Water is scarce, costly, and contaminated in Kibera. Although many residents of Kibera lack access to clean drinking water, they don’t lack access to mobile phones. M-maji (“mobile-water” in Swahili) is a “mobile-for-development” project that aims to use widely accessible mobile phones to empower under-served communities with better information about water quality, availability, and price. Water vendors use the M-Maji USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) shortcode to advertise their location, price, and purification method. These advertisements are collected and stored in a central database and are set to expire at midnight. Water buyersthenm dial the M-Majishortcode to obtain location-relevant listing of vendors with water, location, price, quality, and vendor ratings. Buyers can also access this information by sending an SMSwith the name of the village where they are looking for water, at which point they subsequently receive back an SMS listing all available water vendors in that village or—if water is not available in the selected village—the closest village with water. If a water buyer subsequently discovers that a vendor misreported water availability, price, or quality, the buyer can file a complaint with M-Majivia USSD. The database will keep track of complaints and alert future buyers of such negative histories through the use of vendor ratings.Vendors that advertise “purified” water are monitored by M-Maji staff, who will conduct random water quality tests once a month to confirm the absence of fecal pathogens in the vendors’ water supply. Water sources that test positive for fecal contamination are removed as “purified” sources in the M-Maji listings, and an SMS alert system informs nearby users of water contamination.
For more information on the rationale behind M-Maji, the innovative technology, and the water problem in Kibera, visithttp://mmaji.wordpress.com/