In Tanzania, nearly half of rural water points do not work and about 20 per cent of newly constructed water points become non-functional within one year (MOWI 2013). Without a reliable source of water, communities soon return to traditional, unimproved water sources, and consequently endanger their health and well being (UNICEF/WHO 2015). The Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MOWI) monitors the implementation and performance of rural water supply and sanitation in the country, and for a long time relied on an ad hoc system of reporting by District Water Engineers (DWEs) to keep track of coverage.
Following a nationwide water point mapping survey project funded by the World Bank, MOWI commissioned the Water Point Mapping System (WPMS) in 2010, a web-based information system featuring a large dataset of geotagged water points together with their functionality status. But the MOWI WPMS was not without its problems. For example, the sheer number and remote location of rural water points meant that data collection was both difficult and expensive.
The paper-based process of updating made it hard for DWEs to report in real time and the information sourced at the village level was often inaccurate or lacking entirely. In response, SNV and its partners designed a mobile updating mechanism, which was implemented and deployed in collaboration with MOWI and local government authorities (LGAs) in Bunda, Morogoro Rural, Njombe and Mufindi districts. The overall goal of the mechanism was to reduce the downtime taken in response to operations and maintenance of water systems and therefore increase communities’ access to safe water.