20 liters a day

For many people there is not a day that goes by without using water. We take a shower in the morning, make coffee during breakfast, clean our clothes in the washing machine and wash our hands after using the bathroom. Can you imagine a day without water? I sure can’t… In Uganda an average household uses 20 liters per person per day. What we don’t realize every time we open the tap is that water isn’t available in all parts of the country. The lack of clean water usage leads to a lot of hygiene related health problems.

A life changer

In Uganda millions of people have access to a mobile phone. For Ugandans mobile phones seem to be more than a device used to communicate, rather they are a way of life. One single text message can make a big difference. Why not use this knowledge to improve the hygiene and access to sanitation facilities?

In 2013 NETWAS Uganda partnered SMSONE to set up their first SMS campaign in Bombo through the DANIDA funded good governance project. Here water users are able to communicate with the service provider through a sms text. So the initiative has reached over a hundred people who are able to send an sms through the toll free numbers.

How Can SMS Texting Increase the Impact of good governance in water supply?

In Uganda due to the very many phones springing up every year, voice calls and SMS texts are the most common means of communication. This is evidenced by the different telecommunications companies like MTN, UTL, WARID and others which have penetrated the market. In Uganda, approximately half of the country‘s districts are still below the national coverage of 64% which implies that very many people still don’t have access to improved water and sanitation.(SPR,2012).  Surprisingly, these vulnerable people are more likely to have a mobile phone instead of access to a clean toilet.

Year after year, the government struggles to provide growing populations with basic water and sanitation needs while mobile phones have become ambiguous in the developing world. Global statistics also indicate that most of the water problems today are as a result of poor governance in WASH. The low levels of accountability and transparency in the WASH sector have led to increase in number of broken pumps, contaminated water sources, unsafe water chains and so on.

Coordination of users with the service provider is vital to the success of ensuring sustainable service delivery. This document presents SMS as an effective channel of communication for water users and providers and how it can help in ensuring long term planning, monitoring, policy-making, and governance.

Getting high quality and useful information and knowledge to the community members has also been a problem. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of access to sources and channels of knowledge and information. But with the availability of mobile phones, radio spot messages within and availed to the communities, this process will allow increased dissemination of knowledge and information on WASH accountability.

3.0 Purpose of this Channel

The purpose of using this SMS channels is to introduce the rapidly growing use of mobile technology into activities that promote enhanced accountability in  WASH services provision, in particular by providing service users (e.g. citizens in general)  a greater voice in providing feedback on quality and quantity of services and support provided.

The issues to be addressed include among others: increased and facilitated communication, involve citizens that cannot afford expensive travel to offices to complain or ask for support, increased efficiency and effectiveness of services rendered, enhanced customer satisfaction among others.

Why an SMS?

During a household listing exercise and baseline survey, it was realized that most water users have access to mobile phones at their disposal than toilets.

The impact of SMS can be seen in almost every aspect of life, from teenagers’ fragmented attention spans, to presidential campaigns, to the ways victims of natural disasters seek relief.

SMS and mobile phones in general, get that one-to-one contact and engage rural, remote communities. Though it doesn’t have the best reach compared to the radio, thus there is need to combine the two, if we can reach out to the community and figure out what they’re thinking, what they’re saying, and put that on the radio so that it’s communities talking to communities in a localized manner to start more discussion, then it sparks more feedback through mobile phones. By using real voices and reports from communities, the service provider  is able to address the concerns and wants of the community and advocate for beneficiaries with a clearer idea of goals and need. SMS are effective and open channel of communication.

Expected Outcomes:

  • Enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of WASH services provided under governance of local government
  • Enhanced Town council level capacity to manage citizen’s involvement through mobile channels.
  • A rapidly increase in citizens involvement in providing feedback and monitoring of WASH services
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