies. "There is no transparency without information, which means that information is key to good governance in the water sector."Gabukia is expected to deliver a keynote address.

The goal of the workshop is to provide a platform on how smart water system can lead to increased accountability and improved water supply and the problems in achieving these.
The experts reiterate that the approach would lead to smart metering and payment using mobile banking.

"Smart water system offers the potential to improve the lives of millions of Kenyans who are able to pay for their water provided they receive it in a sustainable, affordable and acceptable manner," an expert said.