The global mobile communications revolution presents new opportunities to address water security and poverty reduction challenges. In Africa, the number of people within range of a GSM signal has already overtaken the number with an improved water supply, and by 2012 the number with a mobile subscription will pass this same benchmark. In India, the number of mobile subscriptions is twice the number of individual piped water connections. These milestones mark a new technological era which can transform the way water services are paid for, operated and regulated with the prospect of reducing the multi-billion dollar water service financing gap, crowding-in investment and lessening the fiscal burden, particularly for low-income countries. Mobile banking is already increasing financial access amongst low-income groups with emerging opportunities for innovative saving and payment applications in the water service sector. Smart water metering is rapidly being deployed across the industrialized world, and offers an untapped opportunity to address systemic operational inefficiencies in developing regions and to govern water resource use and allocation more effectively at scale. Based on a global literature review and proof-of-concept fieldwork in Kenya and Zambia, we find compelling evidence that the confluence of mobile network coverage expansion, wide-spread mobile phone ownership, innovative mobile banking applications and smart metering technologies offer new, effective, low-cost and inclusive pathways to water security and poverty reduction.
The main report and appendices are provided separately. The appendices [4 Mb file] comprise the materials from the Lusaka, Nairobi and London workshops.
University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, 14 + 93 pp.