Internet of Things innovation in rural water supply in sub-Saharan Africa: a critical assessment of emerging ICT
Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are beginning to transform rural water supply in sub-Saharan Africa. Such information and communications technologies (ICTs) can facilitate change away from current unsustainable approaches that fail communities. Fast-moving developments in this area are under-researched, and sustainability of the innovations themselves and their place in the complex operating system require fuller consideration and presentation to the practitioner community. First, rural water supply in sub-Saharan Africa is critically contextualized as a ‘wicked problem’. Second, specific challenges to rural water supply in Tanzania are quantitatively assessed using expert interviews. Analysis of these coupled with academic and practitioner-oriented literature demonstrates the need to move towards a ‘service delivery approach’. Third, existing novel ICT and IoT technologies are categorized and critically evaluated, presenting the landscape of innovation to practitioners within the above context. Current research gaps are outlined. With a focus on research in the context of rapid technological innovation, the paper shows policy makers and practitioners how IoT innovations will support a service delivery approach. Longer-term planning using the enhanced data collection, and more integrated collection-to-use information flows, will advance service delivery further and increase sustainability. Practitioners must contextualize this with an appreciation of the complex operating system.