GSM-enabled remote monitoring of rural handpumps: a proof-of-concept study

Information technology Africa Great Britain

The UK Government is funding a project to introduce text message technology into East Africa. Under the scheme, hand operated water pumps will send an automatic text to local water engineers when they break down or run dry.

The technology, developed at Oxford University, will speed up the response time of water officials fixing the pumps. The continued expansion of mobile network coverage in rural Africa provides an opportunity for simple and low-cost hydroinformatic innovations to measure and transmit data on handpump use for policy and management improvements. We design, build and test a Waterpoint Data Transmitter to determine its robustness, functionality and scalability.
Results demonstrate that this novel application using simple microprocessor, accelerometer and GSM components has significant potential in recording graduated time-step information flows of lever pumps which can be modelled into a reasonable water volume use approximation.
Given the systemic informational deficit for rural waterpoints in Africa, where one in three handpumps is likely to be non-functioning, this innovation has the potential to provide universal, low-cost and immediate data to guide timely maintenance responses and planning decisions, as well as drive greater accountability and transparency in donor and government behaviour.

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