For much of Angola's population, even the most essential necessities of life are hard to come by. For example, according to the World Bank only 37.8 percent of the population have access to electricity in their homes. Worse yet, only half of the population has access to water sources that are safe for drinking and cooking.
The Bloomberg news organization published an excellent article by reporters Colin McClelland and Manual Soque in yesterday's edition of Bloomberg.com entitled, "Mobile Phones Help Divine Water Supplies in Angola Slums," that details the struggles that many Angolans have in finding the water they need to live
The article can be found below or in its original format at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-15/mobile-phones-help-divine-water-supplies-in-angola-slums.html Mobile Phones Help Divine Water Supplies in Angola Slums
Ana Paulino, a 40-year-old street vendor in Luanda, balances plastic cans of water four times as heavy as a bowling ball on top of her head every morning and night for quarter-mile trips to the nearest well.
That’s a burden shared by many women in the capital of Angola, sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing city. The country is the continent’s second-biggest oil producer yet household running water remains only a dream for most.
Now, modern phone technology is helping ease the water collection chores in the $122 billion economy, part of advancements making inroads from Angola to Tanzania and Indiathat enable people like Paulino to find the nearest working community taps where the public can buy water at less than 1/10th the price of what suppliers with trucks charge.
Mobile Enabled Community Services, an industry body supporting almost 800 Groupe Speciale Mobile Association operators worldwide, and aid agency Development Workshop are rolling out a program this year to locate the closest working taps, report breakdowns and pay for water at a fraction of the usual price.
That’s good news for Paulino, a mother of seven who spends 70 to 90 kwanzas (70 to 90 U.S. cents) for a container of water from private sellers because there isn’t a community tap. “It’s tiresome and disappointing to have to carry cans of water on my head every day in the 21st century,” she said.
Each 25-liter (6.6-gallon) container weighs about 28 kilograms (62 pounds) for Paulino’s eight daily journeys, an ordeal she shares with many in slums such as Sambizanga that contain two-thirds of Luanda’s residents.
With running water elusive and shortages common in the southwest African nation of 24 million, authorities estimate the country’s informal water trade at $250 million a year.
Luanda currently lacks enough water in its system to connect all homes as usage typically rises 10-fold when a family switches from community taps to internal plumbing, Development Workshop director Allan Cain said in an interview.
Now rusty pipes that often break after neglect during decades of war that ended in 2002 may become relics of the past. State-run Jornal de Angola reported in August that the government plans to spend $139 million to upgrade water distribution centers and build new reservoirs in the capital.
Helping will be the 200,000-pound ($324,000) mobile project. It has been funded by the U.K. with aims of winning matching funds from Angola to expand the program after a pilot effort in Huambo, Angola’s second-biggest city, Cain said.
"Bucket on Head"
Each tap has a manager with a mobile phone to collect 5 kwanzas per water can and report issues using a series of codes to a central database that plots operations in green or red dots on a map of the city. Smartphones with the capability are common even in slums, or musseques, he said.
“If you’re living in a high-density musseque, you can find where the water’s running today because if you have to walk a couple of hundred meters with a bucket on your head, you want the closest one,” Cain said.
Angola, second to Nigeria in African crude oil production with estimated output of 1.87 million barrels a day last month, has probably spent as much as $2 billion on its Water for All program since it began in 2007, according to Cain. The goal is to serve 80 percent of the urban population with a tap within 100 meters and all rural dwellers, he said.
The New York-based non-profit group mWater similarly develops open-source software to improve water, sanitation and health in six sub-Saharan African countries, India and Bangladesh.
It has a $100,000 program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Mwanza, Tanzania’s second-largest city, to map and monitor water sources for contamination, mWater Chief Executive Officer Annie Feighery said in an interview.
“It’s a turnkey app that’s as easy to use as Google docs and it’s free,” said Feighery, who’s looking for partners to bring the service to Angola. “We’re trying to help aid agencies and governments that wouldn’t be able to pay for high-quality software.”
Health workers use a mobile phone to photograph water samples left overnight in petri dishes, she said. Software detects colonies of coliform and E. coli bacteria that can tint the water.
Online monitoring of water quality and wastewater is of growing interest everywhere, Blue Tech Research says. Since the 1980s and ’90s, online monitoring instrumentation has evolved from portable versions of existing laboratory equipment to innovative, stand-alone, remotely controlled instruments.
Yet lack of maintenance has hobbled the Water for All program goal to reach two-thirds of the population, while allowing an informal water trade to balloon, Cain said.
“The government could finance water development if it could find a way of tapping into that,” said Cain, a Canadian who’s lived in Angola since 1981.
“Community water associations develop local management skills and a strong sense of ownership, which are key to the sustainability of the model,” he said.
The population of Angola’s capital is growing 7 percent a year based on a 3 percent birthrate and 4 percent migration from the provinces as people resettle for urban economic opportunities, Cain said.
In the past, water had been supplied for free while there was no money or incentive for repairs, Cain said. Now, the poor get no access to free services, he said.
Water can cost a quarter of a family’s income when the price of filling a can from a hauler or private tank costs 50 to 90 kwanzas each. Water should typically cost 3 percent to 5 percent of income, Cain said.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said yesterday that 54 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, down from 92 percent in 2000. The International Monetary forecasts Angola’s economy will expand by 5.9 percent next year.
Antonio Gabriel, a 60-year-old retired government employee, sells water for 70 kwanzas a container to neighbors from a concrete well he built on his property in Sambizanga.
Haulers supplying Gabriel siphon from the Bengo River, 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) northeast, then park outside the slum’s narrow alleys. Women and children steal water from holes in the 200-meter hose snaking through the mud.
“I profit 5,000 kwanzas per water tank,” Gabriel said. “It isn’t a lot of money but I don’t have other options. It’s a question of survival.”
When she can afford it, Paulino uses mobile technology for another service in the daily grind to get water: ordering delivery by motor-tricycle at 90 kwanzas a can.
“With a simple text message, I hire someone to carry the water for me,” she said. “I do it to ease my life a little.”