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Not just a tool. Taking context into account in the development of a mobile App for rural water supply in Tanzania

Anna Wesselink
University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands; a.j.wesselink@utwente.nl

Robert Hoppe
University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands; r.hoppe@utwente.nl

Rob Lemmens
University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands; r.l.g.lemmens@utwente.nl

ABSTRACT: The 'eGovernance' hype around the potential of mobile phone and geoweb technologies for enhancing 'good governance' is soaring. In East Africa, the extensive use of mobile telephony adds to the imagined promises of ICT. We reflect on the assumptions made by the proponents of such tools, using our own action research project as an example. We took great care to consider context in the development of software for enhancing empowerment and accountability in rural water supply in Tanzania. However, we found that the rural water supply context in Tanzania is much more complex than the contexts for which successful mApps have been developed previously. Institutional analysis and public administration theory help to understand why. Rural water supply shows institutional hybridity, with water being at the same time a private, public and common-pool good. In addition, in accountability relations, many informal mechanisms prevail where explicit reporting is not relevant. Finally, our proposal sat uneasily with other ongoing iGovernment initiatives. We conclude that we need to consider eGovernance tools as political Apps that can be expected to trigger political responses.

KEYWORDS: mApp, eGovernance, iGovernment, institutional analysis, informal accountability