Approximately 20% of water systems in Uganda do not function or operate significantly behind design expectations with failure rate high especially for hand pump based technologies. To improve the functionalist of these water points, the College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS) has designed a mobile application that facilitates the availability of actionable and timely information to the district water engineers who ensure that these water points are functioning efficiently.
According to Peter Wakholi, the lead researcher for the Mobile Telephones for Improved Safe Water Access (M4W) project, they are monitoring 15,000 water points in the districts of Arua, Kasese, Kyenjojo, Kabarole, Masindi, Amuria and Lira. Each of these water points, which include shallow wells, deep boreholes, protected springs and public taps, is labelled with a unique identifier number.
“The M4W project uses mobile phones to collect information about the status of the functionality of water points taken at a snap shot of time; data on faults, repairs and maintenance of water points and information on the quality of water obtained during inspection by health assistants,” Wakholi added. A member of the community can send an SMS stating the water point with a problem and the identifier to 8888. This information is then picked up by the system and sent to the hand pump mechanic who attends to the problem and reports the correction to the system using the M4W mobile phone.
“With more funding, we hope to increase the number of districts participating in the project and also spread to other regions within Uganda,” Wakholi said during a press conference organised to showcase some of innovations at the College of Computing and Information Sciences.
The M4W project started in July 2011 and is being implemented by the School of Computing and Informatics Technology, Water Aid Uganda, SNV Uganda, Ministry of Water and Environment, Sustainable Services at Scale and Local Governments in the districts.
Other projects exhibited to the media included CRIMEX; a crime monitoring tool, the Computational prediction of famine and robust traffic flow monitoring. These exhibitions are part of a weeklong Media Week organised by Makerere University to share with the public the different innovations in its Colleges and the School of Law.