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 wellbeing (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.
The SNV project operated on two parallel tracks. First, it introduced open data ICTs through which real time reports on the functionality of public rural water supplies could be collected and reported via mobile phone, and analysed and visualised using a desktop dashboard (the ‘SEMA System’) by the DWEs. Second,
the innovation facilitated a series tailored training and mentoring sessions for the DWEs, technicians, water point reporters, councillors, Community-Owned Water Supply Organisations (COWSOs), and Help Desk Officers on data collection, communication, and visualisation.
The project seeks to improve the health outcomes of communities in Mbeya Region by:
- A total of 3,077 water points were tracked in 420 villages located in the four districts.
- A total of 1,899 community members were registered as reporters in the SEMA System to provide monthly updates on the functionality status of their respective water points.
- A total of 3,078 water points were recorded by the project after 12 months of monitoring – an increase of 297 water points from the baseline figure provided by MOWI.
- Monitoring data for Bunda district shows an estimated increase in functionality of the water supply of 15 per cent. These additional functional water points have the potential to serve an extra 10,000 people.