When are Mobile Phone Useful for Water Quality Data Collection? An Analysis of Data Flows and ICT Applications among Regulated Monitoring Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa
Kumpel, E., Peletz, R., Bonham, M., Fay, A., Cock-Esteb, A., Khush, R. (2015). When are Mobile Phone Useful for Water Quality Data Collection? An Analysis of Data Flows and ICT Applications among Regulated Monitoring Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12,9: 10846-10860
Water quality monitoring is important for identifying public health risks and ensuring water safety. However, even when water sources are tested, many institutions struggle to access data for immediate action or long-term decision-making. We analyzed water testing structures among 26 regulated water suppliers and public health surveillance agencies across six African countries and identified four water quality data management typologies. Within each typology, we then analyzed the potential for information and communication technology (ICT) tools to facilitate water quality information flows. A consistent feature of all four typologies was that testing activities occurred in laboratories or offices, not at water sources; therefore, mobile phone-based data management may be most beneficial for institutions that collect data from multiple remote laboratories. We implemented a mobile phone application to facilitate water quality data collection within the national public health agency in Senegal, Service National de l’Hygiène. Our results indicate that using the phones to transmit more than just water quality data will likely improve the effectiveness and sustainability of this type of intervention. We conclude that an assessment of program structure, particularly its data flows, provides a sound starting point for understanding the extent to which ICTs might strengthen water quality monitoring efforts.