Water Governance | How Collaboration and Technology Can Help

By Editor
  Published 11 Jul 2012
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By Albert Otieno and Rhoda Omenya Water is a vital part of citizen welfare, yet the government has faltered in providing adequate water delivery to its citizens. The media, civil society and academia triad has also failed in ensuring that citizen’s rights as regards water are met.
Media has refrained from voicing the dreadful state of water in Kenya. Academia has carried out numerous researches in the water sector but they too seem to have withheld from pushing these findings to stakeholders so that they can inform policy. Civil society and NGOs too are at fault for duplication of small projects that are neither sustainable nor have a massive impact. On 5th July 2012 iHub Research held a workshop on water governance. The workshop’s agenda was to establish the potential of technology on water governance by engaging different stakeholders involved. Stakeholders at the workshop included: developers, government representatives, media, IT persons and academia amongst others. The discussions revolved around governance in the following areas:
  • Transparency
  • Service Delivery
  • Citizen Participation
Service Delivery Stakeholders are all putting in efforts to curb the water problem yet their efforts have not reached scalable and sustainable levels. The government is the major service provider yet it has failed to provide adequate, safe and hygienic water, a basic need to all its citizens. NGOs have also failed the citizens by carrying out small water projects that have little impact or worse still that collapse after a while. The tech community has created applications e.g. Huduma and Ufahamu that help towards easing the water burden. The applications work and are useful but there is also the need to work with partners to make them more successful and sustainable. Thus developers have to create active applications with better utility. Developers were also faulted for creating applications without having the input of any of the stakeholders as they conjure up the citizen needs for themselves. Hence the need to apply the concept of ‘design thinking’ .
Citizen Participation: Are citizens playing their part in the water governance? What is their role in water governance? Citizens have a right to water as a basic need however they are not demanding the service. In areas where there is little or lack of service delivery, the citizens are apathetic to reporting the same. A media representative from InterNews commented that a possible reason for citizen apathy could be stemming from the constant raising of their expectation concerning a certain technology that has been developed to improve their lives and the technology fails to deliver. On the flip side, citizens would wish to talk about service delivery with the government but they have resigned to paying exorbitant prices for water as a result of middlemen.A WaterCap representative noted that though the citizens have a right to water, they also have responsibilities towards the same and therefore need to be enlightened on their duty and role in proper use and safeguarding of water and its sources. From the workshop discussions, it is clear that citizens neglect their roles or they do not know what their roles are. Transparency: Ultimately, it all comes down to transparency. If there is no openness among the stakeholders, then efficient water governance will remain as the proverbial ‘pot at the end of rainbow’. From the workshop it was clear that this was the biggest obstacle. For transparency to be achieved, there has to be open communication amongst the stakeholders, a feat that is a long way from being achieved. This breakdown of communication creates an environment where stakeholders operate in an opaque, autonomous and ambiguous manner that results in a lack of transparency. NGOs have contributed to the lack of transparency by engaging in competition with each other and thereby ending up duplicating efforts in improving service delivery. Data that has been collected by the academia is not being disseminated to the government to inform their policies. The government is not communicating to its citizens of their rights and thus do not have the impetus nor the political will to provide the services. The citizens have to be made aware of what governance is. Only then they will be able to demand for their rights and exercise their responsibilities concerning water governance. A major stakeholder that has long been ignored is the media;probably because they have not exhaustively aired out water problems. The media needs to stop focusing so much on politics and focus on issues that citizens need rectified. The workshop concluded with the notion that for technology to be effective in promoting water governance, then priority must be given to communication amongst the stakeholders to promote transparency. When citizens are playing their role actively and also the other stakeholders playing their roles then together efficiency is promoted. It should be understood that effective governance is a result of collaborative exercise among the different stakeholders (the Citizens, Academia, Religious leaders, Civil Societies, NGOs). Just like in a football match, everyone has a role to play and for the success of governance to be attained each and every one has to participate actively in order to score a goal. More insights from the water governance report will be posted soon.    
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