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ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) for water utilities

This eLearning course explores emerging ICT trends, applications and experiences in WASH, and equips participants with a roadmap to design, develop and implement their own ICT-enabled solutions.

Target users

Target users are senior and middle managers and professional staff in water and sanitation utilities, in particular managing directors and the technical, commercial and ICT staff.

Also welcome are persons from national government entities, regulators, civil society and private sector organizations who seek to support utilities’ adoption of appropriate technologies to provide reliable and sustainable water and sanitation services. 

Objectives and outcomes of the course

There is already a great deal of knowledge and experience in the application of ICTs for Development (ICT4D), but most of this exists outside of the WASH sector.  Water Service Providers (WSPs) in particular have limited exposure to key ICT applications and experiences, and when they do, the focus is on the novelty of the innovations, rather than how they can be adopted to develop and improve institutional structures and meet objectives.

This e-Learning course will build the practical capacity of both the participants and the institutions they serve.  Participants will critically evaluate and discuss emerging ICT trends, applications and experiences in WASH and other development sectors.  Through analyzing and engaging in discourse around key successes and failures of other WSPs, as well as directly interacting with various ICTs (for example testing Android-based mobile data collection apps, and web-based geospatial apps and databases), participants will expand their own knowledge, be better equipped to overcome their own obstacles, and develop, implement and sustainably scale ICT solutions in their own utility.

Participants will ultimately take their ICT roadmap back to their utility to implement new initiatives that directly improve services provision, customer satisfaction, revenue collection, finances, and asset management.  This course showcases WSPs who have done just this - harnessing low-cost ICT-enabled solutions to bring to light and resolve the most pressing challenges (especially uncontrolled NRW), then using this new cost-recovery to increase access to and better leverage financing for further advancement of the utility and people they serve.  Whether it’s rectifying incorrect customer information, uncovering faulty meters, identifying errors in the billing system, exposing internal fraud, or digitally mapping network assets and customers, each utility will realize the benefits of joining this course.

Pre-Requisites to join

  • Professional Background: Senior managers and professional staff in water and sanitation utilities, in particular Managing Directors and Technical, Commercial, and ICT Managers. Representatives from national government entities, regulators, civil society and private sector organizations with a vested interest in supporting the work of utilities.
  • Workload: Around 6 hours per week in order to complete the course successfully.
  • Technical Environment: Up-to-date browser, and a stable internet connection to access the multimedia course content and collaborate with other participants in live group webinars and online fora.  Headphones are required for participation in the webinars.
  • Participants should also have access to an android-based smartphone to partake in practical exercises which use various android applications.
  • Language: This course is currently only offered in English, though in the future a French version might also be available. A B1-language level is required.

The preliminary table of contents (subject to changes) is available here:

Module 1: «Basics of ICT»

Brief information about the technical background of ICT and about common challenges in the water sector. For some of these challenges, the use of ICT can be helpful. This module gives also a short outlook on the economic side and on the implications, ICT may have on planing and administration of water infrastructure:

  • Lesson 1: ICT for the Water Sector;
    [Introduces the term ICT and discussed the impacts mobile accessibility can have. ICT can bring enormous improvements for the Water Sector, but it is clearly not a miracle. One important part of this lesson is therefore to define what this course can do for you (and what it doesn’t)]
  • Lesson 2: Challenges & ICT;
    [This lesson gives a brief overview on some of the challenges, water utilities have to face and how ICT can be of help to deal with these. Among others, problems like Non-Revenue Water, Asset-Management, preventing illegal consume and fraud are mentioned] 
  • Lesson 3: Technical Background;
    [The history of mobile phones is briefly introduced. How can mobile devices communicate with each other? A functioning ICT-system delivers a huge amount of data from the users to the service utility. To offer their users a sufficient service and to deliver the fundament for future decisions on the political level, the utility will have to interpret these data]  
  • Lesson 4: Mobile Standards & Apps;
    [The terms 3G, UMTS, LTE... are explained. What is the difference between WLAN, WiFi and a mobile network? What are «Apps» and why are they needed for mobile phones?] 
  • Lesson 5: ICT Business Models;
    [This lesson discusses briefly the opportunity to create new jobs both in the formal and in the informal employment sector. Depending on the grade of implementation, ICT maybe an additional cost-factor for the utilities. Does the benefit brought by the use of ICT compensate these additional costs?]
  • Lesson 6: ICT & Governance.
    [The final lesson of module 1 discusses how data raised by ICT and interpreted by the water utility or the regulator can have certain implications on a society. The terms Transparency, Accountability and Participation are examined and brought into relation with practical examples of the use of ICT]

