Use of mobile technology in promoting transparency issues in water governance
This report details our M-Governance study, which aimed to understand the use of mobile technology in promoting transparency issues in water governance. The report targets mobile developers, water sector specialists, key stakeholders involved in policy-making, regulation and water service development and provision in Kenya drawn from the government sector, civil society organizations, academia and the media.
The methodology used involved literature review, development of study framework tools, mapping, field data collection and analysis. The study covered urban and rural areas of the three counties (Kiambu, Migori, and Makueni) in Kenya. In-depth interviews were conducted with a total of 896 people and key informant discussions with five stakeholders in the water sector in the three counties in Kenya.
The following are key findings from the study:
a) Main Source of water; a quarter of respondents reported that their main source of water was piped water in their plots. This was followed by 22% who relied on lake/river/ponds or streams as their source of water. 15% depended on protected dug well or spring. The minorities of the surveyed respondents relied on sources such as tankers or trucks from vendors (8%), Piped water in their houses (7%), public taps (7%), unprotected dug wells (6%), and harvested rainwater (2%). Having continuous supply of water from citizens’ main sources is very important as they rely on these sources for survival. Limited access to their main sources in both the rural and urban areas can lead to poor quality in the form of intermittent water supply.
b) Gender equality; majority of those who browse Internet were found to be the males, the question is why more males? It seems majority of female respondents do not know how to browse; 77% of the female who confirmed of not browsing the Internet attributed lack of Internet skills and knowledge as the contributing factor. Not only lack of skills nor knowledge are the limiting factors in embracing Internet but lack of freedom too. Either of the spouse is threatened when one goes online, “My husband prohibits me from using the Internet -he fears I may get a lover from the use of Internet especially Facebook” says one respondent.
c) Literacy levels; from the findings, it is clear that literacy levels still remain a huge hindrance to citizen participation in water governance sector. Of the average 74% respondents who said they have no access to any kind of water information, 76% have no access to formal education compared to the 24% who have access but have no formal education. Similarly, respondents who have primary education had higher information inaccessibility rates compared to those who had post primary education.
d) Access to Information on water; Access to water information is still a huge gap faced by citizens. Only 26% of the interviewed citizens have access to water information leaving almost three-quarters with no access to any kind to water information. Out of the population with no access to any kind of water information, the majority are from the rural areas (73%)
e) Kind of Information currently accessed by the citizens; in rural areas, of those with water information, the majority (35%) currently access water availability updates from informal groups such as water vendor. Most urban residents (32%) have access to information on government water projects.
f) Information citizens would like to access; topping the list of what citizens want to be informed on is how to treat and make water safe for consumption (31%), where to get clean water (29%) and water rationing schedules (14%).
g) Hindrances in accessing water related information; The majority of respondents (50% and 44% in urban and rural respectively) reported that no one sends them the updates on water information. This stood out as a big challenge due to the fact that citizens are not aware of where to find the water information/updates or whose responsibility it is to inform citizens about water information.
h) Communication channels; phone calls are the most common means through which respondents communicate with their loved ones, business partners and workmates. Hardly a week comes to pass without a phone call being made; in fact 86% of respondents make calls on a daily basis. SMS seconds the list with 77% of respondents sending SMS as a way of communicating (Makueni 85%, Kiambu 76%, and Migori 71%). Unfamiliar to most people is the Internet with 23% of the survey participants browsing the Internet.
i) Best technological platform; over half of the respondents interviewed (51%) believe that SMS would be the best platform for communication between the citizens and the various stakeholders in the water sector. This is indeed true regardless of the age or gender. The catch in use of SMS is pegged on its effectiveness and convenience, 44% of the respondents believe that SMS is convenient and effective to use as compared to other platforms.
j) Reasons as to why citizens suffer in silence; 61% of the respondents had faced challenges while trying to access water and were not able to complain to any one about the problems affecting them. The study affirmatively learned that lack of understanding on whom or where to complain was the major reason as to why most respondents do not complain. 1% of respondents complained that the people to complain to are too far away.
k) Citizen participation; there is no equitable representation in Kenya’s water decision-making process. The women and youth are not well represented, 19% of females participate in water decision-making compared to 24% of male respondents and 18% of the youth. This could be attributed to the fact that the citizens still have a limited understanding of the full range of their roles and responsibilities as rights holders in the water sector. In the long run, this will limit citizens’ effective and meaningful participation in improvement and development of water sector.
Based on these key facts, it is clear that citizen participation and inclusion remains a big challenge in many parts of the country. It is essential that champions of information be identified in each and every part of the country to help educate the citizens on their roles in governance and provide citizens with other necessary information. Technology can play a potential role in ensuring effective communication in accessing information on water.
A guaranteed feedback mechanism and reduced costs of accessing or disseminating information would be a motivating factor to the citizens when it comes to the use of mobile technology in water governance.
There is ample evidence that access and transparency helps ensure accountability and delivery in water provision as well as boosts effectiveness since water is now enshrined as a human right in our new constitution . There is need to demonstrate this and apply to water service providers. The effectiveness is particularly important in the sense of cost efficiency and ensuring service delivery. We need to learn from these experiences as mentioned in this research – and the underlying values – so that the benefits of civic participation, education, accountability and amplification are well understood and become a norm to ensuring water governance for development and sustainability.
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*Cross-posted from www.ihub.co.ke