|Researchers hope to harness mobile phone technology to improve water
supplies in rural parts of Africa. A team from the University of Oxford,
in the UK, proposes installing handpumps containing devices that
automatically send text messages to local water engineers whenever pumps
break down or dry up.
The device, known as a waterpoint data transmitter, is fitted into
handpump handles, and automatically monitors the number of strokes made
when a pump is operated. This data, which provides estimates of daily
and seasonal demand, including critical under- or over-usage
information, is then transmitted to a central hub - thus informing
engineers, cheaply and regularly, of the need for repairs, and helping
to ensure a constant flow of water.
The researchers will trial their idea, which is known as the 'Smart
Handpumps' initiative, in 70 villages in Kenya in August. A prototype
transmitter was successfully trialled in Zambia in 2011. The researchers
hope to expand the technology to other African countries, including
Malawi, South Sudan and Zambia.