Thursday May 12, 2022

Water Utility Digitalisation in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Experiences from the Kenyan water sector

Person looking at mobile phone smiling, light is reflecting on face in dark room

Digital solutions in water are transforming how utilities and customers interact. Mobile money is a game changer for revenue collection while IoT devices have created new ways to monitor water services and automate processes. Combined with mobile payments, IoT devices enable pay-as-you-go (PAYG) service models, and smart metering has become a clear use case. Finally, digital platforms and enterprise resource planning (ERP) apps are supporting more effective utility management and providing a foundation for digitalisation across utility operations.

Mobile services are critical to many of these services, making mobile operators natural partners for utility services. Utilities verticals have emerged as a key use case for IoT devices, and many mobile operators are looking beyond integrations to become more active players as part of their revenue diversification strategies.

In the water sector, most research on digitalisation has focused on high-income country contexts and solutions. This bias has overlooked important differences in the complexity of water systems, digital payments architecture, availability of finance and inherent complexities in serving dense low-income neighbourhoods and draws attention away from where digital solutions could have the greatest impact.

This report aims to address this evidence gap by examining the digitalisation journeys of four Kenyan water utilities. Through detailed case studies and interviews with key players in the water sector, we identify important lessons and opportunities.

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