The Digitisation of Sanitation


2.4 Billion people still lack access to an improved source of sanitation, yet up to 95% of this population is covered by mobile networks and unique subscriber market penetration is above 63%, i.e. more than 4.7 Billion people have at least one mobile phone number. With more than 411 Million registered mobile money accounts, mobile is also increasingly changing the landscape of financial inclusion. As a result, some people can browse the internet on their smartphone, get connected to the rest of the world and receive mobile money remittances from relatives leaving in far away countries, while they still don’t have any safe solutions to fulfil one of the most basic human needs, going to the toilet. This is a paradoxical situation for millions today living in emerging markets. 

The good news is that mobile devices, technologies and services are not disconnected from the water and sanitation sectors and can operate as enablers to improve current services and support the next generation of sanitation models. Since 2013, the Group Special Mobile Association (GSMA) Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities programme has supported innovation in the energy and water sectors, thanks to funding from the UK Government; and in 2015, started working with sanitation entrepreneurs looking to pilot mobile technologies in their models.