“All of this technology doubtless means great advantages for the CBS provider”, says Caroline Saul, “but in our surveys it became clear just how much was involved in developing and implementing these innovations.” For example, the employees have to be trained to gather data using a mobile phone. It was not uncommon to find that some of these people had never owned a mobile phone themselves. Furthermore, payment via mobile phone was new territory for many customers, which also meant an increased workload for CBS providers.
Another problem was that when internet access is not available everywhere, the apps have to function offline as well. This in turn requires devices with a large storage capacity. A further challenge is the high illiteracy rate, says Saul. “All kinds of organisations have had to adjust their apps accordingly.”
Nonetheless, all of the organisations that completed Saul’s questionnaires are already planning further steps to advance their business processes. Saul has made the results of her work available to all the participants which will help to make it easier for the CBS providers to share their knowhow.
Incidentally, the providers have joined an international branch association, the CBS Alliance. They are also members of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA), of which Eawag is also a member. “Eawag is actively engaged in the global network that is working to improve drinking water supply and sanitation facilities,” says Heiko Gebauer.
Another example of a major project in this area is the Blue Diversion Autarky Toilet, which was developed at Eawag — a project that has already won numerous prizes and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The aim is the development of a completely new toilet, which functions without connections to water or sewage pipes or to an electrical power source. In addition, the cost to the user should not be greater than US$ 0.05 per day. “Wastewater and faeces are dealt with separately in the Blue Diversion Autarky Toilet. “The success of this radical new sanitation technology stands or falls by the progress made in the area of digitalisation,” says Gebauer.