More than a tenth of the global population lives with inadequate access to safe and sanitary water supply and the go-to solution opted by NGOs is to install handpumps in remote villages. Yet approximately a third of these handpumps in Africa are not functional, as they lack the maintenance required. Researchers at Oxford University have come up with a solution: “Smart” handpumps that would transmit information on its use and more importantly, the lack thereof, using mobile phone technology.
A mobile transmitter is installed in the handle of a handpump and records the frequency of its movement. The device can send this information to the research team periodically via text messages, notifying them if a pump stops being used. A mechanic would be promptly dispatched to fix the problem and get the water flowing again. The system should greatly reduce the time taken to discover and repair pumps.
Since August 2012, researchers have been installing these “smart” handpumps in 60 villages in Kyuso, Kenya, with each pump serving about 200 people. The area suffers from scarce water supply during the dry season and the handpumps are crucial for the livelihood of the people. The team of researchers aims to proficiently respond to any malfunction within 24 hours.
The project is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and is planned to expand to other areas of Kenya this year. The researchers hope that this technology would not only improve water access but also generate crucial and extensive information that would result in improvements at the institutional level.
– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana