Access to water in the slums – via mobile phone

Posted on 09 February 2015.

What can be done to overcome the lack of running water in the slums of Luanda, Angola’s mushrooming capital? No problem! Set up a mobile service that is as simple as it is revolutionary.

Once again, the African continent is proving it is an amazing hotbed of mobile service innovation.

Since 2002, and thanks to a very dynamic economy, Angola has been rapidly recovering from decades of civil war. But the consequence of this renaissance is that the capital Luanda is exploding - its population is swelling at the rate of 7% a year. As the cost of housing has rocketed many of the more than 5 million people living there have been forced into the musseques, the local equivalent of the Brazilian favelas. These slums have no running water and so hundreds of thousands of people are dependent on the unreliable community taps. Given the ongoing shortages, a parallel market has quickly flourished and prices have soared. Estimates suggest that the cost of buying water in the musseques now takes up to a quarter of the family budget.

To solve this problem the GSMA - an international industry association of mobile operators and equipment manufacturers - has created Mobile Enabled Community Services, a program designed to facilitate the distribution of water via mobile phone. Its operation is very simple: each working community tap has a manager with a mobile who reports any issues using a series of codes to a central database that plots operations in green or red dots on a map of the city – which then tells people where water is currently running.

The system has a number of distinct advantages. Firstly, it is accessible to a large number of people because mobile penetration is already very high in Angola, including among people living in the slums. In addition it gives real time information about the distribution network and so when necessary it is possible to intervene quickly to protect or renovate the infrastructure. Finally, and most importantly, it gives access to water that is ten times cheaper than on the gray market!

Mobile Enabled Community Services has numerous mobile development programs giving access to resources such as water, energy and education. These initiatives further prove that the African continent is an incredible hotbed of technological innovation – just consider the mobile electronic payment systems now used by millions of people across the continent!

En savoir plus :

- The Mobile Enhanced Community Services website