iCarto participates in the project “Application of integral and innovative solutions for the sustainability and good management of community water systems in El Salvador”. This project is funded by the Spanish Agency for Development Cooperation (AECID) in 2018, within the call for the Implementation of Innovation Projects for Development. We participate as project partners together with Ingeniería Sin Fronteras Cataluña and ACUA, as a local partner. Our main task in the project is to define and implement the intervention logic to generate innovation in the management of water systems, through Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Problems posed by the project
ACUA is an organization that has a lot of experience working with communities. Due to this fact, it had a pre-identification of the problems that a Water Committee faces in its daily management. Together with Ingeniería Sin Fronteras Cataluña, it draws up a list of possible improvements, related to management efficiency by the Water Committees: Administrative management, documentation management, operational management and transparency. On the other hand, referring to the participation and facilities of the users of the system, they also define a series of improvements: Online billing, ease of payments and communications with the Water Committee.
These problems have been treated in different ways, but it was necessary to incorporate the innovation by providing ICT solutions adapted to Human Development. Taking into account the detected needs, some of the ideas that are proposed to improve management in the Water Committees are: Computerized invoice management, organized database of users, storage of invoices and other documentation, reading of consumption of meters with application mobile, communication of incidents and assemblies to partners, consumption statistics and annual and monthly billing. For system partners: Different payment methods (mobile banking, local payments …), mobile application to review invoices and review system alerts.
iCarto brings its experience in the introduction of new technologies in the context of Development Cooperation, to land ideas, and make a feasibility analysis in terms of costs, technological stack and possible impacts of the use of computer applications. A project is formulated among the three agents, with iCarto as responsible for the first result, as well as the project includes the concept of “Technology for Human Development” in a transversal manner.
And how we solved them
The first phase of the project consists of designing and implementing a methodology for the identification, in more detail, of the use of technologies within the Water Boards pre-identified by ACUA. In addition, the capacities for the use of these technologies, by its contracted personnel, are also analyzed.
Based on this, ASCATLI is chosen as the pilot Water Committee and efforts are focused on improving the daily administrative management of its contracted personnel, since it is what could have the greatest impact on improving the system. A “field work” is carried out with the Water Committee to get to know their current operations as well as possible, and thus see what their needs are and at what points the technology can be an improvement.
As a results, a mobile application for taking meter readings is implemented, and a desktop application for managing billing and the database of members, in which consumption and payment statistics can be obtained. These applications allow reducing the time spent on these tasks, reducing errors and improving the information that the Water Committee has for decision-making. During the development of the applications, a follow-up is carried out to introduce methodological improvements that minimize the possible impact of the introduction of the technology.
The design of the applications is closely linked to the ASCATLI operation to validate the basic ideas, but prepared so that they can be scaled at a low cost to practically any rural Water Committee in Central America, or to be used on a web server that different people in an organization have access, or “support organizations” such as Water Committees Associations and NGOs.