Mobile phone technology is being incorporated into water pumps in order to benefit rural communities across Africa. A team from Oxford University has placed data transmitters inside the pumps; if the pump breaks down, a text is instantly sent to a repair team. The scheme, which is described in the latest issue of the Journal of Hydroinformatics, will be tested in 70 villages throughout Kenya in order to help the thousands of families affected by the ongoing drought.


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The data transmitters will hopefully solve the problem of broken hand pumps which provide the main source of drinking water. Unfortunately, around one-third of them do not work at any one time and it  can take up to a month or more before they are fixed. Now if that happens, these ‘smart’ hand pumps will automatically send a text message to the district and national water managers, so they know when and where there is a problem.

“Reliable water supplies lead to healthier people and more productive livelihoods,” said Lead researcher Dr Rob Hope, Senior Research Fellow at Oxford’s School for Geography and the Environment in a statement. “We hope that by applying mobile communications technologies within the rural water sector, we can improve water security and reduce poverty for the 276 million people in rural Africa who currently don’t have safe and reliable water supplies.”

The trial has been funded by the UK Department of International Development with Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP saying the project “is a fantastic example of British innovation helping some of the poorest people in the world.”

+ Journal of Hydroinformatics / Oxford University / DFID

Images: Julien HarneisOfficial U.S. Navy Imagery