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Abstract

Water security aims to provide safe, reliable, affordable and sufficient water for people, agriculture, industry and ecosystems, subject to societal choices across related trade-offs and risks. Managing resource risks, delivering effective governance, promoting financial sustainability and achieving social equity are central to achieving water security. We explore how innovations in mobile communications have created an inclusive, secure and low cost architecture for financial and data flows to reduce risk and enhance water security. In Africa, water security challenges associated with climate extremes and population growth outstripping improved water services’ access are juxtaposed with its global lead in mobile commerce innovations, including mobile water payments. Market driven expansion of mobile network coverage and low cost, mobile handsets mean more Africans will be connected to mobile phone services than those receiving improved water services in 2012. The confluence of rapid mobile network expansion, mobile phone ownership, mobile water payments and smart metering technologies offer new policy pathways to water security to accelerate progress on sustainable, safe water access, particularly for those in the greatest need and those most difficult to reach. We chart emerging mobile water innovations in Africa and policy implications in the region and beyond.

Policy Implications

  •  Mobile communication innovations offer an inclusive, secure and low cost architecture for financial and data flows that can reduce or share risk to enhance water security.
  •  The confluence of mobile network coverage, mobile phone ownership, mobile water payments and smart water metering technologies has significant but uncharted potential to enhance water security.
  •  Innovations are being driven by the commercial interests of mobile network operators with the distributional impacts and implications yet to be evaluated or shaped by policy and governance regimes.
  •  Living in rural and remote areas may no longer be synonymous with a higher risk of water insecurity as mobile connectivity could permit innovative management models at scale.