Corruption in the access to basic service delivery, such as water, health and education is one of the key areas that need to be tackled to improve the lives of people and their livelihood. Especially access to water is possibly the service I feel most strongly about, as the corruption in this sector can be deadly. More than 1 billion people worldwide have no guaranteed access to water and more than 2 billion are without adequate sanitation.
Therefore, this initiative reported by the German service heise.de caught my eyes, that aims at improving the provision of access to water via mobile payment and smartcards in Kenya . The project suggests paying for clean water using a mobile payment service such as M-Pesa and retrieving the water at local access points through a smartcard which uses the low-cost technology of RFID chips (Radio Frequency Identification Tags) to identify the access request and the payment.
Combining these two easy-to-use technologies, the process of delivering water to the people is made more transparent, and through circumventing potentially corrupt bureaucracies, it can become a cleaner – and corrupt-free process.
Additionally, these technologies allow to access highly useful and relevant information of when, where and how much water is being retrieved. This data should be made open and accessible. As publicly available information it can then be mapped and serve to highlight risks, deficiencies or failures in the process of providing water services to the population.
Of course, some related questions arise, such as how strongly privatised can and should the access to the basic service water be. Also issues of privacy and personal information gathered through these systems need to be handled in a responsible and open manner.
But for questions of improving transparency and reducing corruption, technology reducing intermediaries and enabling the tracking information can be very powerful.
Forestry, a sector that is not less rife of corruption, is another example where the use of RFID and the technology behind it can be beneficiary.