Drop Drop is a stand-alone application that was developed by the iCOMMS team, from the University of Cape Town. The application runs on Android smart phones and was developed for individuals to use to track their water consumption. It allows users to access information on their daily water usage, predicted end-month water bill, water conservation methods, the municipal contacts and information about the water system. In order to generate all this information, the user needs to enter the water meter readings into Drop Drop on a daily or regular basis. The application was evaluated in a two-week field study in a low-income community called Makhaza.
The tool was developed using a user-centered design approach. The design process was iterative i.e. requirements collection-prototyping-evaluation cycle, and the developers engaged the users during the requirements collection stage and evaluation stage. This was meant to ensure that the developers understand user needs in order to develop an appropriate technology that would suitably address user needs.
The application does not require internet access to function. Thus it can be implemented in areas where there is no internet connectivity. The only cost associated with DropDrop is the mobile data cost associated with the download of the application.
Currently, the iCOMMS team in collaboration with the City of Cape Town municipality is conducting a study to assess the impact of Drop Drop on water demand management and water conservation at household level. The study is also aimed at determining the long-term impact of the application and identifying any adjustments that would facilitate adoption and at-scale use of the application.
Challenges and Lessons Learnt
The main challenge which was realised during the implementation of Drop Drop was the inability of the users to read the water meter correctly. As a consequence, any incorrect water-meter reading entered into the mobile application generated false information about the user’s amount of daily water consumption and the water bill prediction as well.
The tool is also rigid in that it uses English only. In order to increase its flexibility and adoption for use in different environments, the application should incorporate various languages. More availability of local content could be an incentive for a population in Africa to use and to learn how to use the technology. Besides the content, Drop Drop can only be implemented on Android phones, yet many water users especially in low-income regions possess basic feature phones.
Another shortcoming of the Drop Drop application is the inability to avail real-time monitoring of users’ activities with the purpose of providing decision-support. This is attributed to the fact that the application is stand-alone and operates offline. Moreover, the application does not support automatic update of details such as updated water tariff and additional municipal contacts.
iCOMMS Research Team
Department of Information Systems
School of IT
University of Cape Town
Private Bag X3