More than mobile phone ownership, the level of sophistication of mobile services in many countries, such as mobile money, mobile internet and machine-to-machine connectivity, starkly contrasts with the status of sanitation services. For example in Kenya, where access to sanitation is reported at 30%,10 people are more likely to conduct financial transactions through their mobile money account (59% of the adult population use mobile money) and browse the internet on their mobile phone (up to 40% of the population), rather than benefit from the dignity, privacy and convenience of a well-maintained toilet.
This year, with the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals aiming to set targets for the next 15 years, there is no doubt mobile devices, technologies and services have a role to play to support bridging the current infrastructure divide.
The GSMA Mobile for Development Utilities (M4D Utilities) programme sees an important opportunity for mobile ecosystems to help solve some of the sanitation access challenges in emerging markets, including data collection, monitoring, operation and maintenance, financing. Adding to our ongoing work in the energy and water sectors, this new report aims to outline how mobile channels can support sanitation service delivery while building new engagement models with customers in underserved settings.11 Unlike the energy sector where mobile tools are increasingly integrated12 in decentralized solutions, mobile in the sanitation sector is at an early stage of development. What is needed to better understand the role and impact of mobile in this sector, is a collaborative approach to mobile technology integration, grant support for developing and piloting such innovative solutions and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the impact of these innovations in the service delivery.
To be more blunt: convincing communities of the benefits of using toilets and of the health risks of open defecation are first, critical steps in implementing successful and sustainable sanitation services, something in which the world vitally, critically needs. This kind of convincing is done through involving communities in the design, operation and monitoring of sanitation services, and messaging that forces them to recognize that open defecation and similar unsanitary practices causes sickness and disease. Such convincing needs to be done through a variety of measures, and these activities can be supported by text messaging, social media, even ring tones.
This report is from the GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation, created in 2007 and bringing together mobile operators, donors and the international development community in demonstrating the positive social impact of mobile technology. The foundation has a board of directors “independent ” of the Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM/GSMA), an industry group representing “the interests of mobile operators worldwide. The GSMA Foundation provides resources and support to GSMA programmes in the vital areas of healthcare, agriculture, finance, digital identity, utilities and the inclusion of women and girls in the digital economy.
(a little late for #worldtoiletday, I know – sorry)