THE water utility in Dar es Salaam(Tanzania) introduced mobile enabled payments for water services in 2009. In addition to area water offices and bank branches, customers can now pay their water bills using mobile money services, mobile banking channels, and networks of wireless pay points.
The system in Dar es Salaam is comprised of the water utility, telecommunications companies, and a third party aggregator that connects all entities. When a customer makes a payment using their mobile phone or at a wireless pay point, these payments are channeled through the third party company which then aggregates the respective payments that are made to the utility and the telecoms.
According to a policy brief entitled ‘Improving Public Service Delivery with mobile payment solutions’ at the end of 2011, over 25 per cent of customers had tried these novel methods and over 15 per cent of all payments were being made via mobile money and wireless pay points. Additional services were introduced in 2012 and the utilisation of these options continues to increase.
Little knowledge exists, however, regarding the impacts of mobile-enabled payment methods on water services provision. In a report entitled ‘‘wireless water: improving urban water provision through mobile finance innovations” conducted in partnership with the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Corporation (Dawasco), the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (Dawasa), Vodacom Tanzania, Airtel Tanzania and Selcom wireless and funded by the University of Oxford Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship it was found that customers with combined traditional and mobile enabled payment methods increase annual revenue collection.
“Experts in the water sector have suggested that poor billing and payment systems, corruption, distributional losses, and over staffing are to blame for crises of urban water provision. Mobile-enabled payment systems can help to overcome these barriers and foster the effective delivery of water services,” the report read in part. In Africa today, there are over 330,000,000 people in Africa still lacking access to improved water sources, only 19 out of 50 countries are on track to meet the MDG drinking water target by 2015 while in 2010, only 26 per cent of urban water users were connected to piped supplies down from 50 per cent in 1990.
Customers in Dar es Salaam have more choice in how they can interact with the water utility, and using electronic methods contributes to higher revenues for the public service provider. This is a positive step for customer service and can lead to higher quality services in the long-run.