Module 2: «Requirements»

The lessons in this module give an overview on the devices with are needed on the side of the customers and on the side of a utility or an authority. It is not enough to collect data – they also have to be processed with the help of databases. The results have implications not only on the technical side but also on the political side of water services:

  • Lesson 1: Devices (Hardware);
    [This lesson briefly introduces use and costs of devices such as Desktops, Laptops, Tablets, Phones and Remote sensors]
  • Lesson 2: Software;
    [The lesson gives an overview on the software components which can be used an to capture, process, and to interpret data]
  • Lesson 3: Services;
    [What are the ways and the communication channels in which customers and utilities get into contact? Some fields of ICT (e.g. Meter Reading, Emergency Alerts, Customer care, et.al.) and the ways how to get into contact (Website, e-mail, Social Media) are briefly mentioned and explained]
  • Lesson 4: Human Resources;
    [What are the additional knowledges, the staff on the utilities side should have to handle incoming requests and to react properly? What are new functions and jobs that have to be created?]
  • Lesson 5: Databases, Reports & Evaluation.
    [This lesson want to highlight the way to inform an administration/supervision body about the additional data raised with the help of their customers and by ICT. The most important elements, an official report should contain, is also given]

Module 3: «How to make good use of ICT»

The lessons in this module give short examples on how ICT can be applied. Not only the communication between utilities and their customers is highlighted – some examples are also given on how to improve the workflow within the utility itself with the help of ICT:

  • Lesson 1: The Utility Side;
    [The most common fields in which customers might benefit when their service provider intensifies the use of ICT are repeated here once again: Meter reading, Supervision of Water Quality and Customer Care]
  • Lesson 2: The Customer Side;
    [Also the utility benefits a lot when their customers interact and deliver service details. This lesson mentions among others Self-Metering, Alerts and Issue-Reporting and Online-Payment] 
  • Lesson 3: Workflow-Improvement
    [There are possible additional benefits for a utility which implements ICT. This lesson mentions the most important ones: Asset Management, NRW-Management, Project Management, etc.]

Module 4: «How to set up ICT in practice»

This module offers some examples for more or less complete systems. Based on a certain demand, the requirements on both the hard/software side as well as the implications for the utilities staff are listed. The module finishes with a list of criteria for a decision for or against certain hard- and software components:

  • Lesson 1: Meter reading & Billing system 
  • Lesson 2: Asset management system
  • Lesson 3: Water quality – measurement & supervision
  • Lesson 4: Costumer care & Trouble-shooting systems
  • Lesson 5: ICT from planning to implementation
  • Lesson 6: Decision on Hard- & Software

Module 5: «Cases and practical experiences»

Some brief examples are introduced on how ICT was implemented for the water sector in the past. Scenarios does include examples from Africa and also from Asia and Europe:

  • Lesson 1: «Lessons Learnt» from other sectors
  • Lesson 2: Kenya – m-Pesa water payments
  • Lesson 3: India – NextDrop
  • Lesson 5: Nairobi – Maji Voice
  • Lesson 6: Maji Matone – a cautionary tale from Tanzania  
  • Lesson 7: AkvoFlow
  • Lesson 8: Senegal/Mali/Niger/Bénin – mWater
  • Lesson 9: Case study from Germany

Module 6: «Capacity Building»

What are the demands for the utilities staff involved into the introduction of ICT-based management and service techniques? What do they need to know? The module finishes the course with an overview on how to identify possible knowledge gaps and how to implement a TNA (Training Needs Assessment) strategy. A brief overview on possible training formats is given:

How to apply for the course?

Please watch out for final dates, pre-requisites to join the course and the fees, which all will be published on this web-page. You can also send us an e-mail for further information.

Course outline

[Click one of the images to download a preliminary course outline as PDF]