Diaspora AI uses emerging technologies to improve how water services are delivered in sub-Saharan Africa.  In Nairobi, we are working with Oxfam and a women-led community group to implement smart tanks that improve water availability at kiosks in an informal settlement. Oxfam put a range of options on the table for community improvement and reliable water access was the one unanimous request that the group wanted addressed.  In urban informal settlements, a water kiosk might be less than a minute away from a home, but whether it has water or not really depends on its location in the settlement and the reliability of the piped connection.  A mobile water vendor is often needed to refill the tank when the piped supply to it fails. These dynamics mean constant awareness about the status of the tank (is it nearly empty? has it been refilled? etc.) is a requirement to ensure water availability.

Easing Water Scarcity video LINK

Smart tanks are created by retrofitting normal plastic tanks with the ultrasonic level sensors that are typically used in self driving cars.  Instead of measuring the distance between a car and a wall, the sensors provide a contactless approach for measuring the distance between the lid of a water tank and the water surface.  At the moment, if a kiosk owner wants to know how much water is in the tank, they might knock on the side to make a guess, or climb to the top and take a look in.

With the new service in place, neglected tanks that previously ran dry after only a few hours are now better able to serve hundreds per week as intended.  Internet connected smart tanks are self-monitoring and report water levels every 10 minutes.  Data from smart tanks is stored in a database that is a part of the backend infrastructure and analyzed further. When water levels have fallen so that only 25% (or some other agreed minimum) remains, an order can be automatically placed that allows delivery from the nearest mobile water vendor.

With improved monitoring in place, the group has been able to demonstrate improved water availability to community members.  In the cases where data is available but an improved response has been slow, the group is better able to hold the water utility to account, given the daily detailed records that are now available. As a next step, the management of the kiosks must evolve to be more business focused so that the need for Oxfam’s financial and political support in ensuring a sustainable water supply can be reduced.

SMAJI provides an example of the type of bottom-up, data driven monitoring that is needed to improve service delivery and gauge progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.  The increased monitoring enabled by SMAJI provides unprecedented insights on the operation of critical water infrastructure which is underscored by the introduction of new operations metrics such as hours of water service and tank refill time.

ABOUT Diaspora AI

Diaspora AI is a for-profit, technology for social good company.  We help cities and companies harness more of their data to find unique differentiators that accelerate growth and increase impact.  Our clients include governments across the Diaspora, non-governmental organizations and private businesses.  We conduct research and provide consulting services for technology strategy and for domain focused work across water, food and health.

Learn more about Diaspora AI at https://www.diasporaai.com/