PhD Defence Mr Kapongola Oswald Nganyanyuka

Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-information Management


Title of defence

Seeing like a citizen: access to water in urban and rural Tanzania


Public water services are failing urban and rural Tanzanians. The percentage of urban population with piped water dropped from 31% in 1990 to 28% in 2015. People in low-income urban areas are forced to rely on informal providers offering water of uncertain quality at unregulated high prices. Sustaining a functional rural water supply infrastructure is also a challenge. Nearly half of rural water points are not functional and about 20% of newly constructed water points become non-functional within one year. An increasing number of Tanzanians in rural areas are compelled to resort to traditional, unimproved water sources (ponds and streams), thereby endangering their health and well-being.

Recent developments in information and communication technologies (ICT), particularly the penetration of mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa, have raised hopes among development practitioners and researchers on the potential for leveraging technology to improve access to public services in general and to safe and clean drinking water in particular. ICT and mobile phone-based platforms offer opportunities for a quick and more affordable mechanism for two-way communication between citizens and service providers or governments. Several such platforms have been studied and compared for a variety of key services in various countries in the global South. However, these studies either explain the failure or success of a platform in hindsight, or hide patterns of local variation in homogenized national averages of cross-national comparisons. The process, the “how to” develop and deploy them, is missing. This thesis asks “which factors affect citizens’ opportunities to improve access to water services and how?” The research findings are:

First, official statistics such as the Millennium Development Goals do not count/reveal the access to drinking water that counts for urban citizens, especially the poor, in large cities like Dar es Salaam. There is a bias towards formal state or privatised citywide systems, concealing the mostly informal, small-scale citizens’ strategies to access water.

Second, citizens in small towns deploy four strategies to protest the severe deterioration inn performance of the water authority: “stay and speak up”, “speak up and leave”, “resignation” and “leave and remain silent.” The substantial mismatch between customers’ protest strategies and the formal/informal complaint mechanisms of the water authority has negative implications especially for less privileged small-town citizens.

Third, actors in rural water supply are aware of their own formal responsibilities and those of others, as well as of the formal channels through which to communicate, despite claims for the opposite. There is strong evidence of informality that either improves or does not improve rural water services for citizens. The only informality that is useful to citizens is practiced by citizens themselves.

Fourth, ICT platforms for monitoring and repairing rural water points should start by digitally transforming tasks with high transaction-intensiveness and low discretion that occur outside village and district institutions. Actors in rural water supply should collaboratively simplify formal rules and procedures that govern information flows within local institutions, before considering further task digitization.

Fifth, a productive interplay between formal and informal practices can improve citizens’ access to water and make the achievement of “universal” and “when needed” access to water (Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6) more likely.

Nganyanyuka, K.O., Georgiadou, P.Y. (promoter) , Martínez, J.A. (co-promoter) and Lungo, J.H. (co-promoter)  (2017) Seeing like a citizen : access to water in urban and rural Tanzania. Enschede, University of Twente Faculty of Geo-Information and Earth Observation (ITC), 2017. ITC Dissertation 303, ISBN: 978-90-365-4366-8.

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Event starts: Wednesday 12 July 2017 at 14:30
Venue: UT, Waaier 4
City where event takes place: Enschede

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