Software focus - the latest industry trend

I went to two international WASH conferences last year and there was a general consensus that there has been too much donor focus on implementing infrastructure and not enough on software (ie mgt of water points).  duh - I mean this is logical and not rocket science.  Why it has taken 20 years for the industry to work this out? It is a reflection on their dinosaur approaches and organisational structures.  The focus is now shifting towards working with donors to obtain funds for long-term software management systems - see the focus is still about funds!  The solution is not about funding - it is about working on the ground, listening to local communities and working with them day to day to find a tailored solution for them.  This does not cost much money - as opposed to paying fat salaries for top down management approaches for foreigners who sit in air-con offices all day.

In rural Tanzania MSABI is really excited about the success and further potential for service delivery themed water businesses.   What we are looking at growing is MSABI maintenance reps in each village.  They earn money two-fold - 1) generating commissions from providing new water point and sanitation clients for the drilling/sanitation businesses.  And 2), signing up these clients to a monthly insurance program - and or on call breakdown service.  They are trained on full maintenance and provide a supply chain.  This could be offered across all types of pump technologies.  All water points are mapped and status updated by owner with SMS technology.  This might be a part or full time job for each rep.  Their skills could transfer to providing sanitation services too - such as purchase/collection of urine and compost to central depot and/or empty septic pits etc.  All fun concepts to test if we can find the time and resources.

This is not a new concept, however it is customised to the local Tz context - and we will continue to iterate and be flexible in our approach until we have a model that works!  Below is a link to a good news story regarding maintenance businesses in India:

OPINION   | December 08, 2011 
Fixes: Keeping the Water Flowing in Rural Villages 
Water pumps and wells in the developing world often fall into disrepair. One program teaches villagers how to maintain them on their own. 

At least the industry is coming together and talking about failure and coming up with some really cool and novel solutions.  I am hopeful we are all moving somehow in the right direction.  Though my cynical side says that for some organisations this is just the latest swing of the WASH fad funding pendulum.