Can mobile-enabled payment methods reduce petty corruption in urban water provision?

Aaron Krolikowski
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; aaron.krolikowski@ouce.ox.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: Corruption in the urban water sector constrains economic growth and human development in low-income countries. This paper empirically evaluates the ability of novel mobile-enabled payment methods to reduce information asymmetries and mitigate petty corruption in the urban water sector’s billing and payment processes. Overcoming these barriers may promote improved governance and water service delivery. The case of Dar es Salaam is used to explore the role of mobile-enabled payment instruments through the use of a stratified random sample of 1097 water utility customers and 42 interviews with representatives from the water sector, the telecommunications industry, civil society, and banking institutions. Results show that mobile-enabled payment methods can reduce information asymmetries and the incidence of petty corruption to promote improved financial management by making payment data more transparent and limiting the availability of economic rents in the billing and payment process. Implications for African urban water services include wider availability and more effective use of human and financial resources. These can be used to enhance water service delivery and citizen participation in the production of urban water supplies. The use of mobile-enabled payment methods in the urban water sector represents an application of mobile communication technologies in a low-income country with proven potential for scalability that simultaneously supports the achievement of development objectives.

KEYWORDS: Urban water services, corruption, mobile money, Africa, Tanzania